SECWA has advertised nationally for specialist firms to develop a demand management energy program for the town of Broome in the State's far north.
Fuel and Energy Minister Geoff Gallop revealed today that consultants from throughout Australia and overseas had shown interest in the trial program which could start before the end of the year.
The program will identify and focus upon the major energy use electrical appliances in Broome. For example, it may target commercial and domestic air-conditioning and devise methods of achieving operating efficiencies. Generally, it will be looking at ways to economise on current and future energy consumption.
"SECWA has short-listed six companies and expects to have the final plan in hand by the end of August," Dr Gallop said.
"Broome is ideal for the trial because it is growing fast and has a climate that places large demands on electricity use.
"In the longer term, however, WA's northern region as a whole will reap the rewards of this trial, along with every town outside of the interconnected grid.
"The results of the Broome trial will provide a model for SECWA's Remote Area Branch which can be systematically applied in other centres."
The Minister said Western Australia had more non-grid towns than any other State. In the vast majority of these towns, the cost of generating electricity from oil-based fuel in the local power station exceeded the amount that customers paid.
SECWA wanted to reduce or eliminate this gap and save money for remote area electricity users at the same time through better demand management.
The demand management concept had been warmly received by the Broome Shire Council and the town's larger electricity users, such as hotels, but it would not be imposed on customers.
"Customer co-operation is essential to develop awareness of the benefits to be gained from the efficient use of energy," Dr Gallop said.
"Savings of at least 10 per cent on energy bills should be achievable in the short term. From SECWA's point of view, this will save fuel and potentially defer the need to expand the Broome power station."
Dr Gallop said significant savings on energy bills could be made without affecting creature comforts or lifestyle. Energy efficient lighting, greater use of gas appliances, household insulation and the strategic placement of trees were among the things that would cut energy use.
"Nothing on this scale has been tried in Australia before," Dr Gallop said.
"It is an ambitious and innovative strategy that ties in with the Government's pledge to reduce energy prices by at least 25 per cent in real terms by the year 2000."