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Data analytics to improve Australia’s energy forecasting

Summer energy challenges and high power bills may soon find data-driven solutions through a new research program from Australia’s national science agency CSIRO, the Australian Government and an independent energy markets and power systems operator.

According to a recent press release, the National Energy Analytics and Research (NEAR) Program will provide comprehensive information to underpin key decision making, helping to deliver a secure, affordable and sustainable energy future for Australia.

The program is funded by the Australian Government, which committed over A$ 20 million. It will be delivered by CSIRO in close collaboration with the operator.

It is reportedly the next phase of energy data analytics, building on the pilot Energy Use Data Model.

What is NEAR program?

The program is building an ongoing capability for cutting-edge data analytics that will improve energy forecasting and planning by unlocking the mysteries of Australian energy behaviour as the country moves towards an energy-efficient future.

The NEAR Program collects, integrates and enhances information about Australia’s energy use, which is then delivered to decision makers and the public through a tailored web platform.

The data included in the platform are energy consumption patterns, demographics, building characteristics, appliance uptake, and weather statistics, among others.

Currently, this type of data is held by numerous parties, formatted to different standards and access is often restricted.

CSIRO project leader Dr Adam Berry said the NEAR Program is first-of-its-kind, bringing together data not previously available and publishing its own new datasets.

Benefits of the program

In times of rapid change in the energy sector, rich data is needed to plan for the energy system of tomorrow.

This is especially true during the summer season when the Australian energy system is most under strain caused by high consumer demand and the increased likelihood of extreme weather events.

Major investments in the energy system depend on accurate, long-term forecasting. NEAR Program data and research can support dramatic improvements in the way this is done.

Over periods of extreme heat or system stress, outputs from the NEAR Program will help identify areas of risk and provide evidence to support appropriate demand-response options.

In addition, the program will also address increasing energy costs, linking consumer patterns with energy sector data to build a fuller picture of the modern Australian energy user.

This will support research focused on simultaneously increasing comfort and lowering costs for Australian homes.

NEAR Program research has already contributed important data to the Retail Electricity Prices Inquiry of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), quantifying the impact of tariff structures on electricity costs for Australian households.

Planning for the future

The National Electricity Market is changing rapidly, driven by new consumer needs and technologies like rooftop solar.

Planning for Australia’s energy future requires better understanding of this change.

This depends on better data and on how consumers use energy, with a need for improved access, availability, integration and research capability across consumer energy data.

In recent times, the lack of sufficient energy use data has contributed to inaccuracies in forecasts of energy demand.

CSIRO and partners will work with government, regulators, operators and distributors to drive data innovation needed by industry, researchers and policy makers to secure the best energy future possible for Australia.

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