An Australian Perspective On AMI


By Maria Cugnetto

This is all part of the new national Reform Agenda that the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) agreed to in February 2006. The commitments put forward included the progressive national rollout of ‘smart’ electricity meters from 2007 to allow the introduction of time-of-day pricing and to enable users to better manage their demand for peak power. It was also to be in accordance with an implementation plan that was to have regard to costs and benefits and to take into account the different market circumstances in each state and territory. The rollout is likely to take five years or more.

Whilst this was the national agenda, there was already activity in some parts of Australia where the rollout of smart meters had already commenced. In Victoria, there is progress towards a state-wide rollout.

Across Australia, there is also the Commonwealth government funded Solar Cities programme. This $75.3 million programme is an innovative initiative designed to demonstrate how solar power, smart meters, energy efficiency and new approaches to electricity pricing can combine to provide a sustainable energy future in urban locations throughout Australia. Five Solar Cities have been selected, Adelaide, Townsville, Blacktown, Alice Springs and Central Victoria.

Under these existing plans, approximately 3 million meters are expected to be installed. The rollout will be undertaken by each distributor in accordance with its normal practices with regard to achieving cost effectiveness as per any other network investment.

The Victorian Government initiated a programme to deliver AMI to all Victorian electricity consumers, commencing in 2008. Over a fouryear period, it is expected that some 2.4 million electricity meters will be deployed. This initiative is to help Victorian consumers better manage their energy use by providing more detailed information on their consumption and the opportunities available to save money and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The approach is a mandated rollout of interval meters with two-way communications to all Victorian electricity consumers with an annual usage less than 160 MWh.

Different technologies with respect to communications infrastructure are being trialled in Victoria. These include power line carrier (PLC), distribution line carrier (DLC) and mesh radio. The trials are important to establish what communication technologies are appropriate for meeting the requirements of AMI across the range of Victorian urban and rural areas. In addition, the trials will allow better understanding of the performance of systems and the operational issues associated with installations and operations. Each Victorian electricity distributor has determined the technology mixes they intend to trial and all are trialling two or more of the technologies.