The fundamental shift that has taken place in environmental policies since 2007 is having a huge effect on the electricity market. Smart grids, smart meters, electric vehicles and solar panels now are all well and truly part of new government polices and industry initiatives, all aimed at saving energy and moving to cleaner energy sources.
This is also creating huge upheaval in the market. When the electricity industry finally woke up to the challenges ahead of them they realised that their old infrastructure was no longer able to cope with these changes. Massive investment projects have since been commenced, with much more to come, and a staggering $200 billion will need to be invested in the industry over the next 20 years.
This lack of foresight also resulted in very sharp price increases for consumers, which in turn created great political upheaval. All of this is still very dynamic – in fact the full transformation of the industry will take several decades to complete.
An essential element of this transformation will be the use of smart technologies; they are a necessary part of the solution.
The great benefits of these technologies is that they can address many of the technological problems in the broader industry. However this requires a holistic approach and that is still a problem in a society and an industry that continues to operate largely within silos.
Solar energy is an example of this. In order to fully benefit from this renewable source, and from the eagerness of consumers to adopt this technology, we need to create a grid that can much better handle the interactive distribution of energy. Yet very little attention is being given to that issue in the context of PV.
Within two short years Australia became the largest per capita market for consumer solar panels and despite the reduction in subsidies new installation is still booming, largely because of the significant drop in cost. The increase in electricity costs and the ‘good feel’ about renewable energy is pushing this development further. This is leading to further problems in the industry as utilities now see decrease revenues, with more people bypassing the energy provided by them. In order to take advantage of the potential of these technological developments the industry will have to create a much more intelligent grid that can become an exchange network for energy.