Australia’s government gives go ahead to commercial scale smart grid deployment


Peter Garrett,
Australia’s Minister
for Environment
Canberra, Australia — (METERING.COM) — October 2, 2009 – Australia’s government has committed itself to funding the “Smart Grid, Smart City” initiative, which will see the government and energy and communications sectors working in partnership to rollout Australia’s first commercial scale smart grid.

The Au$100 million (US$87 million) project, which was subject to a pre-deployment study, is expected to provide valuable information that will drive industry investment in smart grid technologies in the future.

A preliminary analysis indicates that implementing smart grid technologies across Australia could deliver at least Au$5 billion (US$4.3 billion) of gross annual benefit to Australian society, including improvements in the operation of the power industry and an estimate of the monetized benefits of reduced greenhouse gases and improved power grid reliability.

The study “Smart Grid, Smart City: A new direction for a new energy era,” points out that there are a number of barriers to smart grid implementation, including standards for many applications, regulatory frameworks that may not reflect the full potential benefits or provide guidance on cost recovery or risk, and a common understanding of the costs and benefits of smart grid applications. Thus the project funding should be directed at reducing or eliminating as many of the barriers to widespread deployment as possible. Further consortium applicants should provide significant co-investment for the program to align interests and generate ‘ownership.’

To achieve the objective, Smart Grid, Smart City should provide a competitively solicited grant to a distributor-led consortium to fund a unified deployment of smart grid technologies within a single distributor’s region that rigorously assesses and analyses applications at a relevant commercial scale. In addition, distinct modules should address regulatory barriers and standards that could impact a broader smart grid adoption in Australia.

Consumer-side applications, of which smart metering will be a critical enabler, should aim to understand what drives customer behavior. Therefore different packages, such as different tariff programs, the provision of more detailed information for consumers and in-home controls, should be tested across different consumer demographics.

On the grid side applications to be deployed should include fault detection, isolation and restoration, integrated Volt-VAR control, and distributed storage.

Also various secondary applications should be piloted, including electric vehicles, substation and feeder monitoring and diagnostics, wide-area measurement, and distributed generation support.

In order to effectively demonstrate the variety of customer-side applications, the report suggests a minimum of 9,000 to 10,000 participating households, implying a total minimum population of some 200,000 people, depending upon the number and design of each trial, and the anticipated take-up rate of those trials within the population.

Releasing the report, which comes after two months of consultation and research, environment minister, Peter Garrett said it provides valuable insights into how smart grids can work in Australia.

“With this investment, Australia will showcase the world’s best practice when it comes to investing in smart grid technologies, helping industry get on with the job of rolling out these technologies and supporting clean energy jobs,” said Garrett. “Early estimates show that if smart grid applications are adopted around Australia they could deliver significant economic and environmental benefits to the Australian economy, including an estimated minimum reduction of 3.5 mega-tonnes of carbon emissions per annum.”

Minister Garrett added that he was also releasing draft grant guidelines for the project, and that the government would like to hear from the community and industry about the proposed guidelines and selection criteria for the Smart Grid, Smart City project. The final grant guidelines will be released in late October.