The Rudd Government is inviting industry bids to transform Australia’s energy grids into new, energy-efficient "smart grids".
The $100 million "Smart Grid, Smart City" project will be built in partnership with the energy and communications sectors. A smart grid can identify and resolve faults on the electricity grid, self-heal, manage voltage and identify energy infrastructure that requires maintenance.
The smart grid project aims to reduce household energy bills, cut carbon pollution and help the fight against climate change by allowing a smarter allocation of energy from suppliers to consumers.
"Like an 'energy internet', smart grids enable energy to be delivered where and when it is required, improving reliability and reducing losses," said Environment Minister Peter Garrett. "The potential economic and environmental benefits are staggering."
Garrett said early estimates show that smart grids could provide an estimated minimum reduction of 3.5 mega-tonnes of carbon emissions per annum in Australia.
Bids for construction of the project will be accepted until late January 2010. The winning consortium will begin construction of the new grids in July 2010 with the project scheduled for completion in June 2013.
"This program is a good opportunity to test the costs and benefits of smart grid and smart meter applications before a wider regulated rollout of smart meters in certain jurisdictions in coming years," said Energy Minister Martin Ferguson.
The successful smart grid consortium will be led by an electricity distributor, and membership is likely to include a mix of electricity retailers, product and service suppliers, governments, academic bodies, consumer interest groups and other non-government organisations.