2008 Australia - Utilities - Environmental Focus for Smart Grids

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Last updated: 25 Jun 2008 Update History

Report Status: Archived

Report Pages: 159

Analyst: Stephen McNamara

Publication Overview

For those needing high level strategic information and objective analysis of Australia’s smart grid industry, this report provides essential reading and gives in-depth information on:

  • The energies utility market;
  • The smart grid market;
  • Broadband over powerlines;
  • Climate change and the environment;
  • Demand side management;
  • Major players and projects.

Researchers:- Paul Budde Phil Harpur

Current publication date:- June 2008 (4th Edition)

Next publication date:- July 2009


Executive Summary

Smart Grids are a concept involving the modernisation of the electricity distribution grid through the use of advanced sensor, communication, control and information technologies.

The fundamental shift that has taken place in environmental policies since 2007 will have a huge effect on the utilities market. Energy policies that were developed prior to this now need to be considered in relation to the new climate change and environmental realities – and for the ICT and energy industries, this will involve checking government initiatives such as smart meters and national fibre telecoms networks against the new direction.

This means that 2008 will be a crunch year for smart grids. Fortunately the implementation of the government’s smart meter project, planned for 2007, has been delayed till 2008, enabling the utilities involved to review their plans, while at the same time allowing for a national review of the regulatory regime. This needs to be changed so that utilities will be encouraged to invest in smart grids rather than smart meters. Another government plan, the introduction of the national broadband network, also requires a review to enable it to be used for telemetry IP applications, which can be linked into the smart grid infrastructure.

In order to facilitate all these changes and related business opportunities, Smart Grid Australia, a non-profit, non-partisan alliance dedicated to an enhanced, modernised electric system, was established in early 2008. This alliance holds meetings, organises committees, assists with government initiatives, and issues communications to accelerate progress. It can be an important source of ideas, inspiration, and influence for any organisation interested in this burgeoning sector.

However, industry activities leading up to these developments started already in the early 2000s. This started when the country faced a serious lack of telecommunications infrastructure competition. One sector that after some rough starts, successfully entered the telecommunications business, was the utility industry. Players like PowerTel (now AAPT – owned by Telecom New Zealand), Uecomm and TransACT are early examples of business borne out of power companies. However, by the mid-2000s the focus had changed to broadband-based Customer Access Networks. Key players here included Aurora, Country Energy, Silk Telecom, Nexium and others. State governments became active promoters of utilities-based broadband projects. It is also these companies that are taking the early Smart Grid initiatives.

Some of these companies experimented with broadband over powerlines. However, problems remain in relation to international standards and radio interference. The Australian Communications and Media Authority has created a regulatory environment that resulted in several BPL trials and pilots, although these trials didn’t result in commercial telco deployment. BPL is however, set to play a major role in the deployment of intelligent network also known as Smart Grids.

Key highlights:

  • The change in government in late 2007 finally brought Australia in line with other developed countries in relation to better policies to address the problems of climate change and CO2 emissions.
  • Energy production and energy use accounts for 40% of all CO2 emissions, the single largest source of pollution.
  • Early tests with smart grids have shown that end-users can save up to 25% of their energy by simply providing them with info on their electricity use and providing them with tools (smart meters) to manage their energy use.
  • Australian utilities have been involved in advanced telecommunications since the early 2000s and many recent telecoms initiatives have been initiated by the utilities.
  • Several of these utilities became the early leaders in the developments of the concept of smart grids, including Energy Australia and Country Energy.
  • The State Government of Victoria took an initiative to install smart meters in all households. The current debate is to try and incorporate this into the bigger picture of smart grids.

Data in this report is the latest available at the time of preparation and may not be for the current year.

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