The NSW Government has funded a new energy efficiency project, ‘Smart Grid, Smart City’. The project aims to change the energy behaviour of Australians, helping them to take control of their energy use and save money on their energy bills. The project itself will be run by AusGrid and Energy Australia, who put together the winning tender for the $100 million initiative.
The aim of the project is to gather information about the benefits and costs of different smart grid technologies in an Australian setting, what it will offer those that take part is the opportunity to learn more about their energy usage and develop the means to reduce their bills. The project is in stark contrast to the recent announcements in Queensland regarding the proposed 8¢ per KWh gross feed-in tariff and changes to Climate Change and Renewable Energy policy. The Smart Grid, Smart City website says of the project.
“Building a smart grid involves transforming the traditional electricity network by adding a chain of new smart technology. It includes smart sensors, new back-end IT systems, smart meters and a communications network. Smart grids provide real time information about the electricity network to make it more efficient and help reduce interruptions, support more renewable energy and gives households greater control over their energy use.”
The technology they are referring to includes home energy monitors, smart plugs and an online portal where you can turn electrical items in your home off remotely (as long as you have a SMart Plug). Home owners who sign up for the trial will be provided with this technology for free.
In additional to the technological aspects of the project, retail partner Energy Australia has developed alternative pricing schemes.
New pricing schemes
SeasonSmart – customers will not be charged peak rates during Spring and Autumn, only Summer and Winter. Customers will be provided with energy monitoring technology that will allow them monitor their energy usage throughout the day. Energy Australia are hoping that this will lower peak time demand and lead to behaviour change that will help customers lower their bills.
PriceSmart – customers will have consistant off-peak and shoulder charges other than during 14 peak events. The peak events will be comprised of 7 generated by the retailer e.g. during extreme weather events such as a cold snap or hot spell, and 7 network e.g. when there is generator maintenance or excessive demands being placed.
24 hours before the peak event customers will receive a message informing them a peak event is about to occur and then another reminder 2 hours before it begins allowing them to make the decision to switch of appliances and head somewhere they can get air conditioning for free. Customers will not be punished for using their appliances within the peck events by excessively high charges that would push their bill far above their regular spend, instead they will be rewarded for not using during the peak events by significantly lower energy bills.
BudgetSmart – customers will have a top-up account with Energy Australia, if they keep a positive balance they can expect to receive a 12.5% discount on their energy bills. The idea is to make customers aware about just what their energy consumption is costing them, they will be giving warnings when they drop below $50 and given the opportunity to top-up. Once again so customers are not penalised they will not be cut off if they run out of ‘credit’, they will simple loose their discount.
The last option isn’t so much of a pricing scheme as help managing your costs. Air conditioning is a major energy cost for homeowners, by allowing Energy Australia control over your system you can save money of you’re energy bill. This is estimated at approximately $40 per event for a large system or $15 for a smaller system. The basic principal will be Energy Australia will turn off the conditioner for 30 minutes out of an hour during peak event, although the fan will still run circulating air throughout the house. According to Energy Australia during trials most people don’t notice the difference.
The Smart Grid, Smart City roll out will begin in late November and the project is currently looking for households and businesses to sign up to take part, they project team aim to reach up to 30,000 households over a three year period.
In a wider context the project will potentially demonstrate that there is a change required in the way the grid is currently managed. While Government policy in Queensland seems to be focused on maintaining, or increasing, demand on the grid this project actively looks to reduce it, the cost benefits for both the retailer and consumer are consistently highlighted. The scheme also accommodates renewable energy, although the primary purpose is to decrease usage, which is a positive step towards a clean energy future.
© 2012 Solar Choice Pty Ltd
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