Smart grid technology and the National Broadband Network (NBN) could potentially be rolled out at the same time, according to NBN Co's general manager of design and planning Peter Ferris.
Peter Ferris (Credit: Josh Taylor/ZDNet Australia)
Speaking to energy and technology executives at the IQPC second national Smart Grids Forum in Sydney this morning, Ferris said that a single roll-out for both the NBN and a smart grid network would offer many advantages.
"There seems to me to be a large amount of synergy between these two projects and if we didn't make use of it, and we didn't optimise and maximise the returns from various planning decisions along the path then we would be somewhat negligent in giving the taxpayers and customers the best return on what they would have on the money that is being spent on this project," he said.
Right from the outset, a sharing of work resources wouldn't be too difficult for NBN Co and energy companies, he said.
"If you're going out there to install a device on a premise that is actually an electronic meter, then the activity to install a optical network terminating unit is a relatively similar sort of activity," he said. "There's lots of people that have started out as a cabler, as an engineer worker, as a telecommunications worker that have got their electricians licence as well to do power work. There's lots of power workers who now do structured cabling and data cabling."
Ferris said a joint project would also offer benefits for both companies down the line, with NBN Co technology able to utilise smart grid technology and vice versa.
"From our particular perspective it would be really good to have network terminal units that are grid-side powered that the home-owner or the people living in the premise have no control over so they don't turn the damn things off," he said.
NBN Co is meeting with electricity providers on a monthly basis, Ferris said, but he encouraged further participation from the energy industry in the consultation process.
"To be blunt, we don't get a lot of feedback from the power companies. So it's very good if you all speak up," he said.
However, timing is a critical factor, Ferris said, because NBN Co has to ensure a certain amount of the network is rolled out before the next federal election. There were also issues of cost to be addressed.
"We still have to provide a cost-effective build. So again, there's various issues of how we do that," he said. "How we ensure that the costs that we incur to put out the network terminal units are not blown out by having to provide a smart grid installation at the same time."
Ferris said the company would also have to determine what would happen if a home wanted smart grid technology but didn't want to take up a service from NBN Co.