Thursday, June 2, 2011

Saving electricity

TO those who would promise to lower the price of electricity, and to those who would believe them, it is time for a reality check. China and Pakistan have announced increases in electricity tariffs this month. Consumers in Queensland, Australia will pay 6.6 per cent more and those in South Australia an extra 10 per cent for their electricity from July. The Bank of England expects tariffs in the United Kingdom to rise by 10 per cent between July and March next year. South Korea is reported to be considering increasing rates sometime in August.

Against the backdrop of the rising prices of the gas, coal and fuel that generate electricity, the fact is that no country is in a position to put a lid on prices. All that responsible governments can try to do is to mitigate the increases in power tariffs so as not to unduly burden poorer households and cause excessively strong inflationary pressures. In order to minimise the potential shocks, the government has excluded 75 per cent of domestic consumers, including the 900,000 low-income earners who will continue to receive free electricity until the end of the year, from the new power rates. There is also less to worry for learning institutions and big industrial consumers as they are eligible for discounts and special rates. Of course, though the higher tariffs will not translate into higher monthly electricity bills for many households, the concern is that they could be reflected in the higher prices that consumers have to pay for other goods and services. But as inflation is expected to rise by 0.27 per cent, the hike in power tariffs is not likely to have a strong impact on domestic prices. In any event, it is hoped that businesses will absorb the increases rather than pass it on to consumers.

In any case, there is also another way for industry and commerce to pay less for electricity and keep costs and prices down -- use less electricity and use it more efficiently. The fact is that there is too much wastage. Businesses can make substantial savings on expenditure by conserving energy and using electricity more cost-effectively. Lists of specific suggestions are not hard to find. Indeed, what is needed is a commitment from everyone, not just those on the factory floor or in a government agency, to cut down on the use of electricity. For many households, the savings they make may seem insignificant. But each small step to save electricity can make a difference to the national energy-efficiency initiatives.

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