The big four electric companies have all launched new schemes to curb peak demand.
The big five, however, have been keeping the lights on and the people going for years.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has been conducting an inquiry into the competition watchdog’s power efficiency scheme and found that the big four companies were effectively subsidising the big five.
Power consumption in the Australian capital and its suburbs is at an all-time high, and with an ageing population, the biggest drivers of peak demand are people and the cars they drive.
The big four energy companies have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo.
If consumers were allowed to choose their own electricity supplier, there would be more competition.
They can only subsidise the big three.
For years, consumers have been paying more for their power than they are getting back.
Now, the big two are facing the same situation as consumers in the states, with no electricity competition and an increased likelihood of more power being used than being saved.
“There’s no real competition,” said Paul Gartrell, an expert on power and energy at Monash University.
“If the big six power companies can’t make money off their customers, what chance does the smaller players have?”
So what is the answer?
Well, the answer is to start subsidising small power producers, which is a big, big deal.
“The big six are all owned by large, multinational corporations, with large profits.
It’s not just big energy companies that have been lobbying the ACCC to look at power efficiency.
Big five companies have also been lobbying for the ACCc to look into how much electricity consumers can get from renewable energy sources.
This week, the ACC’s chief executive, Richard Mawston, released a report that suggested the government should consider making a power efficiency package compulsory.
He recommended a cap on the amount of electricity consumers could save from renewables and a requirement that the ACCs energy efficiency target be a benchmark.
But the ACC is not alone in recommending a power improvement plan.
Earlier this year, the Federal Government announced plans to increase the national target for energy efficiency from 15 per cent to 30 per cent by 2030.
In the US, the US Department of Energy released a blueprint last year for an energy efficiency plan that would set targets for the use of energy efficiency technology, such as LED bulbs, and the use and reuse of energy-saving appliances.
Energy efficiency measures are a key part of any energy efficiency package.
While it’s not a panacea, it is a start.
The government can also introduce legislation to encourage energy efficiency in some areas of the economy, such by requiring the use or reuse of renewable energy, such a solar power system or batteries.
That could help curb peak electricity demand.
There are also measures in place in Australia to promote the use, storage and reuse to reduce energy use, particularly when there is a high demand for energy.
These include a national energy saving plan, energy efficiency measures in the electricity network and the introduction of incentives.
Consumers should not be asked to subsidise a big energy company or its business model, said Gartrel.
You can’t expect to cut the price of electricity, but to make the system more efficient.
So what should consumers do if they’re trying to cut their energy bill?
If you have any questions about the ACC investigation, please email [email protected]
Find out more about the inquiry on ACC.gov, or call 1800 552 633.