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Smart meters to keep the lights on, one home at a time

Smart meters are a key first step to putting solar panels on the roof and a battery at the back door (David Crosling/AAP PHOTOS)

By Marion Rae in Canberra

Australia’s green bank is investing $50 million to firm up the electricity grid by giving consumers more control of their homes, electric cars and energy bills.

The Clean Energy Finance Corporation loan announced on Wednesday for tech firm Intellihub, the country’s largest provider of smart metering devices, will bankroll a nationwide rollout of smart meters and behind-the-meter devices.

These devices give consumers the ability to use and store home-generated solar power when it’s cheap and dispatch it when it’s most needed to keep the nation’s lights on.

Smart meters can help households understand, control and dispatch energy from their solar panels, home batteries, electric vehicle charging infrastructure, air conditioning and hot water systems.

Intellihub CEO Wes Ballantine said greater use and co-ordination of consumer energy resource devices can make a meaningful impact on the stability of the grid.

Getting a better grip on consumer energy has the potential to contribute a whopping 37 gigawatts of capacity, or two-thirds of national electricity market energy storage in 2050, according to the latest modelling from the Australian Energy Market Operator.

Universal uptake of the technology by 2030 is estimated at providing net benefits of more $500 million for NSW, Queensland, South Australia and the ACT.

“This investment will unlock bill savings for Australian households,” Minister for Climate Change and Energy Chris Bowen said.

“Smart meters are a key first step to putting solar panels on your roof and a battery at the back door,” he said.

Separately, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and the market operator are developing a national consumer energy resource data exchange for energy companies to better integrate small-scale energy resources into the grid.

But critics fear the rich trove of data will also attract cyber criminals and impact on privacy by being too smart about real-time energy use in every home.

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One Response to Smart meters to keep the lights on, one home at a time

David says: 11 July 2024 at 7:14 am

Wow, interesting how something being rolled out for users of Solar Panels many years ago is now some sort of headline. Solar Panel users moved to Smart Meters when the government let the energy provides slash the solar feed-in tariff to ~7c/KwH while ramping usage to ~47c/KwH. Users had to go to net metering so they got some value from their solar panels. It should be noted at current pricing the power companies make more money out of the solar panels on peoples roofs than the users save if they don’t have batteries.

We are now heralding net meters and solar panels as something good for home owners as a step to solar panels and a battery. The reality is, when someone convinces you to pay to put solar panels on your roof the power companies will be making money out it. This is achieved but keeping batteries out of reach by a lack of subsidies, inflated connection costs, inflated technology costs (compared to EVs) and a deliberate stalling of allowing V2G so users cannot circumvent the equipment costs. I guess if V2G does get approved the cost of connection will be so high it will counter any savings on battery costs. You can have a battery but we going to make the cost so high you will pay upfront for what the energy company would have made out of your solar panels.

However, none of this is surprising as the energy debate in Australia seems to be aimed at your average village idiot. For example, what we are actually debating is not whether we should use renewable energies but how we generate that last 20 or so percent that we need when the sun don’t shine etc etc. What keeps the hospitals running in emergencies etc etc. Anytime you hear some say renewable generation when debating nuclear (which is not my preferred option) you are dealing with a village idiot. No one is saying, don’t use renewables. What we are debating is how do we guarantee supply when we no longer want to use coal or gas. Nuclear is a known solution that everybody else but seemingly Australia is capable of using. Everything else is currently fantasy (doesn’t exist yet) and like nuclear will take a long time and much money to develop. Keep in mind that battery research has been significant since before the first mobile phone was available. The number of companies and people who know more about batteries then their own children is significant which means there is unlikely to be any magic bullets in the timeframe we want to get to zero emissions. Also, rolling out centralized battery solutions to capture distributed renewable generation is going to be very expensive with our current infrastructure. Get used to your bills increasing a lot more.

Next time anyone in the government makes any announcement regarding power ask them why aren’t they ensuring all homes with solar panels also have batteries to reduce wastage of renewable energy and reduce everyone bills by reducing the need for infrastructure upgrades. The ask them what their so called seasonal storage (or seasonal generation) plan is when solar and wind generation drops below essential levels for extended periods of time. What’s going to run our hospitals? How often and comfortable are you when your phone drops below 30% charge and you don’t know when you’ll next get near a charger? Also expect to live in a future where power is cut to all but essential services when required.

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