About This Project

Australia’s power distribution network faces not only the existing challenges of size, distance and climate, but also new ones in changing demand, multiple inputs and new load types. Critical issues include reliability, safety, congestion, regulation and cost.


The Future Networks project seeks to examine the future of Australia’s power distribution network, looking at the problems that the changing environment will create and the opportunities that these will create for industry stakeholders.

The Future Networks project seeks to examine the future of Australia’s power distribution network, looking at the problems that the changing environment will create and the opportunities that these will create for industry stakeholders.

The power distribution network in Australia already has a wide range of stakeholders, including consumers, retailers, generators, regulators, state government and federal government. This is being made still more complicated by the increased use of new energy sources such as wind and solar. The infographic below shows the relationships between actors within the power distribution network:

The project will build better understanding of how power distribution network needs are changing, and how these changes relate to and are driven by interactions between the multiple stakeholders. It will highlight the opportunities that the change in the industry is creating, for actors at all stages in the value change.

The eventual benefit of the project will be to reduce the long-term cost of power distribution network infrastructure by ensuring the right balance is reached between interests, thus reducing the cost of energy for consumers today.

About this project

The power distribution network is the highway of electricity delivery. It is increasingly characterised by new technologies and participants, creating new challenges to the way the network is operated, maintained and safeguarded.

A well-understood and efficient power distribution network is vital to ensure reliable and cost effective
electricity for the future. This project will analyse the key regulatory, economic and technical challenges to provide a re-engineered distribution network that will meet the demands of future energy supply.

The project will provide a framework for understanding the process and participants. Such a framework will identify the potential for addressing existing and emerging challenges through innovation in technology and business models, whilst ensuring systems level stability and guaranteeing energy supply.

A better understanding of power distribution network needs will reduce the long-term cost of energy infrastructure, thus reducing the cost of energy for consumers today.

Project background

The demands placed on the power distribution network are becoming increasingly complex. New technologies such as embedded generation challenge the one-way transmission model, and regulatory change adds further challenges.

Australia has invested billions of dollars to provide a reliable and secure power distribution network. The network is complex and the cost of maintaining it is passed directly to consumers.

The power distribution network has previously been characterised by single network operators and specific energy sources delivered from the transmission network to the consumer, but it is changing as a result of the vast array of systems and technologies – including embedded generation – that connect and interact with it.

The emergence of new technologies will present some major challenges to the power distribution network:

  • A significant increase in embedded generation (both dispatchable and non-dispatchable) in the distribution network
  • A regulatory environment that does not recognise the true cost of participation in the National Energy Market (NEM)
  • Various government initiatives that have caused significant disruptions to the planning and operation of the electricity system.

As new technologies and participants link with the network, questions will arise regarding who will coordinate the various impacts and maintain the performance and security of the network. This will be particularly challenging in the face of community expectations for a smooth transition, without major cost impositions, and expectations that the NEM will provide all the appropriate market signals to adopt new technology.

Key Issues

The project will provide clarity and insight into the regulatory, economic and technological challenges driven by the need to re-engineer the power distribution network. It will identify the opportunities the changes present and how to take advantage of them.

The Future Networks project will provide clarity and insights regarding the current need to re-engineer the power distribution network in a manner that ensures stability and quality of energy supply. The main outputs of the project will examine how change in the power distribution network is related to the following drivers:

  • Regulatory conflicts and issues
  • Economic challenges
  • New and unproven technologies and emerging technical requirements
  • Key opportunities, including participation investment

The project will develop a technology roadmap and identify a number of recommendations through a widely circulated report. The Warren Centre seeks direct engagement in one-on-one meetings with key government and industry contacts to communicate the report recommendations.

The project findings will assist:

  • State and federal governments and their agencies (for example AER and IPART), in developing policy;
  • Regulators, in forward planning;
  • Power distribution network businesses, in identifying areas of greatest efficiency;
  • New and emerging technology companies, in identifying effective ways to best participate in the power distribution network;
  • Investors and other non-network participants, in helping to develop innovative products and services; and
  • The public, in better understanding the inter-relationships that exist across power distribution network participants.

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