ActewAGL plans to doorknock almost every home in Canberra to install free light bulbs and other energy-saving devices in a program that is expected to cut electricity bills for those who take up the offer - and increase bills for those who don't.
The massive exercise - which started this week - is the result of new laws which came into effect on January 1 obliging electricity retailers in the ACT to provide energy efficiency services to willing households for three years until 2015.
The ACT Government's Energy Efficiency Improvement Scheme is funded by the electricity retailers, which will pass on a portion of their costs to their customers. But the government maintains the average household will see a net cut to power bills if it embraces the scheme.
Based on government data, the scheme would result in gross savings on power bills of $66 per household the first year while the cost of the scheme would be $19 per household for the year, so the net savings on bills would be $47 per household.
The total savings on bills per household over the life of the three-year scheme was expected to be $300.
However, those people who don't participate in the voluntary scheme will help carry its cost, with their annual electricity bills estimated to rise on average by the $19 this year and by a total of $87 by 2015.
To meet its obligations, ActewAGL is offering households free energy-efficient light bulbs, door seals and standby power controllers (SPCs) which automatically switch off appliances such as televisions and computers at the power point.
ActewAGL has refused to say what the likely total cost of its activities will be, saying it depends on the ultimate take-up rate.
Environment Minister Simon Corbell said on Friday actual savings for individual households would vary depending on the specific energy efficiency requirements of their household, the size of their household and their level of participation in the scheme.
How well the government estimates on savings and costs translate into real life remains to be seen. Its scheme also suggests retailers undertake activities that are not being offered by ActewAGL such as the replacement of old, inefficient appliances, whitegoods and heaters and the installation of thermally efficient windows.
Mr Corbell said the scheme was likely to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by almost 750,000 tonnes over the three years. He said the government expected about one in two households in the ACT - or about 70,000 households - would participate.
ActewAGL is the dominant retailer, with an estimated 90 per cent market share. Smaller retailers in the ACT are also subject to the scheme, but can opt out by paying a fee instead. ActewAGL retail general manager Ayesha Razzaq said certified installers had so far installed 685 light bulbs, 400 SPCs and 141 door seals. ActewAGL planned to reach 15,000 to 25,000 households this year and double that number next year.
Ms Razzaq said devices being left on standby could cost the average household $50 to $100 a year in power costs. Lighting amounted to 25 per cent of household energy costs. Cracks and gaps accounted for 10 to 15 per cent of heat loss, which could be reduced by the door seals.
While an SPC could retail for $100 and the light bulbs $10 each, Ms Razzaq said ActewAGL was getting them more cheaply. All the products were free to householders.
They were not obliged to take them. Letters would be sent by ActewAGL to households alerting them door knockers would be in their area.
Ms Razzaq said all doorknockers would have an ActewAGL ID card and were wearing bright-green shirts branded with ActewAGL.
If people were concerned about the legitimacy of a doorknocker they could ring the ActewAGL call centre on 131493.
Those who wanted to book a house call could ring 1300 789 002.