The Victorian Government has been applauded by the Clean Energy Council for their ‘Switch On’ project. The scheme will allow residents of Victoria to take control of their energy bills using flexible pricing and energy efficiency advice. The scheme is similar to the ‘Smart Grid, Smart City‘ project being funded by the NSW Government.
The new flexible pricing scheme will come into effect from mid-2013, residents will able to choose between the traditional flat tariff or the new flexible pricing system. The diagram below is an approximation of how the flexible tariff may work, times may differ between energy retailers, essentially there would be a peak period when the price of electricity is higher, typically on weekday afternoons and evenings, when the demand for electricity is the highest. A shoulder period when demand is slightly lowered and the price of electricity is can be reduced to match and an off-peak period when both demand and, therefore, cost is low.
The flexible pricing options will be available to all customers from mid-2013, perhaps the most important factor is that the scheme is voluntary with customers able to opt out completely and revert back to their old (flat) pricing scheme at anytime until 31 March, 2015.
The Victorian Government believe that many of its residents could benefit from flexible pricing, smart meters and online portals will allow customers to see exactly when energy is being used and what appliances cause the biggest jump. According to the Victorian Government ‘approximately 12 per cent of residential consumers and 20 per cent of small business customers already have some form of flexible rates for their electricity usage’. In addition to this about 20 per cent of Victorian consumers have peak and off-peak rates for specific appliances such as electric hot water and space heating.
The ‘Switch On’ flexible pricing options will give customers with smart meters more opportunities to save money and those with existing peak and off-peak options to apply the savings to their whole energy bill and not just specific appliances.
The Clean Energy Council’s Chief Executive, David Green said of the scheme:
“Today’s announcement is an important step towards empowering Victorian consumers to control how much energy they use and when,”“By giving households better access to flexible pricing arrangements but ensuring vulnerable people such as the elderly can keep their existing plans, the Victorian Government has made a really positive step towards easing the power price pain for everyone.”
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I’ve only just now been referred to this article and website so my comments might be a bit outdated, however as a social planner with a keen appreciation of the affordability and social impacts from the combination of rising energy costs and preponderance of increasingly energy-inefficient housing design over the past decade I would like to make two observations:
1. Having had to relocate back to my birthplace of Emu Park four years ago, after 23 years in Melbourne, I can confirm the Smart Meter system, flexible metering /costings and support programme had been in place in Qld for at least four years. The flexible pricing offers 23c/kwh for standard residential (Tariff 11) and 19c/kwh for off peak / economy (Tariff 33). The Smart Meter certainly helped me realise and revise my plug in arrangements for TV, DVD player etc, along with surge in power usage from my kettle and oven. This, combined with already having a classic Qld’er old style of house, one that is “rolling in it” when it comes to passive energy efficiency: it easily opens up to the breezes in summer and, with strategic use of glass sliding doors and windows facing west, can readily maximise warmth in winter, all means I apparently use 70% LESS energy than the AVG Qld household. Although I live alone, most of what I do use would be used whether there was one or five of us in the household, as I cook a proper meal most nights, a bit of TV and lots of late night reading and music all day, though I have never seen the need for dishwashers and air-con and do have a solar hotwater system. This surely calls into question the standards of design and “aspirational” expectations behind so much other housing, whether located in the Tropics or Southern Australia. So, all up, I am a bit surprised the new flexible charge out rates for electricity in Vic and NSW is only coming in now. And I remain curious / disillusioned as to why the building and development industry has for so long, resisted any serious consideration of very simple design modifications such as insulation, eaves and higher ceilings (BCA min should be 3m, not 2.4m for southern Australia, and 3.5m for the Tropics).
2. Ever since an elderly woman died in her own home in Adelaide in the heatwave “week from hell” that culminated in the Black Saturday Bushfires of 7 Feb 2009, dying simply because peak demand for electricity caused a black out so the woman’s air-conditioning unit didn’t work, I have been even more mindful that paltry energy efficiency design requirements and lack of decent sized back yards, road nature strip reservations and street tree plantings are doing more than just generating big electricity bills for residents: such standards have been costing many lives, particularly of the frail elderly and poor. It’s great that there is some serious attention to reviewing energy pricing in recognition of the significant hardship simply keeping comfortable causes many householders, we really need to be doing much more to improve the passive energy efficiency of all existing dwellling stock (and commercial and industrial premises) and to also be acknowledging the greater security of supply and energy efficiency in smaller distribution networks that would come from more localised solar – wind power generation systems. Even / particularly during Cyclone Yasi in northen Qld, all those thousands of homes that had installed solar panels as a result of Townsville & Qld govt’s Solar Cities Project, still didn’t have any power for themselves for a whole week after the cyclone, even though they had solar panels on their roof! Clearly, self sufficiency as policy position has distinct safety and convenience benefits for many parts of Australia. This is especially so, given recent exposure of poor infrastructure planning when it comes to over-investment in poles and wires …a system of distribution known to cause up to 62% loss of electricity in the process, as per energy expert Howard Morrison’s advice on The Science Show: Lathered Up about CO2 – 20th November 2011. See website for transcript: http://www.abc.net.au/sciencshow.
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