The Grattan Institute has this week released a paper examining the prices and uses of electricity by the nation. While it found prices are too high generally, it also reported that prices are unfair because certain consumers pay more than others.

In response they have suggested consumers be charged for the electricity according to the ‘maximum load they put on the network.’ The Institute estimated this system would have saved $7.8 billion had it been in place over the last five years.

Tony Wood. Photo:

Tony Wood. Photo:

While the paper did not contain reference to the French model Tony Wood, Grattan energy program director, spoke to reporters from about it:

In France, since 1995, the main electricity provider and network operator announce, through media broadcasts, the severity of the next day’s pricing. Days are categorised as being either ‘red’, ‘white’, or ‘blue’.

Blue days attract normal electricity prices (on average 300 days a year). On white days (approximately 43 days a year) the prices are doubled. Red days attract the most severe prices with electricity usage charged at nine times that of blue days.

Surveys have shown that on red days electricity consumption in France drops by 45% compared to consumption on blue days.

Mr Wood said he supported the introduction of red days four to eight times that of blue days. Announcements would be made each evening by local news channels and weather reports.

Another power-saving measure used in France (and also omitted from the Grattan report) is the ability of power distributors to remotely cut power to the air conditioners of individual households. This is done via a ‘peak breaker’ attached to each and every air conditioner. It acts like a remote kill switch trialled by various law enforcement agencies in the U.S. to disable cars attempting to flee police. The power to the air conditioner would be cut off for no more than 5 minutes at any one time. By the time the temperature begins to become uncomfortable power is restored.

This idea of peak breakers has been trialled in Glenelg in South Australia. During the trial peak energy usage was slashed by 37%.

The Grattan paper announced that the cost to an electricity networks to provide additional electricity to air conditioners averages out to $1550 per year. Consumers, it found, were only contributing $53 towards that.

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