The GITA ANZ 2010 conference in Brisbane, Australia was an energy-filled event in both senses of the phrase. To me it was exciting because the last time I was at GITA ANZ two years ago smart grid awareness was limited. This time it was just the opposite. It was the main topic of the presentations and conversation. The theme of the conference, which this year was Smarter Infrastructure for a Sustainable Future, I believe was responsible in large part for the 60% increase in attendance compared to last year. Geospatial was identified by many speakers as a key enabler of the smart grid.
Infrastructure Investment in Australia
According to Jeremy Stone of GHD the required investment in broadband, water, power, and transportation infrastructure in Australia over the next two decades is estimated to be $800 billion. One of the problems in the water industry is aging infrastructure and a direct result is that 20% of water is missing. And this in a country which has greater awareness of the importance of water as a result of the serious droughts and associated bush fires experienced over the past decade.
Maturing Workforce and Productivity
The average age of engineers in Australia has increased by four years over the last decade. Jon Black of of UnityWater reported the average age of employees in the water and waste water industries.
- clean water industry 49 years
- waste water industry 53 years
It is forecast that over the next five years that there will be a shortage of 30,000 engineers in Australia. Speakers in both the electric power and water utility space identified improving productivity as a key objective if Australia is going to be able to achieve its national broadband, smart grid and water reform goals.
Energy Demand in Australia
Terry Effeney of Energex compared per capita electricity consumption in Australia to California. Electricity consumption in California has been essentially flat since 1980, but in Australia, electricity consumption has increased 70%. Inexpensive air conditioners have changed the pattern of energy usage in Queensland from a winter to a summer peaking profile. Over the same period peak demand has doubled. Interestingly, the last MW of generating capacity is used only 100 hours/year and costs 100 times the cost of base generation to generate.
Water is a serious challenge in Australia. Recent droughts in Victoria in particular have changed Australians' attitude to water. In 2009 a reform of the water industry was embarked on, involving vertical disaggregation, breaking up water companies into retail, distribution, transmission and storage units. For example, UnityWater just began business in July of this year. The major challenges that the water industry in Australia is facing are aging assets and aging workforce. Graeme Athonsen outlined City West Water's cadet program for developing new water and sewer planners and designers right out of high school. The program attracted twelve young candidates in 2009, all of whom have chosen to remain in the program, and nine this year.
As a result of the increasing frequency of droughts, major investment in desalination is occurring in Australia. Desalination requires energy, so this program increases energy demand. In Victoria brown coal plans have been constructed to provide power to the desalination plants.
Smart Grid in Australia
Power generation in Australia is heavily dependent on coal, even more so than the US. Per capita CO2 emissions in Australia are significantly higher than the OECD average. As a result one of the top priorities in Australia is de-carbonization. Australia's economy, like many other economies, is increasingly dependent on digital technology, so reliability is top priority. Improving efficiency is the third key goal. Following many other countries such as Japan, Korea, the US, Canada, and the EU, clean energy and smart grid programs are being adopted to address these challenges.
Chris Stolz described a program in the State of Victoria to deploy smart meters to two million users over the the next four and a half years. Chris showed how the smart meter program is paid for in Victoria. There is an explicit smart meter charge of $71 annually, plus the cost of power has been increased by 15%. A temporary moratorium on the roll-out of a time-of-use pricing plan has just been imposed to work out how to address its impact on that part of the population who have limited choices in changing their power usage pattern.
Smart Grid, Data Quality and Geospatial
As Kevin Miller has pointed out, the smart grid is all about data. It has been estimated that there will be a thousand times as much data in smart grid implementations. A key component of this data is location-based facilities data. For each piece of equipment, we need to know location, properties such as vendor, type, when installed, and maintenance records, and connectivity - what it is connected to. To operate a smart grid at its optimum reliability and efficiency, the accuracy and timeliness of the data will have to be much higher than is typical for the current grid. Jon Black of Unity Water emphasized how much of this location-based data is missing or unreliable in current utility databases. In his talk Graeme Athonsen emphasized how critical data quality is and outlined his golden rules maintaining a high level of data quality,
- Data shall be stored only once
- All data shall have an owner
- All data shall have a quality system
Greg Oaten, interim CEO of GITA ANZ, pointed me to a bill currently before the Queensland Legislative Assembly that contains provisions that may make accurate recording of the location of water infrastructure a legal requirement in the water industry in Queensland.
"53BG Meaning of location on a road
“The location of water infrastructure on a road includes the line, level and boundary of the water infrastructure in or on the road.
"53CE Record obligation
“The distributor-retailer must prepare records that adequately define the location of the water infrastructure on the road.
"53CF Obligation to give public entity information
“If the public entity for the road asks, the distributor-retailer must, within a reasonable period, give the public entity information that adequately defines the location of the water infrastructure on a stated part of the road.
"53CG Liability for damage by public entity to water infrastructure
“(ii) information given in response to the request did not adequately define the location of the water infrastructure”