While developments in automatic meter reading and DSM have been taking place over many decades the current smart meter developments in Australia started in Victoria in 2004. Led by initiatives of the State Government of Victoria the electricity utilities started to discuss the modernising of the meter network. Legislation was passed in 2009 and the project was launched the following year. Initially there were problems, but in 2012 the project turned the corner and Victoria is now seen as one of the global leaders in smart grid/smart meter developments.
It started with rather simple ideas about capturing electricity usage in 30-minute intervals. This was followed by time-of-use (ToU) applications which would also enable differential pricing by time-of-day, allowing utilities to discourage certain types of non-time-critical' use during periods of high demand. Reducing peaks has a major impact on electricity generation costs, alleviating the need for new power plants and cutting down on damaging greenhouse emissions.
It quickly became clear that this also impacts on the management of the grid itself, since the back-office had to be updated and upgraded in order to manage the data that becomes available from the meters; and obviously the more sophisticated the meters, the more and better data, and the more the need for proper collection, storage and analysing of that data.
The focus on energy savings and sustainability linked to the rapid development of smart technologies is seeing the focus shift among all smart meter rollouts to the broader issues of smart grids, and smart meters should be considered in the broader context of the modernisation of electricity networks through the introduction of sensing, communications and information technology into the grid (also known as M2M).
The case study of Victoria is a good lesson for others looking at their rollout programs (see separate report) see: Australia - Smart Meters in Victoria - Case Study This report provides an overview of the developments that are more specific to the smart meters rather than to smart grids. Smart meters are going to play a key role in smart grids as the in-house energy management tools for the users.