Australia - Smart Grid and Renewable Energy


The fundamental shift that has taken place in environmental policies since 2007 is having a huge effect on the electricity market. Smart grids, smart meters, electric vehicles and solar panels now are all well and truly part of new government polices and industry initiatives, all aimed at saving energy and moving to cleaner energy sources.

This is also creating huge upheaval in the market. When the electricity industry finally woke up to the challenges ahead of them they realised that their old infrastructure was no longer able to cope with these changes. Massive investment projects have since been commenced, with much more to come, and a staggering $200 billion will need to be invested in the industry over the next 20 years.

This lack of foresight also resulted in very sharp price increases for consumers, which in turn created great political upheaval. All of this is still very dynamic – in fact the full transformation of the industry will take several decades to complete.

An essential element of this transformation will be the use of smart technologies; they are a necessary part of the solution.

The great benefits of these technologies is that they can address many of the technological problems in the broader industry. However this requires a holistic approach and that is still a problem in a society and an industry that continues to operate largely within silos.

Solar energy is an example of this. In order to fully benefit from this renewable source, and from the eagerness of consumers to adopt this technology, we need to create a grid that can much better handle the interactive distribution of energy. Yet very little attention is being given to that issue in the context of PV.

Within two short years Australia became the largest per capita market for consumer solar panels and despite the reduction in subsidies new installation is still booming, largely because of the significant drop in cost. The increase in electricity costs and the ‘good feel’ about renewable energy is pushing this development further. This is leading to further problems in the industry as utilities now see decrease revenues, with more people bypassing the energy provided by them. In order to take advantage of the potential of these technological developments the industry will have to create a much more intelligent grid that can become an exchange network for energy.

Table of Contents

  • 1. Synopsis
  • 2. Climate change requires smarter responses
  • 3. Renewable energy
    • 3.1 Renewable Energy Fund
    • 3.2 Generating a renewable Australia
    • 3.3 Renewable energy scheme
    • 3.4 Competition might come from different directions
    • 3.5 People-driven demand
  • 4. Renewable Energy Sources - Brief introductions
    • 4.1 Hydro energy
    • 4.2 Wind energy
    • 4.3 Solar energy
  • 5. Photovoltaic energy
    • 5.1 Statistical Overview
    • 5.2 Australia dominant player in residential PV
    • 5.3 Australia ranks 11 out 16 in global energy efficiency rankings
    • 5.4 Tread with care: networks face a solar dilemma
    • 5.5 Solar Cities
      • 5.5.1 Important results from the project
    • 5.6 Solar Flagship program
        • 5.7 Councils approached about Solar Energy eXchange Initiative Solar Projects in Australia
        • 5.8 Weipa Solar Farm – first off-grid energy system
      • 6. Smart grid driven by user-driven photovoltaics
        • 6.1 Current grid can’t handle renewable energy
        • 6.2 International examples of failing grids
        • 6.3 Customers want to be in charge
        • 6.4 Without smart grids 20% renewable target will not be reached
      • 7. Australia – Smart Energy – Trends and analyses 2014 (Separate Report)
      • 8. Related reports
      • Table 1 – Installation of photovoltaic systems - 2014
      • Table 2 – Key facts
      • Exhibit 1 – The results of climate change by 2050
      • Exhibit 2 – Photovoltaics
      • Exhibit 2 - Solar flagships program

Focus Report profile


Smart Infrastructure

Number of pages: 17

Status: Archived

Last update: 12 August 2014
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Analyst: Paul Budde

NOTE: This report has been archived

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"As you know, I have resigned from the Labor Ministry and have decided not to re-contest the seat of Charlton at the next election – both for personal reasons.

Before leaving Parliament, I particularly wish to record my thanks to you for your generous and constructive participation in the deliberations that generated significant economic policy reforms for the Australian community. Continuous economic transformation is a key challenge that faces all Governments.

The development of sound public policy should always be contestable. Ultimately, good and equitable outcomes are not concessions to any particular interest group, but the careful balancing of interests to create the greatest possible benefit for the nation. You have contributed to that, and I sincerely thank you for it."

Greg Combet, Former Minister for Climate Change, Industry and Innovation

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