This section provides a brief introduction and overview of the social, administrative and technical environment in which smart grid policy is made for Australia.
The interplay between the national or Commonwealth government in Australia and the six states and territories defines the evolving smart grid policy environment in Australia. Australia is a federal system, similar to the United States, with a national government that is delegated powers by the individual states under Section 51 of the Australian constitution. Powers not enumerated in Section 51 are generally retained by the states but courts have found that in areas such as energy efficiency (a component of smart grid policy) where Australia has signed on to international agreements, the Commonwealth government determines policy. The Commonwealth also exerts the power of the purse as the vast majority of tax revenue flows to the national government. Energy policy in Australia is primarily national especially in setting standards and goals but much of the actual policy setting and legislation is enacted at the state level.
As in most countries around the world investing in smart grid infrastructure, there is no one agency overseeing smart grid development in Australia. The Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC), established in June 2005, serves as the regulator of the National Electricity Market (NEM). The AEMC is chartered by the Ministerial Council on Energy (MCE) a committee comprised of the six state energy ministers as well as the energy ministers of New Zealand and Papa New Guinea, to provide advice to the Government of Australia (GofA) on changes to electricity regulations.
It has recently issued smart grid related reports on "mandated smart meter cost recovery" and "demand side participation".
The Australian Energy Regulator (AER) and the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) work in conjunction with AEMC to enforce rules and ensure the smooth operation of the electricity markets. Additionally, the AEMO is responsible for planning the transmission grid. The Department of Climate Change and the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism set climate change and energy policy nationally as well. All of these federal institutions therefore work in concert to define the policy environment for Australia’s smart grid initiatives.
While the federal government in Australia has focused on establishing the coordinating framework under which smart grid policy will be made, the individual state governments have actively pursued smart meter programs for several years now. Most notably is the state of Victoria, which mandated in November 2008 that smart meters be installed in all homes and small businesses. The project, which aims to roll out 2.5 million smart meters by 2013, will provide utilities and consumers with meter data every 30 minutes and will eventually lead to dynamic electricity pricing based on time of use. The states of Western Australia and New South Wales have also launched much smaller pilot projects.
In June 2010, a consortium led by Energy Australia, a national utility, the state of New South Wales and the cities of Newcastle and Sydney successfully won a A$100 million contract from the Australian government to install 50,000 smart meters in five sites at Newcastle, Scone, the Sydney Central Business District (CBD), Ku-ring-gai and Newington. The project, called "Smart Grid, Smart Cities" is scheduled for completion in 2013. Additionally, some 15,000 homes in the region will be given in home displays and websites that provide data about the home’s energy and water usage and carbon dioxide emissions. Finally, the project will also include tests of renewable energy, smart charging stations and battery storage in Sydney's CBD, which will extend the scope of the project beyond just smart meters.
Other Policy Issues
National Energy Policy
As in most countries, smart grid policy in Australia is part of a larger energy policy framework. In particular smart grid policy is an integral part of Australia's larger efforts at increasing renewable energy sources in the countries overall energy strategy in order to reduce CO2 emissions. In 2009, the Australian government announced a Mandatory Renewable Energy Target (MRET) of 45,000 MW or 20% of Australia’s electricity supply will come from renewable energy sources by 2020.
Additionally, under the National Framework for Energy Efficiency (NFEE) formulated by the MCE, Australia has established a national strategy for energy efficiency that includes developing energy efficiency standards, educating the public and industry about ways to reduce energy usage, and tackling regulatory hurdles that impede the adoption of smart grid technologies. In conjunction with the above mentioned renewable energy efforts as well as broader initiatives to integrate energy policymaking and regulation amongst Australia’s states and national government, the NFEE is a further platform of support for smart grid policy in Australia.
National Communications Policy
Another key aspect of smart grid adoption in Australia is its telecommunications policy. In 2009, Australia launched its National Broadband Network (NBN), a public-private partnership aimed at bringing fiber optic connections (100 megabits per second download speeds) to 90% of Australian homes and business and next generation wireless (12 megabits per second download speeds) to the rest of the country over 8 years. The State of Tasmania is the first state in Australia to implement this program. The improvement in Australia's communications network will be a key enabler for future smart grid data and services and policy makers are focusing on coordinating the rollout of next generation communications technologies with smart metering infrastructure.
This contains links to external resources such as in-force and pending legislation, policy documents and institutional web pages with content on smart grid.
Government Regulatory Bodies
- Standards Australia
- Australian Energy Regulator
- Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy
- Australian Communications and Media Authority
- Ministerial Council on Energy
- Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism
Scientific Committees on Smart Grid
- Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization
- Australian Academy of Science
- Energy Networks Association
- Australian Energy Market Operator
- Smart Grid Australia
- National Broadband Network