Energy providers have urged the federal government to recognise the benefits of existing fibre infrastructure in the national broadband network (NBN) roll out and to consider the 'Smart Network' opportunities.
Smart networks utilise advanced metering, communications and data management to deliver electricity from suppliers to consumers. The technology is said to save energy, reduce cost and increase reliability and transparency.
The Energy Networks Association (ENA), the national body for Australia’s gas and electricity networks, has called on the government to ensure that NBN laws provide safeguards for providers by "ensuring that any existing long term commercial arrangements that may underpin some network investments are not affected by the new legislation".
The submission, one of more than 30 regarding the NBN legislative framework and access for the network released by the federal government, also identifies the NBN as providing opportunities for further development and integration of Smart Networks in conjunction with the National Energy Efficiency Initiative, which was announced in the May budget.
"Smart Networks will facilitate that change and will allow automated real-time interactions between all elements of the energy market," the submission reads.
"Given ENA's significant involvement in this emerging area, we believe it would be beneficial for Government and industry to work together closely to assess the impact of the NBN on our existing communications networks and identify potential opportunities for synergy between Smart Networks, the NBN and other strategic network projects."
The sentiment is echoed in a submission from the Tasmanian Government.
“More than half of NBN Co’s revenues should one day flow from system-wide uses, especially health care and smart grids,” the submission, from the Department of Premier and Cabinet, reads. “Development of a legislative framework for NBN Co should begin with decisions about these matters.”
The Tasmania NBN Co Limited has already been established to roll out and operate the National Broadband Network in Tasmania.
According to a message posted on the ENA Web site from CEO Andrew Blyth, the association met with Department for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy officials and has received correspondence regarding the current thinking on the framework.
"The letter indicates the Government's preference to acquire network information on a cooperative and commercial basis and that the proposed legislation acts as a safety net and is intended to be used only in the event that cooperative and commercial processes are unsuccessful," Blyth wrote.
The government has received more than 30 submissions, including those from Telstra, Optus, the Seven Network and the AFL.