A $100 million trial of the Federal Government's smart grid project, Smart Grid, Smart City, is set to be rolled out across 50,000 home in five sites across New South Wales.
As part of Australia's first commercial-scale smart grid, and largest local demonstration of the technology to date, energy retailer EnergyAustralia and a consortium of technology companies including IBM and CSIRO will roll out up to 50,000 smart meters to homes in the Sydney CBD, Newcastle, Ku-ring-gai, the Sydney suburb of Newington and Scone in the Hunter region.
Newcastle will become a key focal point of EnergyAustralia's three-year trial, with 30,000 of the homes targeted in the city on the NSW north coast.
Roughly 15,000 of the homes involved will also trial in-house displays and websites that allow residents to closely track utility use and emissions. These include the 1,000 homes EnergyAustralia are connecting to a closer connected smart grid as part of its SmartVillage concept in Newington and Silverwater, a two-year trial which sees residents provided near real-time information about utility use, and the ability to switch appliances on or off through smartphones and websites.
EnergyAustralia is believed to have been rolling out infrastructure to support a large-scale smart grid project since 2006, when it began rolling out 800 kilometres of fibre optic cable to service 200 substations and depots.
The energy company has also been in development of a state-wide WiMAX network since 2008, recently announcing a lease of radio spectrum held by Seven Group's Wireless Broadband Australia to help implement 140 WiMAX cells across NSW over 18 months, which would help to gather data from the smart monitoring devices. The network will ultimately service two million devices - as monitors are rolled out - but also including the energy company's 3,000 mobile field computers and 200 substations.
The combination of the WiMAX network and EnergyAustralia's existing fibre infrastructure is believed to become one of a number of testbeds for technologies used in the roll out of the National Broadband Network (NBN), particularly as some of the WiMAX towers will be deployed in remote areas such as Scone.
According to EnergyAustralia managing director, George Maltabarow, the trial will also help to pilot other smart electricity projects, such as battery storage trials in Scone and smart charging points for Sydney City Council's fleet of 20 electric vehicles.
EnergyAustralia also proposes to monitor both electricity and water usage using the same smart meter, largely a first for smart grids around the world. While IBM has trialled a similar technology in Malta, EnergyAustralia intelligent networks manager, Adrian Clark, told Computerworld Australia that the utility - which is also using IBM technology - would be using a different system.
"Malta, from my understanding, has been setup a little differently, in that the water meter isn't being peered back on the electricity meter," Clark said.
"What we're doing at Newington, it hasn't been done previously. We're actually allowing the electricity meter to collect data from the water meter."
According to Clark, this should deliver higher savings as well as the ability to monitor all utility usage from a single information source. EnergyAustralia is in negotiations with Sydney Water and Hunter Water to make such a capability possible in the smart grid trials.
A national smart grid is estimated to save Australian households $5 billion in energy costs annually, almost half of the $11 billion revenue that energy companies currently post from nine million customers.
"This demonstration project will provide information on the costs and benefits of smart grid technologies and applications that industry needs to make the right decisions in implementing this technology," Minister for Resources and Energy, Martin Ferguson, said in a statement.
However, a pre-deployment report released by the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency in October last year noted that no international standards had yet to be formulated and adopted as part of smart grid roll outs both in Australia and globally.
Computerworld Australia has contacted EnergyAustralia for comment.