An extensive report on a $100M trial of smart grids and other innovative technologies has been released by the Federal Auditor-General. The report highlights a number of successfully delivered trial components, as well as some aspects that did not live up to expectations.

The objective of the audit was to assess the effectiveness of the administration of the Smart Grid, Smart City Program, including the establishment, implementation and ongoing management of the program.

The aspects examined in the audit included:

  • the program’s design and establishment, including governance and oversight arrangements;
  • the grant assessment process to select the provider for the program;
  • the negotiation and management of the funding agreement; and
  • the monitoring, reporting and evaluation arrangements put in place to determine the extent to which the program achieved its objectives.

The report concludes that the $100 million Smart Grid, Smart City demonstration program was established in a challenging environment.

“These challenges included technological issues, consumer resistance to smart metering technologies, regulatory reform in the electricity sector, and responsibility for the program being transferred across four departments between 2009 and 2013. While a number of staff transferred with the program, changes in administrative responsibility occurred at key stages of the program’s implementation (such as the approval of the successful grant applicant) and resulted in changed oversight arrangements and administrative policies and procedures. The changes also made it more difficult to manage program knowledge, including the creation and retention of program records.”

It states that many of the program’s trials were successfully implemented, with a range of data collected.

Successes included:

  • grid‐side applications that tested new technologies to assist distribution network service providers (DNSPs) to better manage electricity supply;
  • energy resource management projects to test the potential impact of wide‐scale renewable energy generation (such as rooftop solar panels or wind turbines) on the existing electricity grid, and trial storage batteries and other technologies that can assist to manage peak electricity demand and integrate with energy generated from renewable sources;
  • an electric vehicle (EV) trial that involved the operation of 20 vehicles over short and longer‐range journeys for an 18‐month period; and
  • a ‘network’ trial that rolled out smart meters to customers’ homes and tested their interaction with feedback technologies providing information on real‐time electricity use.

However the report also suggests that there was scope for improvement in several areas of the departments’ administration of the program, including: aspects of the grant assessment and selection process, including probity arrangements; and the measurement and reporting of program performance.

The full report can be viewed here.

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