Ausgrid spruiks smart grid consumer tools

Energy utility also calls for regulatory change to promote investment in technology that will address energy demand management
  • Tim Lohman (Computerworld)
  • 15 December, 2011 11:16

Ausgrid managing director, George Maltabarow, has used a speech in Sydney today to further spruik the potential of smart grid technology and agitate for a shift in regulatory incentives to favour energy demand management over capacity building.

Speaking at the University of Technology Sydney, Maltabarow reiterated comments made in September at the National Smart Grids Forum that the company saw many benefits in extending smart technology-based pricing products to retail partners and consumers to help better manage electricity use and bills.

According to Maltabarow, smart meters installed as part of the company’s participation in the Federal Government’s $100 million Smart Grid, Smart City project will be used to as feedback electricity use information to the company’s retail partners to then create pricing incentives to reduce peak demand.

The initiative, which will be offered on an opt-in basis for energy retailers will include household information feedback devices such as in home displays and rebates from the networks and/or retailers to reward demand management activities by consumers. The company will also offer engineering solutions, such as air conditioner cycling, household energy audits, enhanced retail bill payment options, and tariffs that involve a network and retail component.

“These products will give customers much more control over their electricity use and bills,” Maltabarow said. “Over the trial we will test whether these technologies and initiatives reduce peaks in energy demand and help lower household electricity bills.” Managing peak energy demand, the managing director reiterated, was a major challenge – as well as cost -- for energy proividers, with the company having invested $2.3 billion during the past five years to meet peak demand growth.

“Across Ausgrid’s entire electricity network summer peak day demand has nearly doubled in ten years, while demand on an average day has only grown by around 30 per cent,” he said.

“Around 15 per cent of total capacity of the National Electricity Market is only needed for four days of the year to meet high demand on hot days. That’s $11 billion of network equipment that has been built to accommodate demand for just 100 hours a year.”

Maltabarow added that the lack of regulatory incentives to invest in demand management – rather than demand growth meant that Ausgrid had avoided investing $300 million in technologies to reduce electricity demand during the last five years.

“Smart Grids have the potential to bring enormous benefits to consumers and electricity networks…. and they are essential if we are to decarbonise the grid,” he said.

“But important changes to the regulation of the electricity market are needed to ensure electricity remains affordable, and encourages electricity networks to invest in smart grids.”

This time last year, Logica said Victoria’s failed smart meter rollout had prompted a radical shift in the way that smart grids are viewed by the energy sector.

The project, which suffered additional costs and strong criticism from community groups, has prompted electricity providers to consider the potential impact of smart grids on consumers.