PM targets reforms to lower electricity prices

PLANS to reduce pressure on Australian power bills have been welcomed by Ballarat householders, despite receiving a mixed response from experts. 

On Friday, Prime Minister Julia Gillard will hold talks with state and territory leaders at the Council of Australian Government meeting, with the agenda to include electricity market competition and cost-reflected pricing. 

Ms Gillard said the combined reforms –which would add to the rollout of smart metres in Ballarat – could ease household power bills by as much as $250 a year. 

Included in the plans are rule changes to reduce over-investment in infrastructure or so-called “gold plating”, a new consumer challenge panel and more than $23 million for electricity regulators.

“We face the spectre that power prices just keep going up and up and up,” Ms Gillard said.

“I want to make a difference to the way in which prices are worked out so that we don’t see that continued rapid escalation.”

She said the proposed changes would start to make a difference to prices in 2014.  Ballarat rental tenant Julia Delahunty said her electricity bill was now one of her biggest expenses. 

“We need to have the heater going a lot during winter so the power bill is usually big at that time of year,” she said. 

“Anything the government can do to bring down the price is a good thing because there is only so much you can do in the house to control the cost.” 

Ms Delahunty said she supported the Gillard government’s carbon price but would wait to see if promised bill reductions became reality. 

The Australian Energy Market Commission, Australian Industry Group and the Grattan Institute all welcomed reforms to power pricing for households and businesses in Australia, while opposition energy spokesperson Greg Hunt said voters should be “deeply sceptical” of the targets and timeline. 

“There’s a simple test here: does the government want power prices to go up or down?

“They’ve implemented a carbon tax, which is in essence an electricity tax,” Mr Hunt said. 

Ballarat’s Smart Living Centre will host a special information session on solar power and energy efficient lighting on December 12. 

 Guests at the event are invited to bring a recent electricity bill for advice from experts and local volunteers.