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New intelligent grid could be Australia's future energy supply

22 August, 2008

An advanced electricity network, which uses distributed energy resources – local, low emission and renewable power – is the vision of a national, collaborative research cluster for Australia’s future energy supply.

The Intelligent Grid Cluster – officially launched in Sydne by Senator Kim Carr, Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research - is a major collaborative research venture between the CSIRO and the university sector under the CSIRO Energy Transformed Flagship.

The Federal Government, through CSIRO and the Flagship Collaboration Fund, has contributed more than A$3 million to the Intelligent Grid Cluster for a three year program involving CSIRO and five national universities:

- University of Technology Sydney
- University of Queensland
- Queensland University of Technology
- University of South Australia
- Curtin University of Technology in Western Australia

The Intelligent Grid is a transformed electricity transmission and distribution network - or ‘grid’ - that combines distributed energy resources with ‘intelligent’ communications and control technology to upgrade the current electric power grid.

Distributed energy refers to power generated close to where it is used and may include renewable energy sources, as well as the controlled management and efficiency of how electricity is used.

An example of a distributed energy system is a home that is heated, cooled and powered by solar panels fitted onto the roof. This may also include a computerised ‘intelligent’ energy management system which monitors and controls the electricity demands of appliances throughout the home to enhance the overall efficiency.

“Currently, 80 per cent of energy consumed in Australia is generated from large, centralised carbon intensive coal-based power stations. As well as researching ways to make these power stations cleaner, we also need to look at ways to locally generate energy closer to the users and better control that energy use.” explains Dr John Wright, Director of CSIRO Energy Transformed Flagship.

“By combining the expertise of CSIRO and these five universities through the Intelligent Grid Cluster, we will be able to help find solutions to Australia’s complex energy challenges.

“Through nine separate research projects, the Intelligent Grid Cluster will model the market benefits of large scale deployment of distributed energy in the national electricity market and fully value the economic contribution of the intelligent grid compared to conventional energy technologies.”

The Intelligent Grid Cluster compliments the work of the CSIRO Energy Transformed Flagship’s Intelligent Grid Project, which is developing a roadmap report, due for release next year, outlining the value of widespread distributed energy use in Australia, with particular emphasis on the impact of greenhouse gas emissions and an early, cost-effective response to climate change.

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