Power control: The AEMC believes the emphasis should be on tariff structures, not technology. Photo: Reuters
HOUSEHOLDS could shave as much as $500 a year off their electricity bill if they took more control over their energy use and also employ smart meters, according to an assessment by the Australian Energy Markets Commission.
This week the New South Wales government issued a discussion paper on the introduction of smart meters, which can be read remotely and can give electricity companies the power to interrupt usage on occasions.
The AEMC is opposed to a mandated rollout of the controversial technology.
The report found that households in Queensland and South Australia, with high electricity demand peaks, could cut their annual bill by as much as $500, while in NSW, it could be about $350 a year, by taking more control over their usage.
In Victoria, where electricity demand is comparatively steady, any savings would be more modest - about $120 a year.
Up to 9 per cent of the $11.8 billion of planned investment could be saved, largely by cutting back investment on ''poles and wires'' amid the downturn in electricity demand.
The savings could be achieved by measures to reduce demand at peak times by giving consumers more information about their consumption, including incentives to change usage patterns.
This was about ''changing regulations so consumers get data about their energy use'', AEMC chairman John Pierce said.
The study put forward changes that would also provide electricity retailers with the opportunity to offer a range of products, which could reduce consumption.
''The emphasis shouldn't be on the technology but the tariff structure and the control you're offered,'' Mr Pierce said, in reference to smart meters.
A household with steady electricity use throughout the day could save about $50 just by moving onto a tariff structure that charges less for electricity used in low demand periods, the study found.
These savings could be doubled if some consumption was shifted from peak demand periods by not using the dishwasher, dryer or washing machine first thing in the morning or the late afternoon, for example. Other households that use a lot of electricity during peak periods could save about $200 a year if peak use is cut by 15 per cent.
Declining demand for electricity is potentially delaying for several years the need for billions of dollars of spending on upgrades.