Smart Energy City Project: An Australian Perspective to a Large DER Intensive Microgrid

By Giovanni Polizzi and Tony Fullelove

Indra and Monash University are collaborating to develop, implement and test a distribution management platform across the Clayton campus of the Monash University in Victoria, to control a grid-connected Microgrid comprising a variety of distributed energy resources (DER).

The Net Zero Initiative of Monash University, that commits to net Zero campus emissions by 2030 was recently awarded the prestigious 2018 UN Climate Action (Momentum for Change) Award. The Initiative includes the Smart Energy City Project, for the deployment of on-site renewable energy on the Monash campus, and the provision of network power quality, additionally to testing market driven responses and business models.


The Australian energy sector is in a profound period of change. In particular, the electricity sector is transforming through the shut-down of ageing coal-fired generators and increasing levels of renewable energy. The current national Renewable Energy Target (RET) of 20% renewables will be met by 2020, driven initially by wind. More recently, through State-based targets and the rise of consumer-driven action on climate change, Australia has 25% of residential customers equipped with a solar installation.

Unfortunately, due to the outdated electricity market rules and despite an abundance of natural resources, this transition to distributed renewable generation has resulted in Australia lurching toward an energy crisis that has seen a decade of rising energy prices and a potential threat to the reliability of electricity.

The Monash Smart Energy City project is not designed as a campus project. It is, instead, a replicable model requiring a design philosophy that treats different buildings and grid connected assets as separate customers. In that sense, it is easy to demonstrate how precincts can bring value to customers, help to sustain and heal local networks within a precinct with a high penetration of renewable energy and offer services to the grid.

Project Philosophy

The team at Monash started with an unwavering design philosophy that required:

  • Fully distributed microgrid technology that suited a multi-customer site
  • Integrated “at the gate” to the network service provider (DSO)
  • Low capital cost for first entrants
  • Be Highly scalable
  • Connected wirelessly (where “over the fence” cabling was not permitted)
  • A market mechanism to prioritise distributed assets to provide power quality and connection to energy markets
  • An open platform for researchers to test different optimisation and market algorithms and business models

As opposed to a design based to deliver resilience when the grid is at fault, thus, driving an uptake of microgrids in other markets, the Monash campus seeks to provide services that ensure that the grid is not at risk, due to the increasing penetration of renewable energy. Especially, in a network that cannot sustain its stability, since aging coal plants are shut down.


The Project uses the existing infrastructure at Monash Clayton campus including one main substation, 11 secondary substations, 20 buildings some of which with Building Automation Systems (BAS), 2.5 MW solar photovoltaic (PV) systems, 1 MWh energy storage and Electric Vehicle (EV) charging stations, to control and operate the smart embedded network. The Active Grid Management (AGM) of InGRID, an Industrial Internet of Things (IoT) software platform based on intelligent nodes, performs the monitoring and real-time control of the network power quality by analysing data at the connection point with DER and in a centralised distribution management system. Additionally, AGM acts as the middleware to distribute real-time data across other systems such as the Energy Management System and the Transactive Energy platform, thus enabling the interaction of these components and the visibility of the resulting effects over the performance of the Microgrid.

The first stage of the Project connects each Network Asset to AGM by means of a smart gateway -node - so that the real-time data can be collected, monitored, analysed and managed. At this stage, data is processed at each node and selectively distributed through the middleware as required. The software running on each node is capable of running Docker™ containers so that third party software can share the common data space created by the middleware. This openness allows the collaboration with the academics, involved in the development of asset management and power quality assurance algorithms.

The second stage of the Project develops an Energy Management System able to operate the assets towards the efficient and reliable supply of electricity within the technical limits of the Microgrid. The flexibility - present and forecasted availability of generation and storage - of each DER and load is taken into consideration and shared in the common data space, for the benefit of the operation of the network as a whole. In collaboration with the academics, the project will develop forecasting algorithms to be run at each node and as a centralised function. Communication with the external grid is also managed to act on network requests, such as wholesale demand response markets.

The final stage will demonstrate how each connected building can participate in a transactive energy market by providing flexible energy use in real time to respond to the network market pricing signals, locally and from the wholesale market and grid. The use of a blockchain platform to trace each energy exchange and manage the remuneration is also the opportunity for the academics to study the application of smart contracts in a field historically stiffened by heavy and scarcely adaptable regulations.

It is intended that the Project learnings will be replicable across a broad range of greenfield and brownfield applications. In addition, the Project is scoped to provide information on the value streams able to be accessed by grid-connected Microgrids in non-campus contexts helping to build the business case for future deployments.


For a downloadable copy of the November 2018 eNewsletterwhich includes this article, please visit the IEEE Smart Grid Resource Center

Giovanni Polizzi holds an engineering degree and a post-graduate diploma in Renewable Energy Technology and another in Processes Innovation. Giovanni has been leading several innovative technology projects to support distribution of electricity and gas and power generation, in international energy companies as Enel, Enel Green Power, Endesa, Union fenosa Gas, Gas Natural fenosa, in Europe and in Latin America. From 2015, while promoting Indra’s technology solutions for the Energy market, Giovanni is collaborating with the Australian energy sector to shape the utilities of the future, through the digital transformation, the application of IoT and the Blockchain.


Tony Fullelove has almost 20 years' experience in the energy industry delivering large scale renewable projects and leading major transformational programs across the property and energy sectors.

A pace setter in the green energy sector, Tony has a bold vision for what can be achieved considering all relevant aspects such as the realities of market, consumers, economic and environmental influences, needs and impacts. As an advisor Tony applies his understanding of the energy landscape and experience in project delivery to help clients and partners set the vision and agenda for their medium-term energy horizon; finding solutions and strategies that make a difference.

As Project Director for the Monash Energy Transformation, Tony and his team were responsible for transitioning the Monash Clayton campus to net zero emissions by 2030.

Past Issues

To view archived articles, and issues, which deliver rich insight into the forces shaping the future of the smart grid. Older Bulletins (formerly eNewsletter) can be found here. To download full issues, visit the publications section of the IEEE Smart Grid Resource Center.

IEEE Smart Grid Bulletin Editors

IEEE Smart Grid Bulletin Compendium

The IEEE Smart Grid Bulletin Compendium "Smart Grid: The Next Decade" is the first of its kind promotional compilation featuring 32 "best of the best" insightful articles from recent issues of the IEEE Smart Grid Bulletin and will be the go-to resource for industry professionals for years to come. Click here to read "Smart Grid: The Next Decade"