Manager of Australia's largest power network, County Energy, today announced a global collaboration with IBM aimed at developing and deploying an Intelligent Network (IN) in Australia.
As part of the announcement, Country Energy has become the first utility outside of the United States to join the Intelligent Utility Network Coalition, a global group of companies working with IBM to accelerate the adoption of 'smart grid' technologies and business solutions.
An Intelligent Utility Network is a digital, open standards-based network of sensors, metering, communications, computer processors, and analytics which connects an entire utility company -- from power plant to plug.
These connected systems provide a utility with near real-time data and information to better manage the grid infrastructure, enabling fewer and shorter power outages, improved customer service, and the ability to source and deliver power more efficiently, including renewable energy.
Country Energy is pursuing the Intelligent Network concept to improve reliability, support the growth of renewables like solar and wind, and to simplify energy efficiency for customers.
Country Energy managing director, Craig Murray, said climate change and cost of living fears have made families and businesses keener than ever to control their energy and water use.
"At the same time, Australia's power grids are beginning to show their age - we need a blueprint to renew those grids as more efficient and responsive Intelligent Networks," he said.
"We need to put the digital age to work for our network customers - by 2020, Intelligent Networks need to do for essential services what the Internet has done for information."
Country Energy's vision for an Intelligent Network by 2020 has three objectives: greater energy efficiency, through 'smart metering' and smart in-home networks; a more reliable and efficient power network through remote diagnostics and self-healing, fine tuning capacity in real time, and better network planning and to; enable a much wider penetration of small renewable generators by allowing renewable energy to be shared and stored locally.
These steps will combat the long term costs of moving to a low carbon future.
IBM and Country Energy are focusing on developing solutions that are specific to Australian conditions and electricity networks, and which will enable small renewable generators to interact with the network.
In coming weeks, Country Energy and IBM will unveil a dedicated Intelligent Network research and education centre at Queanbeyan, near Canberra, to demonstrate how smart grid technologies and solutions can benefit businesses, consumers and the environment.
The Centre will focus on the operational and societal benefits of a smart grid, and will be made available for visits by regulators, policy makers, environmentalists, industry and customers.
Before the end of 2008, Country Energy will announce the location for an 'Intelligent Network community' to practically demonstrate day-to-day Intelligent Network applications for around 10,000 customers in regional New South Wales.