State to miss power relief

CHANGES to power pricing estimated to save households on the mainland as much as $250 a year are unlikely to deliver Tasmanian customers any relief.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard yesterday unveiled a raft of measures to tackle what she has labelled the ``gold plating'' of the electricity network. 

A key plank is introducing cost-reflective pricing and smart meters. 

Small customers could elect to allow electricity companies to turn off appliances during peak demand periods in exchange for cheaper rates.     

The Productivity Commission has found that   this could reduce bills by 25 per cent, or between $110 and $250. 

However, Premier Lara Giddings said the energy expert panel that  analysed Tasmania's energy market this year found little evidence of so-called gold plating.

Ms Giddings said Tasmania would back the changes that Ms Gillard was proposing, which she said placed no extra obligations on the government or its energy businesses Aurora, Transend and Hydro.

``All of our businesses have been doing everything possible to minimise, absolutely minimise, their expenditure on capital infrastructure,'' Ms Giddings said. ``We've tried to do our best to keep prices down. In the coming years we will keep it to inflation, and that's because of the hard work of our government enterprises.''

She also expressed some caution about rolling out smart meters.

``They would need to be introduced at a point when they would not result in an immediate increase in the cost to consumers,'' she said. ``We would also need to ensure customers are fully informed about the technology, and how they can benefit from it.''

Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry  chief economist Phil Bayley also doubted that the changes would have much impact on Tasmania. 

He supported measures to encourage more energy efficiency and greater education about the opportunities to save money. 

However, Mr Bayley said Ms Gillard had conveniently ignored one of the drivers of power prices -  the impact of the carbon tax. 

The states will discuss Ms Gillard's proposal at   Friday's Council of Australian Governments meeting. 

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