Australia and New Zealand are smart grid leaders (and they’re extending their lead)

Wed, 2017-05-24 05:55 -- Kevin Ebi

Energy security has been in the spotlight in Australia recently. Energy reform feels like a ‘full contact sport’ sometimes, and there is no sign it is going to get any easier anytime quickly. In this article we look at ‘smarter’ grids being developed, which is still a way off from being a ‘smart grid’.

As we connect our grid to the internet, and take advantage of the metering, monitoring, and data analytics that support better situational awareness, and customer engagement, we begin to enter a phase of smart grid transformation. — Adam Beck

By some measures, Australia and New Zealand have some of smartest electrical grids in the world. But the two countries are not resting on their laurels. They are making big investments to get even smarter.

ANZ leads in grid investment
Over the next decade, Australia and New Zealand are forecast to invest $6.1 billion to make their electrical grid infrastructure smarter, according to a new forecast from Northeast Group. The grid infrastructure investments will stretch across smart metering, battery storage, advanced sensors and communications.

The report finds that while the countries have advanced smart grids — leading many nations — there is a pressing need to do even better.

Good, but could be better
For all the investments so far in the electrical grid, reliability remains an issue, particularly in South Australia.

A major glitch last September caused a statewide blackout; it was blamed on overly sensitive equipment at a wind farm. Recent summer heatwaves triggered rolling blackouts as demand for energy outstripped supply.

Two approaches to driving improvement
The Australian state of Victoria mandated a smart meter roll-out, but other states aren’t likely to follow suit. Customer backlash has caused other states to think twice before following Victoria’s path. They could soon get meters anyway, however, thanks to federal regulation that’s designed to inspire competition between service providers.

New Zealand has essentially completed its smart meter rollout, a milestone it achieved with a market-based approach. Its electrical providers decided to implement the meters on their own because of the overall business value.