PM to push smart meters
PM to push smart meters

The Gillard Government will today embrace a national rollout of smart meters to help households slash power bills.

In a sign the Government is looking to shift the carbon tax argument, Energy Minister Martin Ferguson is to announce in-principle support for flexible time-based pricing of energy.

This was a key recommendation in the recent Productivity Commission report that found pricing structures meant some consumers subsidised others' power use in peak periods by up to $330 a year.

"This is clearly an unfair cost, particularly on those less able to afford it," Mr Ferguson will say at the Energy White Paper launch today.

"Rectifying the situation requires an integrated approach: consumers must be given the right signals through flexible time-of-use pricing to decide about their energy use.

"If we are to provide consumers with more choice then we also need to promote better information through tools, like smart meters."

The commission estimated household power bills could be slashed up to $250 a year, partly through smart meters which give real-time information on power use and cost.

The meters would enable power companies to charge much more at times of peak demand, mainly on extremely hot days.

With energy pricing a State issue, Mr Ferguson will offer to lead the reform process through the standing committee on energy and resources.

The Prime Minister and premiers are expected to discuss energy reform at next month's Council of Australian Governments meeting.

The White Paper will also warn that Australia, without new domestic discoveries, will increasingly rely on imported oil with refining capacity falling sharply over two years from high-profile closures in the east.

However, the paper argues that building strong supply chains to offshore refineries would safeguard Australia's oil demands.

Many of the paper's recommendations threaten to put the Government on a collision course with States and Territories, which largely control energy regulations.

Pressure to privatise key electricity assets, such as in WA, also pose a financial threat to the States.

Four-yearly reviews of energy policy from 2016 would also be locked-in.

The West Australian

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