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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 04 Hansard (Wednesday, 24 March 2010) . . Page.. 1438 ..

changes in behaviour to reduce consumption. Smart meters also work to improve network efficiency and save costs on meter reading. They also play an important role in assisting networks to manage supply and demand. This is particularly important as we move towards a decentralised energy system with more renewable generation, as it will allow network managers to follow supply to meet demand, giving much more flexibility in network management.

Smart meters also mean that electricity suppliers can move customers on to time-of-use tariffs, where consumers are charged the price of electricity at the time of usage. Time-of-use tariffs effectively remove the equalisation of electricity prices across the day, exposing daytime consumers to higher prices during peaks and reduced prices at night. While this has the effect of encouraging people to value the commodity at its real price, it also results in a shift of the cost burden. Those people who are in an office during the day will be relieved of significant heating and cooling costs while those who are at home during the day will bear the brunt of increased prices.

St Vincent de Paul have argued that there are key groups who are likely to be adversely affected by time-of-use charges and price deregulation: those who have low energy consumption already and therefore little room to shift their discretionary use; dual-fuel households; and households with people who are at home during the day, which can include pensioners, people with disabilities, the unemployed, carers and young families. They have also made it clear that high take-up rates of time-of-use metering will mean that governments must consider how to protect low income families.

The ACT Greens support a two-pronged approach to address the impact of energy policy changes on low income households. Firstly, the immediate impact of paying higher energy bills should be managed with direct subsidies to low income earners, as currently occurs under the energy concession rebate. The review of the rebate scheme is welcome, as the level of support has dropped over the past five years as a proportion of the average household bill. We want to see the energy concession rebate lifted to its previous level of 20 per cent of the average household bill. It is currently sitting at about 15 per cent.

With energy prices on the increase, it would be useful to index the energy concession rebate more directly so that over the next few years it does not lapse behind again. The Greens cautiously support a review of the eligibility of criteria for the energy concessions rebate, but recommend that this review includes full consultation with advocacy groups that represent the needs of low income households.

Secondly—this is the second of the two prongs—it is crucial that energy efficiency programs are specifically targeted at those most at risk in our community. The Greens advocate a hands-on approach to targeting efficiency programs for these groups as well as specific rebates and assistance. The ACT has developed successful models of engaging with vulnerable households through the water and energy savings in the territory program, more commonly known as the WEST program, a combined industry, community sector and government program that works on both water and energy efficiencies.

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