Australian Smart Grid Demonstration Project - 29 May 2009

The recent budget allocation of $100m funding towards demonstrating the integration of smart grid and smart metering technology has fuelled Australian interest in what is being done in leading demonstration projects overseas. One of the benefits of SGA's inclusive membership (spanning industry and research organizations as well as utilities) and its linkages with international sister bodies(GridWise in the USA and Smart Grid Europe) is the opportunity to gain insights into many of these projects.

As an example, Xcel Energy is leading an effort to establish Boulder Colorado as the world's first Smart Grid city. By 2010, home owners will monitor how much power they're consuming and plug-in electric vehicles will not only recharge from the network, but also feed power back into the grid. Energy-saving appliances and thermostats will respond dynamically to the state of supply. Real-time monitoring will give Xcel full visibility of energy flows, helping it to distribute electricity when and where it is needed. Collectively these advances will result in savings of millions of dollars and the avoidance or deferral of the need to build more power plants.

Of course, one of the biggest beneficiaries is the environment - with Smart Grid technology reducing energy losses (and the associated greenhouse gas emissions) and enabling the integration of clean, renewable energy sources such as wind and solar into the grid.

Xcel itself will also benefit through greater operational efficiency, improved asset management - at the same time as raising the benchmark in areas such as reliability and security of supply, power quality and rapid isolation and restoration when faults do occur.

Deployment of key grid infrastructure is expected to be complete by mid-year. Xcel is replacing half of the city's 45,000 meters capable of two-way communications and Internet access so that customers can actively control how and when they user energy. Some of the remaining households will be part of a test that doesn't rely on the meters at all, instead sending energy use information over the Internet. Most systems are expected to be up and running by the end of this year.

Xcel Energy's SmartGridCity will be utilising the fully integrated CURRENT OpenGrid platform that combines advanced sensing technology, two-way high-speed communications, 24x7 monitoring, enterprise analysis software and related services to provide location-specific, real-time data about the status of the electricity network. The solution also gives consumers visibility and control over their energy usage and enables the widespread deployment of renewable energy sources.

Other members of the Xcel Energy SmartGridCity include Accenture, Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories, Ventyx, GridPoint, OSI Soft and Smart Synch.

Robin Eckermann

SGA Executive

Smart Grids Home page