by Georgina Swan

EnergyAustralia gets smart

Jun 01, 2010
Development Approaches

The concept of smart energy monitoring has captured the imagination. In 2009, the federal government launched its National Energy Efficiency Initiative, providing up to $100 million for a smart grid demonstration project to encourage the development of a smart grid network in Australia.

But, as the saying goes, you have to crawl before you can walk. Smart meters must be backed by smart infrastructure if they are to deliver on their promise of energy efficiency.

It is one of the reasons EnergyAustralia is implementing a network intelligence rollout to take the provider into the future. As the operator of the largest energy network in the country, EnergyAustralia has more than 1.6 million network customers across a range of industries and more than 1.4 million retail customers in NSW, ACT, Victoria and Queensland.

The State-owned corporation has just adopted Tibco’s ActiveMatrix for the backbone of its extended enterprise service bus as part of the first release of an intelligent monitoring program. EnergyAustralia is a long-term user of Tibco. The vendor played a key part in the corporation’s move to full retail contestability — meeting the requirements to enable a competitive electricity marketplace.

The ActiveMatrix platform allows organisations to build applications that combine services created with disparate vendor technologies. EnergyAustralia IT solutions manager, Lyndon Wilkin, said it provides a scalable, agile platform from which the business can build.

Tibco’s products are based on what chief executive officer and founder, Vivek Ranadive, refers to as the “two second advantage”. He foresees a shift from transactional disk architectures to in-memory, service bus, event-driven architectures, as enterprise attempts to make the most out of the avalanche of data that comes with an increasingly connected world.

“The proposition is that if you have just a little bit of the right information a short time beforehand, it is more valuable than all the information in the world six months after an event,” he said.

In line with this thinking, EnergyAustralia is also using Tibco’s BusinessEvents software, which allows the IT team to inspect information on the fly and make decisions based on scenarios and thresholds from a business perspective.

To say electricity networks are complex systems is somewhat of an understatement. They extend across thousands of kilometres, susceptible to both the natural elements and the vagaries of human consumption. Having the right information as events occur is vital. And, on an electricity network, the volume of information is immense.

“That’s what a smart network is about – having that ability to use the information and use it more effectively,” Wilkin said. “With that comes a challenge: We are talking about volumes of information. How do you look at that information? How do you visualise it, how do you store it?

“The tools that we are looking at today — BI and SQL — are not going to cut it because the way of looking at the information must be in real time. It has to be available in memory on the fly. Tools like BusinessEvents, ActiveMatrix and the whole software grid, provide that information in real time and in memory.”

Therein lies the dilemma for energy providers: Deploying smart meters sounds easy. The challenge lies in having the systems in place to use that information effectively, as events happen.

“That’s the premise on which we are designing solutions today,” Wilkin said. EnergyAustralia is also undertaking a $10 million smart metering trial as part “That’s the ‘wow’ factor for us.” of its $170 million Smart Grid program. The trial will run until the end of 2012.