Could smart technologies bring down electricity prices?

Finding ways to lower electricity prices is high on the agenda for many groups at the moment, but a new report suggests smart technologies could hold the answer.

Launching the Smart Grid, Smart City project report, Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane explained how more innovative technologies can help people appreciate how much energy they're using.

"The project ran trials of a range of 'smart' technologies for households and with electricity suppliers," Mr Macfarlane explained.

"Over four years 17,000 houses monitored energy use with smart meters and other technology to test usage patterns and weigh up greater energy efficiency."

More effective monitoring of energy usage

Giving people the opportunity to see exactly how much energy they're using is one of the reasons smart technology is expected to be so effective at bringing down prices.

Being able to see which appliances are using the most electricity and gaining a better understanding of peak demand could hold the key to fairer pricing for all, report authors suggested.

Mr Macfarlane indicated that giving consumers the opportunity to opt out of peak time supply could help providers get a better handle on pricing, while ensuring people are on tariffs that best suit their needs.

Bringing electricity prices down for all

The report indicated electricity bill savings of up to $28 billion could be achieved over the next two decades through four important methods.

Cost-reflective electricity pricing is one of the strategies discussed in the paper. This gives energy users the chance to choose tariffs that best reflect their usage patterns.

Another way to lower prices is through energy market reforms, which will involve a collective effort by all interested parties.

Technological development is likewise identified as a means of lowering the price paid for electricity by households and businesses. Smart grid technologies are among the most effective ways of achieving this.

Lastly, the report emphasises the need for changes to be made in consumer behaviour. Once people better appreciate how and when they're using electricity they can take proactive steps to alter their ways.

Looking to the future

This report is just a stepping stone for future development - as Mr Macfarlane points out, there is still some way to go before smarter technologies become the norm.

"The implementation of smart meters and other technologies for consumers who want to use them is an important consideration," he noted.

"The bottom line is that any new technology should empower consumers to lower their bills, without adding extra costs."

Posted by Richard West