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Coalition nod for electricity cutoff plan

Date

National security correspondent

View more articles from David Wroe

THE Coalition has given cautious backing to government plans to let consumers cut electricity bills by having power companies remotely switch off appliances in peak times.

A Senate committee investigating the reasons for soaring power bills released its report on Thursday, calling for the introduction of smart meters. These collect information about electricity use and let households and businesses manage their costs.

The three Coalition senators on the committee offered conditional support for the calls by the Labor majority for reforms to power-pricing, meaning there is now bipartisan support for the changes.

Releasing the report on Thursday, Labor senator and committee chairman Matt Thistlethwaite said the proposals would save consumers ''hundreds of dollars''.

The report comes amid growing angst about power prices, which have risen sharply in recent years.

Senator Thistlethwaite called on state premiers to accept the recommendations when they met Prime Minister Julia Gillard in December.

He said the reforms would end ''gold-plating'' of state-owned power firms' ''poles and wires'' infrastructure, which under present rules often boosted the firms' revenues.

The committee also recommended that the Australian Energy Regulator be given greater oversight of infrastructure investment and powers to stop inefficient investment.

The Coalition senators stressed that any changes to the electricity sector should be based on the creation of ''a more open, transparent and competitive market, not through the imposition of more red-tape and regulation''.

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