A national roll out of smart meters could be the start of a working solution for Australia’s growing energy crisis. And the effort would have spill-over benefits for industry development in the burgeoning IoT space.
A parliamentary inquiry into modernising Australia’s electricity grid says a national roll out of smart meters could encourage behavioural change among households and ultimately reduce overall energy costs.
“As metering technologies become more advanced they will likely provide more detailed consumption information. This has the potential to lead to greater service possibilities for consumers and operators,” the House of Representatives Standing Committee on the Environment and Energy wrote in its inquiry, ‘Powering our future’.
According to the committee, installing smart meters would allow network operators to capture and record electricity usage data every five minutes, which means decisions could be made in a “timely manner”.
“For example, if transformers are being overworked operators can replace them prior to them being damaged. Moreover, the data collected can be used to make more accurate predictions about demand,” the inquiry said.
The committee, which was chaired by ¬Nationals MP Andrew Broad, made 23 recommendations on the adequacy of Australia’s existing electricity grid and on what is needed to support future needs.
Smart Cities Council Australia and New Zealand executive director Adam Beck told InnovationAus.com the committee’s suggestion to scale a nationwide roll out of smart meters is “warranted”, given the current energy and climate crisis Australia is facing.
“We’re an advocate for smart meters to be used across all utilities, whether it is water, energy or gas,” he said.
“We believe its technology that is available now. We should be able to scale that technology in Australia,” Mr Beck told InnovationAus.com.
“There are multiple applications at pilot level. There are also some large scale deployments. One of our partners, Itron – who’s a global leader in the smart metering of utilities – has been doing large projects throughout Victoria.
“We would be very strong advocates for a more national roll out of smart metering. We believe the gathering of data and the analytics of data provides a higher level of situational awareness, and therefore putting us in position to make better decisions is at the heart of the smart cities agenda.”
Unsurprisingly, the inquiry also found concerns among stakeholders about the responsiveness of regulatory reform and existing governance arrangements across the electricity sector.
In its submission to the inquiry, the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) said current process for regulatory decision making, including industry consultation and implementation and transition periods in some cases could take “many years” and is “not sufficiently forward looking”.
Mr Beck believes a combination of a lack of policy, leadership and collaboration has hindered on Australia’s ability develop smart cities to date.
“Malcolm Turnbull declared that Australia has an energy crisis and that was in 2016, so I don’t how more urgent it needs to get for swift action,” Mr Beck said.
“Whilst we have some great pilots at scale, globally Australia is lagging. Smart metering has been a low hanging fruit for the smart cities agenda for years around the world, throughout Europe and the United States.
“Large scale deployment of smart metering is considered as one of the quick wins. There’s not only international technology available, but even here in Australia we have local companies that are innovating in this marketplace.
“It’s quite unfortunate that in a country, which has a climate and energy crisis we are unable to really prioritise this as a nationwide platform.”
In response to concerns that were raised, the committee recommended that government make market and regulatory changes to ensure that security and reliability of the electricity system is maintained over time.
“The Committee accepts the evidence that the changing nature of the electricity system is prompting the need to consider new approaches to maintaining system reliability,” it said
“In particular, the Committee supports the consideration of new approaches to maintaining an appropriate level of flexible, dispatchable capacity in the system.”