USA And Australia Leading The World In Smart Grid Development

Increasingly we are seeing governments around the world undertaking national broadband initiatives as awareness grows that broadband infrastructure can also be used by other sectors such as healthcare, education and government services as well as by smart grids and digital media. Another key reason is that, in the context of the recent economic crisis, they see this development as a new method of economic innovation.

Such an approach will increasingly need to be based on a trans-sector concept and these digital developments need to be able tap into the economic and social multiplier effect that new broadband and smart grid infrastructure investments have to offer – the same infrastructure can be used by all. For this to become economically viable, open infrastructure needs to be available to these sectors on a utilities basis.

It does not make economic sense for all of these sectors to develop and run their own communications infrastructure. The economic and social benefits of such an approach makes it necessary for the government to take a leadership role to make this happen.

Countries around the world are now recognising the urgent need to address issues such global warming, CO2 emissions and the need for energy savings. Electricity generation is the single largest contributor to global CO2 emissions, but also offers the greatest potential for reducing such emissions in the short and medium term via smart grids and smart metering.

The USA and Australia are two countries that are leading the world in smart grid development and in October 2009, as part of its economic recovery package, the US government awarded over $3.4 billion of matching grants for the development of smart grids. The funding will underpin more than $8 billion worth of intelligent energy technology projects and will provide a significant stimulus to growth of this sector.

In Australia, the alliance known as Smart Grid Australia requested funding for a smart grid demonstration project and the Government responded with the provision of AU$100 million for a National Energy Efficiency Initiative to develop an innovative smart-grid energy network. Combining broadband with intelligent grid technology and smart meters in homes, this demonstration project will enable greater energy efficiency and better integration of renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power.

Funding will be provided to a consortium of state and local government, public and private energy companies and other private sector investors for the large scale demonstration of integrated smart grid technologies. Perhaps the most interesting element of the smart grid demonstration project is that it is linked to the National Broadband Network (NBN). It clearly shows the trans-sector thinking the government has embarked upon.

Around the world, many of us now live in cities and over the last century, cities that hold more than one million people have increased from around 20 to 450. The infrastructure systems used in these cities to manage water, energy, food supply, transport, communication, economic and social structures are faltering however, so it now makes sense to explore what city communities can do to survive, and even thrive, in the changing environment.

Cities are also the major polluters, as they generate the vast bulk of CO2 emissions. This leads us to the concept of smart communities, of which smart grids and intelligent infrastructure based on broadband are an integral element.

Before these smart communities can be built, trans-sector policies and strategies need to be developed. They simply can’t be built from the current silo structure that dominates our thinking and require a holistic approach. This includes considering environmental issues such as self sufficient energy buildings, energy exchanges for renewable energy and electric cars, delivery of e-health, e-education, e-government services as well as digital media and Internet services.

This report provides valuable insights into the important developments taking place in terms of smart grids and smart metering. It includes a global overview of smart grid development, including information on two of the leading markets, Australia and the USA. It also includes analyses on the importance of smart grids in terms of environmental issues.

As infrastructure is an essential element for smart grids, the report provides a strategic vision in terms of NBNs and the communications revolution. Regional information on the progress of smart grids and smart metering is included where applicable for North America, Latin America, Europe, Middle East, Africa and Asia Pacific.

Key highlights:

* The financial crisis has focused global attention on new infrastructure developments and facilitated a unique opportunity to shift the broadband emphasis from a high-speed Internet service to a national infrastructure for the digital economy that will underpin a range of positive social and economic developments.

* The Australian government showed leadership in May 2009 when it announced a AU$100 million investment in a new smart grid demonstration project which is linked to the NBN.

* According to the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA), there is sufficient spare capacity in the grid available at off-peak times to allow charging all of New Zealand’s cars and other light vehicles if these were replaced by electric vehicles.

* Smart grid technology can help to address Africa’s chronic power shortage in a market growing at around 10% per annum.

* An integral aspect of smarts grid are smart meters, with the proportion of US homes equipped with smart meters estimated to rise from 6% to 40% over the next five years.