The cover of the last print edition of CSIRO's Ecos magazine – Ecos 161. (CSIRO)

The cover of the last print edition of CSIRO's Ecos magazine – Ecos 161

Getting smarter about supplying electricity

Reference: 11/69

This month’s final print edition of Ecos – Australia’s longest running magazine on science and sustainability – features expert commentary on the drivers of rising household electricity bills identified in the recently released eighth update to Professor Ross Garnaut’s Climate Change Review for the Australian Government.

  • 5 July 2011

Professor Garnaut’s recommendations in his Transforming the Electricity Sector report, underscore the value of CSIRO’s research on the ‘future grid’.

It concludes that increases in total retail electricity costs due to the proposed carbon tax will be relatively small compared to other drivers and recommends better demand-side management through initiatives such as differential pricing and smart meters, which will enable consumers to be more energy and carbon-efficient.
In a separate piece, Ecos investigates the concept of the ‘smart grid’ to upgrade today’s centralised power network, which tends to be over-designed to deliver peak loads. Smart grids rely on distributed networks and smaller scale supply systems – such as solar, cogeneration and trigeneration – integrated via communication technology.

Dr Raupach writes in Ecos that energy, water and carbon are the three mainstays of all life on Earth.

Through its Future Grid project, CSIRO is analysing how demand-side management can be enhanced via smart grid technology, reducing network costs. Researchers are also looking at how to deal with the intermittent nature of renewable energy, for example by balancing solar or wind inputs with controllable energy sources like gas, or with energy storage technologies. CSIRO is also running an Electric Driveways project to assess how electric-vehicle battery charging and discharging can be managed to balance peaks and off-peak loads.

At a broader level, Dr Michael Raupach – a leading CSIRO climate researcher and lead author of a recent report to the Prime Minister’s Science, Engineering and Innovation Council (PMSEIC) – urges us to think more holistically about Australia’s energy, water and carbon intersections.

Dr Raupach writes in Ecos that energy, water and carbon are the three mainstays of all life on Earth. He says the inter-dependence of these three can be seen in examples such as carbon sequestration plantations, which impact on water inflows to rivers, and energy-intensive desalination and water recycling plants. Among the PMSEIC report’s recommendations is the development of linked ‘smart networks’ for electricity, gas and water.
Ecos 161 covers a range of other issues including:

  • Mapping the good earth: CSIRO is leading the regional node of a global project to produce the first detailed three dimensional map of the world’s soils, a critical resource for developing countries struggling with challenges like food production and soil stabilisation.
  • Wind-prospecting success: A former CSIRO startup company has steered a course from providing wind mapping and modelling services to the renewables sector, to wind farm developer. It now has operations overseas, and is currently planning Australia’s largest wind farm, expected to create 1000 jobs and boost Queensland’s power capacity.
  • Farm communities adapt: The Climate Change, Communities and Environment (3CE) project will help South Australian farmers and land managers make more informed decisions about their future, through computer generated maps, being developed by CSIRO, showing how their land might fare under different climate scenarios and carbon policies.

Ecos is moving to online-only publication in August.

For more information and to register for regular contents alerts, visit the magazine’s website at: [external link].

Read more media releases in our Media section.