by Rebecca Merrett

Smart grids could drive open data movement

Aug 07, 20144 mins
Big Data

The open data movement in Australia may get a boost if the ‘Smart Grid, Smart City’ project goes ahead, following a successful trial between 2010 and 2013.

This is the view of Smart Grid Australia president Judy Anderson, who believes new data sets created from the project could provide huge opportunities for open data across the country.

“We will certainly be championing it [open data] and encouraging them [the data sets] to be used. The Federal Government is working to step up on its open data [initiative] and getting more datasets out to the public domain, and I think it [the project] is extremely beneficial,” she said.

Under the ‘Smart Grid, Smart City’ trial, led by Ausgrid and the Australian government, huge volumes of data was used from renewable energy plants and traditional energy networks, onsite and offsite storage/batteries, and smart devices in homes and businesses in Sydney and Newcastle.

About 8,000 customers participated in the trial and the results were published to the Smart Grid, Smart City Information Clearinghouse website in late July.

This website provides free data from the project for industry members, government representatives, researchers and energy suppliers. It provides registered users with advanced analytical and visualisation tools, and raw data download capabilities.

The smart grid project is combining data from weather forecast, electric transport systems, TV networks – anything that could impact energy demand. This data is analysed in real time to predict peak demand, optimise the networks and find the lowest cost solution.

Data sets from smart grids that look at energy consumption in Australia in households and electric transport systems could provide new valuable insights to researchers and technologists who want to create innovative products.

“The AusGrid trial to open up access to smart-grid electricity network data supports the goals of the eGovernment and Digital Economy Policy, including the link on for improved discoverability,” said a Department of Finance spokesperson.

The federal government has been wading through several issues around sharing data publicly. These issues include the cost associated with ensuring data quality, privacy concerns around the potential to link up bits of anonymised data, and an uncoordinated approach to data sharing among different agencies.

Other issues include a closed culture among some government departments, and making data available in machine readable form.

Smart Grid, Smart City trial results

The trial showed that wide deployment of smart grids across Australia could save consumers and businesses up to $27 billion over the next 20 years.

It also found that a passive customer using the smart grid is $156 per annum better off than a ‘business as usual’ (using current energy system) passive customer. A passive business customer using the smart grid is $2,018 per annum better off than the business as usual passive business customer.

However, the Smart Grid consortium said there are some challenges that still need to be worked through when it comes to deployment such as planning long-term investments up front when technologies are rapidly evolving and ensuring there’s proper interoperability between different suppliers, systems and devices.

Some of the technologies that proved to be successful during the trail included:

Fault detection isolation and restoration (FDIR) technology

This improves fault detection and response times and reduces duration of outages. Built-in fault monitoring sensors quicken the process of identifying a fault, its location and can restore it remotely.

This technology showed the biggest economic benefit compared to the others, with an estimated net saving for consumers and business of $14.41 billion (in present value terms) through to 2034.

Home energy monitoring tools

This includes a home energy monitor that shows real-time power consumption and cost data, and website that shows a more detailed breakdown of energy consumption, and smart plugs included in a home area network that track and remotely control individual appliances.

These tools, along with dynamic pricing models, are estimated to deliver a net saving of $1.12 billion (in present value terms) through to 2034. Also, 83 per cent of trial participants said the tools helped them take action in reducing their energy consumption.

Active volt-var control

This uses automated voltage regulation and reactive power controls to measure and maintain voltages and high power factor at all points in the high voltage distribution network. This is estimated to make a net saving of $756 million (in present value terms) through to 2034.

Substation feeder monitoring

This monitors the state of the distribution network and condition of assets to predict faults before they occur. It uses monitoring devices to measure the electrical current, voltage, power factor, as well as environmental and technical conditions such as partial discharges, dissolved gases and thermal conditions.

This is estimated to make a net saving of $88 million (in present value terms) for an investment of $163 million, including $230 million from improved reliability benefits and a further $21 million from avoided load.