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Intelligent grid: a vision for widespread use of DE in Australia's future energy network

CSIRO is using research, modelling and analysis to predict the economic, environmental and social benefits of distributed energy to demonstrate its viability to stakeholders and the wider community.

  • 11 December 2009 | Updated 13 April 2012


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The purpose of the Energy Transformed Intelligent Grid (IG) project is to deliver a future vision for an electricity network in Australia which incorporates a high level of distributed energy (DE) resources.

DE describes technologies and systems which provide local generation of electrical power (distributed generation), energy efficiency and smart management of when and how energy is used (demand management). 

Recovering waste energy for heating or cooling and powering commercial building using a combination of solar panels, microturbines, fuel cells and electricity from the main grid are examples of distributed energy.

CSIRO is modelling the impact of various future energy scenarios to determine the implications of choices made today on Australia’s energy future.

The IG project has produced a significant body of work to determine the value of DE solutions for Australia and the triggers that will bring it about, which you can read about on the next page.

CSIRO is modelling the impact of various future energy scenarios to determine the implications of choices made today on Australia’s energy future.

A common set of realistic DE scenarios have been developed which illustrate the findings from the four aspects of the project:

  • economic
  • environmental
  • social
  • simulation.


Researchers used the Energy Sector Model (ESM), developed jointly by CSIRO and the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics (ABARE), to assess the cost and benefits of various future energy scenarios.

Figures from the economic modelling show there is significant value in deploying DE, an approximate A$130 billion net present value cost savings (discounted by seven per cent) by 2050 under the Garnaut 450 parts per million (ppm) of atmospheric CO2 scenario.


Significant environmental benefits can be achieved though the adoption of widespread DE.

One finding shows that DE can provide significant water savings from electricity generation, with as much as 200 gigalitres saved pa in 2030 and over 350 gigalitres pa by 2050 in the Garnaut 450 ppm scenario.

Work to quantify the impacts of particulate emissions in urban environments under different uptake scenarios remains ongoing.


This research details current perceptions of DE in Australia and identifies triggers that might influence its widespread adoption.

CSIRO researchers have engaged individuals, businesses and communities to identify barriers and enablers of DE.

Researchers explored how people and business make decisions about installing and using DE technologies, and are developing methodologies for aiding that decision making process.

The research has identified that consumers prioritise safety, efficiency and reliability as highly as, or more highly than environmental and financial benefits. It has also identified types of consumers, allowing us to better predict which benefits of DE are likely to appeal to different consumer types.


This component of the IG project aims to link economic, environmental and social aspects together in a model allowing integrated assessment of DE scenarios.

Simulation can play an important role in helping stakeholders understand the benefits of distributed energy, and where it is likely to be most valuable, as well as inform policy development and technology uptake scenarios.