Main image: Dr Nariman Mahdavi Mazdeh is part of the research team centralising Australia’s energy data into the NEAR Program. (Image credit: CSIRO)
Launched on 21 February, the National Energy Analytics and Research ( Program brings together energy data assets from numerous sectors in a convenient, publicly-available resource. The federally-funded platform, accessible at near.csiro.au, is a collaboration between CSIRO, the Department of the Environment and Energy and the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) and brings together comprehensive information, including energy consumption patterns, demographics, building characteristics, appliance uptake, weather statistics, and more.
Currently, this type of data is held by numerous parties, formatted to different standards and access is often restricted. Research scientist Dr Nariman Mahdavi Mazdeh describes the energy data platform as “a one stop shop” for researchers and decision-makers. NEAR hosts data collected from across Australia (from sources such as AEMO, network distributors, energy retailers, smart meter data and energy consumers) and new research outputs that draw upon that data to answer some of the energy sector’s most pressing questions.
CSIRO project leader Dr Adam Berry says that the aim of NEAR is to make energy decision-making easier. “If you have a complex problem in the energy space and need data, you can discover research we’ve been conducting or data sets to conduct your own research,” says Dr Berry.
Some of the energy challenges the data will help address include:
- Key drivers of energy consumption in Australian households.
- How energy use has changed Australia-wide over the last decade.
- National and regional opportunities to develop demand response programs.
- Identifying risks in periods of system stress.
- Planning grid upgrades and the integration of renewables.
- The impact of retail energy tariffs on vulnerable and low-income consumers.
NEAR infographic (Image credit: CSIRO)
Effective demand response will save on network infrastructure costs, which will translate to lower electricity prices. “The research we’re trying to do contributes to how we can manage energy usage to benefit both the network and consumers,” says Dr Mazdeh.
Dr Berry is enthusiastic about the NEAR Program’s potential to help vulnerable consumers. “Low income households typically have fewer levers to pull in terms of access to distributed renewable energy and they are potentially more exposed to the pressures of cost,” he says. NEAR data is being used to investigate the impacts of retail energy tariffs, particularly in vulnerable consumer sectors. An
NEAR data has already been used in an ACCC Inquiry into retail electricity prices. One of the outcomes of that Inquiry was the development of a reference price, which assists consumers with finding the best deal across energy retailers.
“Who we are as modern Australian energy consumers is changing rapidly, and this is at the heart of the NEAR Program,” says Dr Berry. “We need to make the right decisions to contribute to an effective electricity system.”
– Larissa Fedunik