An extreme continent, an unstable electricity market and unpredictable weather. Australia urgently needed a long-term power strategy and so turned to Arup to see if smart grids could bring some certainty.
The trend of overall electricity demand and consumption has turned negative following a period of growth. People are increasingly turning to distributed sources of power, such as rooftop solar PVs. And extreme weather events are also on the rise.
$100m government funded project
30,000households helped trial the new technology
$27bnpotential net economic benefit through to 2034
There are also evergreen geographical issues
In remote parts of the nation, a fault on the line can be extremely difficult, time-consuming and expensive to fix. All of these challenges come against a backdrop of changes in supply reliability, standards, policies and regulatory frameworks.
Could a smart grid solve the problem?
With AU$100m government funding, we worked with a consortium to create a cost-benefit assessment called Smart Grid, Smart City to demonstrate what would happen if both integrated and smart grid technologies were deployed across Australia. The aim was to find out if, when combined with tariff pricing and sensible consumer products, there would be a net benefit for investment in this fledgling technology and how much.
What if grids could heal themselves remotely?
The team also examined the impact of technologies such as fault detection, isolation and restoration (FDIR), which allows grid operators to quickly identify the exact source and location of a fault. In some cases, they can even remotely restore power to customers.
At the end of our research, we recommended FDIR as an achievable and sensible investment.
Customer reliability would be improved, because there would be less down time over the network. Operators would spend less time carrying out surveys looking into the load and quality of power over the network. We also worked out that it would take less effort to maintain some elements of the infrastructure, because consumers would be using their electricity more wisely and cost-effectively.
What do Smart Grids mean for the future?
Our research identified a potential economic benefit of more than AU$27bn over the next twenty years if smart grid technologies and tariffs improvements were rolled out. It also identifies significant opportunities for the industry to streamline existing processes and for consumers to make better choices about their energy consumption. The future is definitely looking smart.