Will Australia's energy grids need to change?

There's been plenty of debate recently over whether any changes need to be made to the nation's energy networks.

With gas prices on the rise, it's not surprising suppliers are in search of new ways to deliver power to people's homes.

However, Sustainable Energy Association of Australia Chief Executive Kirsten Rose believes consumer activity is influencing the market, so it's up to providers to sit up and take note.

How are people affecting the energy sector?

Ms Rose explained to a Committee for Economic Development of Australia meeting in Perth that consumers are influencing all aspects of the energy sector.

They are becoming increasingly active, which means suppliers have to react by providing a reliable source of energy that never fails to deliver.

Rising prices, falling costs and a growing reliance on technology are all taking the toll and have made consumers a "formidable competitor".

What does the future hold for energy grids?

Now the problems have been identified, it's the job of energy providers to make sure they come up with all the right solutions.

"The grid of tomorrow is a whole lot smarter and flexible both in terms of where energy is generated and how that energy flows," noted Ms Rose.

"It will have a lot more distributed generation certainly renewables but also other types of onsite generation like co-generation and tri-generation."

Western Power Chief Executive Officer Paul Italiano agreed, saying that energy grids will need to be more heavily focused on consumers if they are going to be able to thrive.

Networks are likely to become smaller and more specialised, he highlighted, but there will also need to be changes to energy policies in the near future.

What policy changes will make the most difference?

Mr Italiano emphasised the need for better technology to be developed, which will help ensure better connections between consumers and their energy providers.

"Unless we see some profound change in technology, I don't think we'll see a transnational electricity link in the near future," he acknowledged, adding that operators will also need to change their mind set.

Energy considerations must be more closely linked with the wants and needs of consumers - something the current market hasn't been able to accommodate.

This means shifting away from the idea of being a network and towards that of an organisation that's willing to provide a service to consumers that they can rely on.

Posted by Paul Doyle