Government signs off on $100m smart grid plan

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Government signs off on $100m smart grid plan

EnergyAustralia consortium finally picks up the cheque.

Power utility EnergyAustralia has signed a three-year, $100 million agreement with the Federal Government to test smart grid technologies in up to 50,000 NSW households.

The Smart Grid Smart City agreement will see the energy distributor install smart meters in the Hunter Valley and Sydney and in-home displays that help householders track their energy use in up to 20,000 houses.

Ten percent of these homes will have the ability to remotely control devices using mobile devices such as the iPhone, the utility said.

A consortium led by EnergyAustralia will build the smart grid showcase in Newcastle, Scone, Sydney CBD, Ku-ring-gai and the smart village at Newington, west of Sydney.

The agreement, much of which was already known from earlier announcements and also known as the National Energy Efficiency Initiative was the subject of an implementation study late last year and was scheduled to be signed by the middle of this year. EnergyAustralia won the contract in June.

EnergyAustralia smart grid manager Adrian Clark said the strength of the plan was that it would test business assumptions alongside technology deployed in real-world conditions.

"Alongside this trial the Commonwealth Government in partnership with regulators and industry are looking to understand the regulatory and broader industry issues," Clark said.

The data generated during the trial will be critical for a wider smart grid rollout, he said.

"Data will inform how we as an industry understand those [customer] benefits and create products and technology. It's not just technology it's also understanding the business context in which that technology fits."

The trial was a "unique international showcase", he said, that would compete with similar projects in China, the US and Europe: "It will potentially be the [world's] leading program".

Clark said Mitsubishi's iMiev electric vehicle will feature prominently in the trial as the consortium seeks to take lessons learned in the Newington smart home trial and apply them to a bigger sample of homes and case studies to establish their impact on the wider grid.

"We have our models and the beauty of this is it's a trial that the rest of the industry will really learn from," he said.

"It's the right way to do it, let's learn and validate this future smart grid world. The Australian Government is on the right track in funding this project."

EnergyAustralia has secured 7MHz of radio spectrum from Seven Group Holdings' Wireless Broadband Australia so customer devices and up to 12,000 sensors on the grid for self-repair can communicate between each other and back-end systems at head offices.

Other aspects of the agreement:

  • Solar powered battery storage trials in households in Scone, Newcastle and Newington.
  • 25 ceramic fuel cells will be installed in houses in Newcastle and Scone linked to five wind turbines to test distributed generation.
  • 20 electric cars linked to nearly 60 power points to test charging from locations on the grid.

Other members of the consortium included AGL, GE Energy, TransGrid, Newcastle City Council and the NSW Government. IBM will integrate the systems.

The NSW Government and electricity companies were criticised this week for a blowout in costs associated with solar power panels and a rise in taxes levied by the State that will see energy bills rise this year.

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