No incentives to cut usage

No incentives to cut usage

WE READ with anger about rises in the cost of electricity bills in the near future ("Power surge to price surge: prepare for an expensive education, says expert", The Age, 3/1). As we were approaching retirement, two years ago we looked for all the ways to cut our utility bills.

We hired a consultant to do an energy audit. We installed solar hot water, nine solar panels for electricity, a roof ventilation fan, thicker ceiling insulation, blinds on the east side, and a pergola with grape vines and shade mesh on the west. To save water we installed two tanks, one of which is attached to the laundry and toilets. We also had our laundry, shower and hand basins plumbed to outside to use the grey water on the garden. All this was at considerable expense to ourselves with very little repaid in rebates. Now we are told it is the service charge that is to increase, not the price of consumption just like with water bills.

Where is the incentive for people to use less electricity and less water when they will not benefit financially. If the carbon tax were to be spent on rebates to encourage people to cut their emissions, then I could see it as a worthwhile tax. It seems like the only reason we increase service charges is to keep the money in the pockets of the big power and water companies.

Glenda and David Nicholson, Warranwood

Lucrative business

THE proliferation in new electricity retailers, which do nothing more in the supply chain than buy electricity from distributors and bill customers, would suggest that selling electricity is a lucrative business.

Governments don't fully appreciate that rapidly rising energy costs, which are largely non-discretionary spending, are the biggest threat to families maintaining a reasonable standard of living, and unless they do something about it (and I don't have the answer) the ballot box will send them the message.

Robin Schokman, Doncaster

Invest in infrastructure

GREAT news that the "smart meters" are to penalise us for using power when it's really hot or really cold. This is a typical government response to not being willing to spend the money on sufficient infrastructure to provide peak-load power. It's the sort of "initiative" public service bonuses are made of: "Let's not provide more power, let's just stop people using power when they most need to."

On that basis we can expect the price of medical consultations to soon double if there's more than three people already waiting (there are not enough doctors so a disincentive is required). I believe the operative phrase is "government-sanctioned extortion". Victorians should refer to this abrogation of responsibility whenever the state government crows about the size of its surplus. Surpluses are simple if you don't spend the money you rake in.

John Henry, Niddrie

Price of civilisation

THE debate continues on who should pay for burying power lines. Paul Bugeja (Letters, 3/1) misses a simple point regarding civilisation. We all choose to live in a society unless one subscribes to the neo-liberal point of view where we share expenses and benefits as evenly as possible across that society.

Those of us living in rural areas, through our taxes, subsidise metropolitan public transport, superior-quality roads, public schools and hospitals and a concentrated wealth of museums and art galleries. These benefits are not so readily available to country dwellers. The desalination plant at Wonthaggi is to supply Melbourne but those of us living close by, in an area of abundant rainfall, will be forced to contribute to the cost of the plant through increased water rates. Insurance premiums have increased substantially following the Black Saturday fires and the recent floods when, again, our area was not affected.

To suggest that one area, which has suffered a cruel fate, should be totally responsible for the payment of preventative measures for future safety, is mean-spirited and ignorant of what a fair and just society should be.

Tim Wilson, Inverloch

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