The development of an online electricity network mapping tool aims to help boost renewables deployment in Australia, and to avoid further network “gold plating”, by helping service providers and other stakeholders to navigate the changing landscape of the national electricity market.
The series of detailed online ‘network opportunity maps’ are being developed through a partnership between the UTS’s Institute for Sustainable Futures, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, Ergon Energy, TransGrid, the NSW Department of Trade and Investment and ElectraNet.
The maps, which will be publicly available and updated on an annual basis, will highlight opportunities for demand management and renewable energy projects to address areas of network capacity constraint – a function that developers hope will help circumvent potentially unnecessary investment in electricity transmission and distribution networks.
As well as network constraints, the maps will show planned investment and the potential value of decentralised energy resources in networks across the NEM.
The project’s developers say that the mapping tool will fill a “fundamental information gap” by providing clear, consistent and timely information on network opportunities and constraints to renewable energy and demand management (DM) project proponents.
“The absence of clear, easily accessible data about network constraints, costs and potentially avoidable investment has been a major obstacle to the development of decentralised energy projects in Australia,” the project description says.
“Consequently, distributed energy (including local generation and storage, energy efficiency and peak demand management) has not been optimally deployed in relation to network capacity and constraints.
This has then contributed to over-investment in network infrastructure, which has then resulted in higher electricity prices, it says.
“These maps have the potential to make a major contribution to the development of the renewable energy and demand management markets in Australia, while helping network service providers remove obstacles to a lower-cost future and the development of renewable, distributed energy and demand management projects,” said UTS and ARENA in a joint media release on Wednesday.
The project’s developers have this week called on network service providers (NSP) and other stakeholders, including renewables project developers, to sign up for forums in Sydney and Brisbane in December, where they can attend workshops, provide input on the map design and outputs, and see how the maps are being developed.
The developers say the three-year project will allow time to engage with NSPs and regulators to refine the methodology, inputs and outputs; develop of a robust data protocol; achieve broader stakeholder engagement, including policy makers, regulators and distributed energy proponents; and identifying a host organisation for annual updates.
They say, ultimately, the Network Opportunity Maps should result in lower electricity prices for consumers, by raising energy productivity, lifting network capital efficiency and developing markets for cheaper and more efficient decentralised energy.