Households could save hundreds of dollars a year on their power bills under proposals announced by the Morrison government.
The government will move to set a default price for electricity, in line with a recommendation from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's inquiry into retail power prices.
"We are putting the necessary focus on keeping the big energy companies under control to get prices down," Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters in Canberra on Tuesday.
Power retailers will be required to set their prices against a default market price, which could help households save hundreds of dollars, and businesses thousands.
The government has also asked the Australian Energy Regulator to develop a reference bill for each network region, for electricity retailers to calculate and advertise their discounts using a common reference point.
Both mechanisms will be publicly released by the end of April next year, with the default price to begin on July 1.
In South Australia, customers on standing offers could be paying up to $832 per year more than the cheapest market offer in the state, a report by the Australian Energy Market Commission says.
The figures for other states were: Victoria ($652), NSW ($411), Queensland ($369) and ACT ($273). Tasmania already has a regulated standing offer.
For small businesses the price differences range from $969 to $3457.
Energy Minister Angus Taylor will meet with his state and territory counterparts in Sydney on Friday to discuss co-operation and law changes.
The government will also back investment for "more new reliable power generation", with a pipeline of energy projects to start next year.
Mr Morrison said that where coal "stacks up" it could be included in the project list but was adamant emissions cuts would not be forgotten.
Labor energy spokesman Mark Butler said a default price didn't do enough to give industry and consumers certainty.
The ACCC recommendations were designed to be used alongside the coalition's now-dumped National Energy Guarantee and not as a substitute, he told reporters in Canberra.
CEO of Energy Consumers Australia Rosemary Sinclair said savings for consumers would differ state by state, but would help those struggling to pay their bills.
However, the Business Council of Australia is concerned the announcement could undermine private investment in the sector and could lead to higher prices in the long-term.
"Ad hoc intervention in the energy market, such as underwriting generation investment or forced divestment, is sending a signal to the world that investing in Australia comes with considerable risks," chief executive Jennifer Westacott said.
The Australian Conservation Foundation said the government could underwrite more pumped hydro and battery storage to support cleaner, cheaper, on-demand power and increase competition.
Australian Associated Press