Network maps to cut power costs and boost renewable energy

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Solar PV installation in the Northern Territory

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has announced $425,000 funding to create online maps of electricity network constraints to help better inform network investments and increase the use of renewable energy.

The agency’s chief executive officer Ivor Frischknecht said the Institute for Sustainable Futures (ISF) at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) would develop annually updated maps and make them freely available online.

“Currently there is a lack of clear, accessible and timely network information across the National Electricity Market. A consistent, standardised approach will be developed with Australia’s poles and wires businesses to make data more accessible and easier to understand and use,” he said.

“The maps will help renewable energy and demand management project developers to anticipate network constraints, reduce the need for new grid infrastructure and lower electricity bills.”

The also enable faster development of renewable energy by showing where renewables and demand management can be more cost-effective than network upgrades.”

ISF research director Chris Dunstan said the energy sector is changing quickly and new tools are needed to manage this transition.

“The rapid rise of rooftop solar, local generation, energy-efficient equipment and battery storage means managing networks is becoming both more challenging and more collaborative,” Mr Dunstan said.

“The three-year project will provide a key resource for developing this collaboration between networks, customer and renewable energy providers. It has the potential to lower electricity costs, improve energy services and develop new markets for networks and renewable energy.”

Ergon Energy manager of demand management Glenn Dahlenburg said the network is providing full support to the project to complement its existing efforts to engage broad market participation for developing alternatives to network upgrades.

“Ergon Energy sees these maps as a valuable tool to provide customers and stakeholders with information on the location and value of network improvement opportunities,” Mr Dahlenburg said.

The project has strong support from the network industry through partnerships with Ergon Energy, ElectraNet and TransGrid. Other project partners include ARENA, ISF, NSW Department of Trade and Investment.