Smart Grids Could Save Australians $28 Billion In Electricity Costs

A $500 million, four year smart electricity grid pilot project in Sydney and Newcastle CBDs has paid off, with the final analysis showing that smart grid monitoring and control could save Australian consumers a total of $28 billion over 20 years. A national smart grid would enable a gamut of services like real-time consumption monitoring that could help Australians lower their energy bills.

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According to iTnews, the recently released Macfarlane report into the Smart Grid, Smart City project found that customers could be paying hundreds of dollars less per year in electricity costs if the technology and supporting infrastructure was rolled out nationally.

Smart Grid, Smart City was a project run from 2010 to 2013 over 17,000 households in the Newcastle and Sydney CBD regions, with the trial taking $100 million in Federal Government funding and a further $390 million from other contributors including CSIRO, IBM Australia and energy companies.

Smart grid projects included monitoring, remote appliance power control trials and solar-powered battery backup installations, with houses outfitted with smart meters that let participant electricity companies and consumers control their electricity usage and lower overall costs.

The potential implications of a proposed smart grid could be immense: "Based on the trials undertaken, this final Smart Grid, Smart City report, Shaping Australia’s Energy Future: National Cost Benefit Assessment found the potential for a net economic benefit of up to $28 billion ($2014) over the next 20 years from the deployment of smart grid technologies in Australia."

The largest cost saving comes from the added reliability of power companies being able to quickly detect and re-route power around faults in the grid, but customers could also benefit from dynamic pricing and remote management that reduces the impact of peak power pricing — with the ability to switch off demanding appliances if necessary, electricity generators can lower maximum production levels and pass those savings on to the end user.

According to the executive report that summarises the findings of the trial, over a million Australians have installed rooftop solar photovoltaic technology, and the Renewable Energy Target has driven large-scale wind power projects in recent years.

Interestingly enough, the internet bandwidth requirements for smart grid control are minimal; iTnews says the report mentions that 3G and 4G mobile networks are more than capable of carrying the data required for consumers to monitor and remotely access smart grid services.

The report is clear in its discussion of the potentially expensive future of electricity across the country: "the Australian energy sector will continue to face growing challenges in providing resilient and affordable electricity to consumers. Smart grid technologies have a role in addressing a number of these challenges." [iTnews]

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