By Andrew Cook and Jin Kok

Power lines
Consumers may soon be rewarded for using electricity at night. Photo: james_jhs / Flickr

The Queensland Government says it will introduce a peak and off-peak method for charging electricity to ease pressure on the state’s ailing power grid.

The new system will allow people to pay less if they use their appliances in periods of low demand such as late at night and early in the morning.

Energy Minister Stephen Robertson told State Parliament the new pricing system will be more flexible and fairer to many Queenslanders.

“Whilst we don’t foresee electricity prices going down anytime soon, based on current prices…  more than 75 per cent of customers will be better off under the new system,” he said.

Queensland Competition Authority chief executive, John Hall, which is part of the team in charge of the rolling out the new system, says it is a good way to reduce costs to consumers.

“The ability to smooth electricity loads over the day should, over time, produce the need to expand electricity distribution networks and should reduce the overall cost of supplying electricity,” he said.

To be eligible for the voluntary tariff system, home-owners would have to install and pay for a so-called ‘smart’ meter to record when and how much electricity they use.

Only solution?

Choice Magazine spokeswoman Ingrid Just says the proposed system should not be the only way to get people to save on their electricity.

“Smart meters tell consumers how much energy they’re using, however without turning that into insights or education about how people can reduce their energy consumptions then smart meters are just a way of collecting data,” she said.

Greens spokeswoman Jennifer Gow says while the move may help to reduce energy consumption, Queensland is not fulfilling its renewable energy potential.

“There’s a token amount of solar, there’s a token amount of wind and there’s a token amount of hydroelectricity, but essentially the Queensland energy infrastructure is based on coal,” she said.

She says the Government needs to look at helping the disadvantaged in the community if they are serious about cutting down electricity use.

“Energy efficient appliances tend to be somewhat more expensive than energy inefficient appliances so there is a range of issues there that have to be seriously addressed,” she said.

The new tariff system is expected to be in place by July 1, 2012.