About Smart Grid Australia

SGA’s job done

The SGA evolved out of Utilitel in 2007, with a focus on the changing policies of climate change, energy efficiency and subsequent new technologies such as distributed energy, PV, EV and battery storage.

Our largest legacy was the Smart Grid, Smart City project in 2009, which received Federal Government funding of $100 million, matched dollar-for-dollar from private industry – to establish the wider benefits of Smart Grid infrastructure in Australia. We were also involved in most of the Federal and State Government projects in relation to energy efficiency and energy reform. Our regular industry summits have been among the conference highlights of the smart energy calendar.

As a result of the activities of SGA and others, the concept of ‘smart grid’ is now well and truly embedded throughout the industry. The Energy Network Transformation Roadmap of the CSIRO is an excellent example of this and many of our members are involved in this project as well.

In short, we felt that our work is done – we achieved our mission of establishing smart grids as a basis for the new energy paradigm and highlighted the business value this base infrastructure can now support.

With the value of smart grids now established, we have seen the SGA’s differentiation in the market and value to its members shift. This has led to a number of internal board reviews and revalidation of the SGA’s primary purpose. Our assessment has revealed a number of concerns:

  • Continuing relevance of the SGA and ability to provide value to members
  • Long term financial position of the Association
  • Level of external investment required to reinvigorate the association around a new mission

As such, the board now felt it was time to dissolve the SGA association to free up our members to focus on new market opportunities and foster a unified industry pursuit for leading the energy industries ongoing transformation with the remaining industry associations, like the ERAA, ENA, ESAA and the AIE.

For the time being we will continue with our website, as it contains a wealth of reports that will remain of interest to various players in the market.

January 2016 – Troy Williams, SGA President.

A brief history of SGA

In 2001 UtiliTel was launched. We brought most of the Australian electricity distribution companies together for a meeting in Sydney, where we discussed the business opportunities that existed for the utilities in using their infrastructure for the purposes of telecommunications.

This took place when the national incumbent telecoms monopoly Telstra was at its high point. It was refusing to build new national broadband networks and was demanding exorbitantly high transmission charges.

Several utilities were in the process of looking at opportunities to disrupt this market; others were already moving in this direction. With the telecoms market becoming more competitive the telecoms opportunities had slowed down, while at the same time, around 2006/2007, climate change, carbon emissions and energy efficiency became hot topics in the industry and the focus started to shift from looking at communications simply as a new business opportunity to it being critical to the internal operations of the DBs; and in 2008 the name UtiliTel was changed to Smart Grid Australia (SGA).

We decided to open up this new industry alliance to the broader industry (vendors, ICT companies, renewable industry, R&D organisations and so on – in all some 50 organisations are now part of SGA).

In that same year we also established the Global Smart Grid Federation (GSGF) of which we are founding members.

This was a massive change within the industry. Communication was taken away from the business development managers and placed in the hands of the electricity network managers. This also resulted in a cultural shift in relation to communications – while initiatives such as UtiliTel was based on the standardised telecom technologies  the smart grid developments were internalised and further developed around proprietary systems.

During 2006/2007 we fought hard to get smart grids included in the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) discussion held by the energy ministers following severe electricity outages in Victoria and South Australia. This discussion focussed on smart meters, but we argued that smart meters were only a part of the solution and that the government should take a much broader view of the electricity grid. As a matter of fact a smart meter, without a smart grid, would not be able to deliver the best outcomes for the country as a whole (rather than just looking at it from an industry perspective). Smart grids would be able to deliver a far greater range of smart energy benefits to the country, the industry and the consumers. This also was the message that the GSGF was sending out to governments around the globe.

The government at that time (2007-2010) period had issues such as climate change, carbon emissions and energy efficiency high on its agenda and within SGA we kept on promoting the benefits of smart energy to the government. What we argued was that by basically adding ICT-based smarts to the infrastructure all the way from the generators to the devices in people’s homes we could create a much smarter use of energy, resulting in overall energy savings of between 30% to 40%. At the same time such a smart grid would open up a whole new range of innovations, new products and services that the industry could use to start adding value to their operation to compensate for the declining revenues from basic energy.

In March 2009 we received a telephone call from the Prime Minister’s office, with a request for SGA to incorporate a broad outline of its ideas around smart energy into a proposal for the federal government to consider. Of course we acted very swiftly on that request.

To cut a long story short, this became the Smart Grid, Smart City project. We thought we were bold when we asked for $50 million but instead the project received $100 million in funding!

Linked to this plan was the government’s decision to base the rollout of a national smart grid on the outcomes of this three-year project. The project took the broadest possible view in relation to smart energy: renewables, electric vehicles, consumer devices, the grid itself. And it was also stipulated that, since a smart grid would require a national broadband connection, the project should look at the roll our of the National broadband network in Australia (NBN) to see if there was synergy between the two projects, and align developments where possible.

Unfortunately the change in government in 2013 saw an end to the Smart Grid, Smart City project. And the NBN was in the new government’s bad books and all the elements that had been developed within the Smart Grid, Smart City project were not followed up. As a consequence there was no longer any incentive for the industry to make further investments in these areas. Confusion around policies and the lack of regulatory leadership meant that the industry currently is more or less muddling along.  Obviously things are happening, but no longer based on a national vision.

Given the lack of political leadership people within the association started to shift focus from the federal government to state and local council leadership. The notion of smart cities is gaining traction and sustainability is a key issue within this concept. And this, of course, is linked to energy issues. We now see cities taking a leadership role.

As a result of this we decided to dissolve SGA. New industry initiatives in smart cities are now being investigated. Reports published by SGA remain available on this website.

Paul Budde

Global Smart Grid Federation

Smart Grid is a founding member of the Global Smart Grid Federation which was established to bring together Smart Grid initiatives from around the world.

Over the past several years, various countries have initiated projects and programs to explore the potential of the new generation of information- and communication-based technologies emerging across the power sector. As these efforts matured, formal public-private initiatives were formed. The first, in 2003, was the GridWise Alliance in the United States. It was followed by similar initiatives in the European Union, South Korea, Japan, Australia, Canada, India, and Ireland. Many other countries are in the formative stages of their own initiatives.

The Global Smart Grid Federation was formed to:

  • Facilitate the collaboration of national and international Smart Grid nongovernmental organisations and governmental organisations from around the world to conduct and foster research in the application of Smart Grid technologies
  • Support rapid implementation of Smart Grid technologies by establishing itself as the global center for competency on Smart Grid technologies and policy issues
  • Foster the international exchange of ideas and best practices on energy issues, including reliability, efficiency, security, and climate change
  • Create avenues for dialogue and cooperation between the public and private sectors in countries around the world on issues relating to the deployment of Smart Grid technologies.

Each member organisation has a seat on the board of directors, which directs all activities of the Global Smart Grid Federation.

Members include: Australia, Canada, Denmark, European Union, Flanders, France, Great Britain, India, Norway, Ireland, Israel, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Netherlands, Taiwan, Turkey and the United States.

For more information click here.

The International Smart Grid Action Network (ISGAN)

ISGAN is the short name for the International Energy Agency (IEA) Implementing Agreement for a Co-operative Programme on Smart Grids (ISGAN).

ISGAN creates a mechanism for multilateral government-to-government collaboration to advance the development and deployment of smarter electric grid technologies, practices, and systems. It aims to improve the understanding of smart grid technologies, practices, and systems and to promote adoption of related enabling government policies.

ISGAN was launched as the International Smart Grid Action Network at the first Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM), a meeting of energy and environment ministers and stakeholders from 23 countries and the European Union held in Washington, D.C on July 19 and 20, 2010. The CEM focuses on high-level attention and commitment to concrete steps—both policies and programs—that accelerate the global transition to clean energy. The Ministerial was an outgrowth of the agreement at the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate (MEF) in L’Aquila, Italy in July 2009, where countries agreed to collaborate on advancing clean energy technologies.

ISGAN facilitates dynamic knowledge sharing, technical assistance, and project coordination, where appropriate. ISGAN participants report periodically on progress and projects to the Ministers of the Clean Energy Ministerial, in addition to satisfying all IEA Implementing Agreement reporting requirements. Membership in ISGAN is voluntary, and currently includes Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, China, Denmark, European Commission, Finland, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States.

Consistent with the IEA Framework for International Energy Technology Co-Operation, ISGAN is open to governments of IEA Member as well as non-Member countries, upon invitation of the ISGAN Executive Committee. Though the primary focus is on government-to-government cooperation, ISGAN is also open to entities designated by participating governments, and select private sector and industry associations and international organisations. To work as efficiently as possible, ISGAN will strive to establish collaboration strong cooperative ties with existing Smart Grid organisations.

ISGAN recognises that robust, reliable, and smart electric grids play a key role in enabling greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reductions through the management of electricity demand, integration of growing supplies of both utility-scale and distributed, small-scale renewable energy systems, accommodation of an increasing number of electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, improvement of operational efficiency, and application of energy efficient technologies to their full potential. Smart Grids also enable better utilisation of existing electricity generation assets, thereby creating opportunities to forgo the addition of new long-lived, high emissions fossil fuel plants. In coordination with the International Energy Agency (IEA) and others, ISGAN seeks to improve understanding of the potential for Smart Grid technologies to enable reductions in GHG emissions and energy use at country, regional, and global levels. It focuses high-level government attention on the promise of Smart Grid to achieve such reductions as well as the challenges to accelerating their deployment.

ISGAN’s vision is to accelerate progress on key aspects of smart grid policy, technology, and related standards through voluntary participation by governments in specific projects and programs. ISGAN will facilitate dynamic knowledge sharing, technical assistance, peer review and, where appropriate, project coordination among participants. ISGAN activities centre on those aspects of the smart grid where governments have regulatory authority, expertise, convening power, or other leverage, focusing on five principal areas:

  1. Policy standards and regulation,
  2. Finance and business models,
  3. Technology system development,
  4. Workforce skills and knowledge,
  5. Users and consumers engagement

Consistent with the IEA Framework, ISGAN will be open to governments (Contracting Parties) of IEA Member as well as non-Member countries. Though the primary focus is on government-to-government cooperation, ISGAN will also be open to entities designated by a government, Sponsors from the private sector, industry associations and international organisations. ISGAN will strive to establish collaboration with already existing bodies in order to work as efficiently as possible.

For more information click here.