Fuel and Energy Minister Geoff Gallop said today he was arranging an urgent meeting with the Building Owners and Managers' Association (BOMA) over SECWA's new electricity tariffs.
New charges for commercial and industrial customers will be introduced from March 1. The new tariff structure will phase out declining rate charges which provided no incentive for energy conservation and rewarded customers who used more energy. This will be offset by cheaper off-peak rates.
"BOMA is understandably concerned that some of its members will be facing higher power bills because of difficulties in adjusting to the lower time of use tariffs," Dr Gallop said.
"The fact is that many BOMA members, including the operators of shopping centres and buildings, will benefit considerably by adopting time based tariffs.
"I shall be seeking to point out that the new charges have been introduced to encourage SECWA's commercial and industrial customers to review their energy use, and that this can result in substantial savings."
Dr Gallop said shopping centres ranging in size from single stores using about 2,000 units per day to some of the largest outlets in Perth had already applied to SECWA to change to the time-based tariffs.
Food manufacturers were also changing to the new tariffs, along with light manufacturing businesses which had adapted their processes to incorporate a larger amount of off-peak work.
Others to adopt time-based tariffs included a large brickworks which would save 10 per cent on its power bills initially, and this could increase to 20 per cent through appropriate energy management.
There were two principal ways for firms to cut energy bills. The first step was to consider ways in which the cheaper off-peak tariffs could be utilised. The second involved a hard look at existing energy use.
"Adjustments to the settings of such things as air conditioning units and lighting modifications can reduce energy use by between 10 and 40 per cent," Dr Gallop said.
"An 'energy audit' in a building will identify the areas where savings can be made and provide practical procedures to achieve this.
"The Federal Government is offering a 50 per cent cash rebate of up to $5,000 on the cost of an audit, and the resulting total outlay on the part of a building operator can often be recovered in less than two years."
Dr Gallop said it was important for firms to face up to the removal of the declining block tariffs. Their removal was an essential component of the Government's plan to remove inefficiencies from the electricity supply industry.
SECWA had indicated that its door would be open to discuss difficulties that some of its customers could experience in adjusting to the new tariffs. However, an effort had to be made to confront the problem of excessive energy use for the benefit of the entire community.