NSW smart meters create controversy

Resources Corner

A New South Wales discussion paper has recommended the state introduce the controversial “smart meters” in NSW.
A key policy challenge identified during the last five years and most recently in the Federal Government’s Energy White Paper is the need to restrain growing expenditure on networks. The Energy White Paper noted an estimated $38 billion will be spent on network infrastructure across Australia in the next five years.
Networks are built to supply peaks in consumption which occur for less than 1 per cent of the time. In NSW, these peaks have driven large investments in generation and network infrastructure and continue to grow. This is a poor use of capacity and imposes potentially avoidable costs on all electricity consumers.
An effective way of managing some network costs is through demand-side management. Smart meters are identified as being a key technology to enabling a more effective consumer response.
NSW Energy Minister Chris Hartcher released the discussion paper from the Smart Meter Task Force, which ruled out a mandated approach such as the Victorian-styled government rollout.
The controversial Victorian scheme was initially expected to cost $800 million, but the latest estimates have seen that blow out to more than $2.3 billion. The paper examines several "market-led" rollout strategies, saying it would be costly to taxpayers if the system was mandated by government.
"The NSW Government has learnt from the Victorian experience and does not advocate a mandated approach as pursued by the Victorian Government, but believes a market-based approach may have a role to play," Mr Hartcher said in a statement.
Mr Hartcher also said not all households will benefit equally from smart meters and the NSW Government is keen to ensure that low income households and vulnerable customers are not impacted adversely by any potential introduction of smart meters."
Industry groups said the debate on this issue has failed to address the single most important question of what smart meters are. Public submissions on the discussion paper will close on February 28.
Elsewhere, conservative state governments have threatened to block Prime Minister Julia Gillard's push to deregulate the national electricity market and undertake a national roll-out of smart meters.
Australia tipped for great renewable energy potential
The Climate Commission released a report “The Critical Decade: Generating A Renewable Australia” which summaries the state of renewable energy in Australia and its potential.
It says Australia has enormous potential for renewable energy. This potential is currently under-utilised. It also says the Australian economy could be powered almost entirely by renewable energy within the next few decades, assuming appropriate policies and support are in place. The report states Australia has the highest average solar radiation per square metre of any country in the world. Even areas receiving low solar radiation levels by Australian standards still receive more than the world's solar powerhouse, Germany.
Australia has less than four decades to transform energy systems around the world to energy sources that do not contribute to climate change.
Companies defending projects
Shell Australia head Ann Pickard hit back criticisms of the company's floating liquefied natural gas technology. At the Deep Offshore Technology conference in Perth, Ms Pickard defended the design of the FLNG technology after concerns were raised about the environmental safety of the process.
Fortescue Metals Group Limited(ASX:FMG) chairman Andrew Forrest has committed to completing new iron ore mine projects that will put the company back on track to reach its development targets in Western Australia's Pilbara region despite a raft of projects that were placed on hold three months ago as prices plunged.
Energy prices on the rise
Gas prices are set to follow electricity prices, with AGL Energy Limited(ASX:AGK) seeking to raise prices by more than 10 per cent from the middle of next year. The gas company has applied to the NSW government pricing regulator IPART, the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal, to raise gas prices by 10.4 per cent for 2013-14.
AGL Energy Limited(ASX:AGK) says it could meet as much as half of NSW's natural gas demand and help fill the state's looming supply gap if it can secure approval for its three coal seam gas projects. Head of upstream gas at the utility, Mike Moraza, said AGL would give the go-ahead for the expansion of its Camden CSG project south of Sydney, shortly after receiving regulatory approval, expected early next year. The next would be AGL's Gloucester project, which has more than 600 petajoules of resources and will produce about 30 petajoules a year, starting in 2016, Mr Moraza told the Australian Institute of Energy conference in Sydney on Tuesday.
ICAC Investigation continues
The Obeid investigation continues this week when ICAC heard the Department of Primary Industries William Hughes admit that the three-member panel that awarded the Mount Penny exploration licence accepted prospective miners' submissions including Obeid’s companies at “face value'', ignoring written directives to ensure they ``demonstrated financial ability'' to complete the work.
FNN spoke to Zeus Resources Limited (ASX:ZEU) CEO, Renzie Duncan.
Zeus Limited will list on the ASX in early December and isfocused in palaechannel uranium deposits in Western Australia. They have uramium exploration projects spanning 6,000 square kilometres in Western Australia, spread across seven project areas. The first project area is east of Kalgoorlie - the Mulga Rock area. The others are the Lake Way project, the Yeelirrie South project and the Hinkler Well project. The company also has a large palaechannel system at Percival Lakes, 1,000 kilometres north of Wiluna.
To watch more of the interview click here