Smart Grid Australia has welcomed the Federal Government’s $100 million investment in a demonstration smart grid system, but claims legislative changes and cross-industry cooperation will be needed.
The Federal Government last night announced $100 million would be provided from the 2009/2010 budget to fund a demonstration of smart grid technology in an effort to reduce energy usage. The project is being jointly managed by the Department for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, and the Department of Resources and Energy.
According to a joint statement, the demonstration project will lead to an integrated system of renewable energy, smart grid and smart meter technology and infrastructure in one Australian city, town or region.
“It will also examine links with the National Broadband Network... by investing in this project now, Australia will be better placed to take advantage of the capabilities of the National Broadband Network,” the statement said.
Smart Grid Australia executive director and telecoms industry analyst, Paul Budde, said the NBN is not vital to the success of a smart grid network, but cross-industry cooperation was.
“For the first time all these industries will need to work together… utilities, IT, the vendors of equipment, the people involved with green energy, state governments, and people involved with the Department of Climate Change,” he said.
Despite the use of smart sensors and the need for real-time energy consumption information, Budde also claimed energy utilities and not communications companies should be responsible for the implementation of smart grid systems.
“I think the utilities are the prime choice… obviously, you need to wait and see – do they want to do this? They are electricity engineering companies and don’t necessarily have all the skills, so they might feel more comfortable moving into the consortium approach,” he said.
A spokesperson for the Minister for the Environment, Peter Garrett, said an implementation study into the smart grid system would be completed by early next year, with work commencing before June 2010.
While he was confident the industry would see tangible results within 12-18 months, Budde said further implementation would require changes to legislation around energy regulation.
“Under the current energy regulations, it is very difficult for the energy companies to actually build smart grids,” he said.
Smart Grid Australia is a not-for-profit lobby group that promotes the use of smart grid technology. Smart grid systems are electrical networks that use digital technology to monitor and manually control different sections of the network in real-time.