EnergyAustralia will announce a $5 million partnership with the University of Newcastle today to lead smart grid development in Australia and train the next generation of power engineers.
The five-year partnership will create a Centre of Excellence at the University of Newcastle for research and development of intelligent electricity networks. An international search will be conducted to fill the position of EnergyAustralia Centre of Excellence Chair, to be based at the University.
EnergyAustralia Managing Director George Maltabarow said smart grids were the biggest change to the electricity network in 100 years.
"This means power engineers need broader skills than ever before - they need both IT and engineering skills.
"Part of building a smart grid involves training a new generation of engineers to operate it.
"This partnership means University researchers and students will help transform traditional electricity networks by developing and testing technologies. This will also prepare students to work as engineers on the smart grid in the future.
"The intelligent network will change the electricity industry in much the same way that mobile phones have re-shaped the telecommunications industry."
University of Newcastle Pro Vice-Chancellor for the Faculty of Engineering and Built Environment, Professor John Carter, said the research collaboration was an opportunity for the two organisations to build the skills and technologies needed to meet future energy needs.
"Research and skills-orientated collaboration with leading industry partners, such as EnergyAustralia, are a hallmark of the University of Newcastle. The University has a growing profile in the energy sphere and this collaboration will continue to link our world leading electrical engineers with industry," Professor Carter said.
"This exciting collaboration will see the market and infrastructure skills of EnergyAustralia coupled with the research and development capability of the University's Faculty of Engineering and Built Environment."
Mr Maltabarow said the electricity industry worldwide was working on overlaying smart solutions across existing networks. This includes sensors, telecommunications technology and information systems to radically change traditional electricity networks.
"These technologies will improve reliability and response times to outages, drive productivity gains and allow more renewable energy sources to be connected to the grid," he said.
"Smart grid technologies also hold the key to lowering our carbon footprint by delivering energy saving options in the home that will turn the national Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme into reality."
EnergyAustralia's $170 million smart grid program began in 2006.
"Our smart grid program is among the most advanced in the electricity industry worldwide, and we are pleased to create these university think-tanks to push further into this new world.
"As an organisation with a strong commitment to development across the Hunter, we are pleased that this new Centre of Excellence will capitalise on the University of Newcastle's expertise and bring the region into the international energy spotlight."
EnergyAustralia will establish a second Centre of Excellence at the University of Sydney with a further $5million investment.
Both research centres will also be supported by communications and IT giants, including multi-nationals Alcatel-Lucent, IBM and General Electric.
Media Contact: EnergyAustralia Hunter Media Pager (02 9962 9754) or Kate Robinson, the University of Newcastle, on 02 4921 5061 or 0408 115 467.