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Electricity 'smart meter' trial under way -

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Electricity 'smart meter' trial under way

Reporter: Jonathan Harley

MAXINE McCEW: Well, coming back to domestic issues now, and when New South Wales Premier Bob Carr
floated a debate about nuclear power as a long-term answer to climate change, it sparked a
predictably heated argument. But it also masked a much more pressing debate under way around the
nation. Power grids across the country are nearing overload, especially on hot summer days, when
Australians indulge their love for airconditioning. But concern about global warming means there is
growing pressure to encourage energy efficiency, rather than build up new power plants. And at the
front of that charge is a new way electricity is metered and billed. Jonathan Harley reports.

JONATHAN HARLEY: What do the residents of the quiet suburban streets of Jerramoberra have in common
with the man dubbed California's Governator, Arnold Schwarzenegger?

ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER: I say don't be economic girlieman!

JONATHAN HARLEY: And what do they have in common with New South Wales Utilities Minister Frank
Sartor?

FRANK SARTOR, NSW ENERGY AND UTILITIES MINISTER It's a compelling idea whose time has come.

JONATHAN HARLEY: Everyone in this unlikely trinity shares a passion for power, that is, energy
efficiency. Australian power grids are groaning under soaring demand. And the old approach of
building new coal-fired power plants is contentious in an age of global warming.

FRANK SARTOR: We have been profligate. Our power has been dirt cheap, our water has been dirt cheap
and now we're starting to realise that maybe that was a misunderstanding.

JONATHAN HARLEY: So-called smart metering is a new way of measuring the power we use and what it
costs, and it could soon be coming to a home near you. Tim and Josie Stephinson know a lot about
the electricity they use.

JOSIE STEPHINSON: I think with this smart meter, it gives you a much better insight into actually
how much electricity you're using. Prior to that, I would have no idea. I'd just been switching
things on and off randomly and have no care in the world, really.

JONATHAN HARLEY: The Stephinsons are part of a 200-home trial in the Queanbeyan area near Canberra,
where freezing winter nights and scorching summer days mean heaters and airconditioners are worked
hard. Such periods of high energy demand or electricity peaks are pushing the power grid to its
limits, and electricity becomes much more expensive to generate.

FRANK SARTOR: The wholesale cost of electricity on the grid varies greatly. It can go from $35 per
megawatt hour to $10,000 per megawatt hour overnight or within an hour or two.

JONATHAN HARLEY: But Australians pay a flat rate for power, and conventional electricity meters are
unreadable to the uninitiated. So-called smart metering adjusts the price, making offpeak power
cheaper.

JOSIE STEPHINSON: At the moment we're in the peak rate which is around 18 cents.

JONATHAN HARLEY: And it brings the meter from the outside in, showing how much power is being used
and what it costs in real time.

FRANK SARTOR: The problem with electricity and water bills is that you don't get them for three
months, and so three months you get a bill, you don't remember when you used what.

JONATHAN HARLEY: With smart metering, the cost-conscious or environmentally concerned can choose to
use a power-hungry appliance like the dishwasher or swimming pool filter at a non-peak cheaper
rate.

CATHY ZOI, GROUP EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, BAYARD CAPITAL: People are always looking for a bargain.
They're looking for a bargain now in how they consume energy.

What we have is when you're on a low price, one of these lights is going to be on...

JONATHAN HARLEY: The scheme is being trial led by Country Energy. The technology is by Bayard
Capital. Bayard's Cathy Zoi is a former environment policy adviser to US President Bill Clinton.

CATHY ZOI: People shop around for petrol when the price jumps around by a few cents. They just
don't know about what electricity is costing them.

JONATHAN HARLEY: What's all this got to do with Arnold Schwarzenegger? Well, since being sworn in
as governor of California, he's started rolling out smart meters into 10 million homes as part of
efforts to stave off the State's chronic energy crisis. For countries like America and Australia,
smart metering is at the forefront of a big switch in thinking, away from bigger is better to
encouraging energy efficiency.

FRANK SARTOR: These things are more fiddly because it's about changing what lots of customers do,
rather than building one big power plant, which is easy for a government to control and do.

JONATHAN HARLEY: But smart meters will count for little without smarter buildings. Award-winning
architect Steve Kennedy overhauled Mary Henning's Sydney semi, with a brief of making it water and
energy efficient. In what's believed to be a world-first, Steve Kennedy's so-called greenwall
filters and reuses all water from the showers, baths and basins.

STEVE KENNEDY, ARCHITECT: The greenwall basically takes the grey water from the house, filters it
and turns it into useable water for reusing in the house, in the toilets and laundry.

JONATHAN HARLEY: On the roof, a so-called Sun Lizard traps winter sun to heat the home, while in
summer, it works in reverse, drawing warm air from inside the house.

MARY HENNING: You're getting the breeze coming through from the ventilation, the fan moving the air
around, and we've also got the Sun Lizard, which is acting as extracting air as well. So we get a
lot of air movement and that in itself is quite cooling.

JONATHAN HARLEY: And not an airconditioner in sight?

MARY HENNING: Not an airconditioner in sight, no.

JONATHAN HARLEY: Still, there's a lot more room for improvement. The average home wastes about $100
worth of power each year, simply having appliances on stand-by. Nationally, that's around $800
million. And a glance at the big end of town, with its voracious power appetite, highlights how
Australia's conservative building industry is yet to get the message.

CATHY ZOI: We've ignored it, we've ignored the opportunities, we've ignored the low-hanging fruit,
we haven't invested in the development of technologies that other countries are. Japan is much more
efficient than we are, the EU is much more efficient than we are.

JONATHAN HARLEY: This Sydney building may be the shape of things to come. Developed by Lend Lease,
it shuns conventional airconditioning and uses smart design to combine green with chic.
Astoundingly, it slashes energy use by half. But even for existing buildings, there are big gains
to be made.

CATHY ZOI: Some would say that we can actually reduce our energy consumption by a third profitably.

JONATHAN HARLEY: Australians are finally embarking on the smart new world of using power more
wisely and cheaply.

CATHY ZOI: This is not about freezing in the dark, it's not about making huge sacrifices. It is
about having technologies that are there ready to use when you want to use them, but having them
not suck up energy when you don't want to use them.