The Institute of Sustainable Futures at the University of Technology, Sydney will create online maps of electricity network constraints that will help inform network investments and lead to more renewable energy, thanks to $425,000 in funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.

ISF research director Chris Dunstan said an increase in distributed generation, including solar and trigeneration, was changing the energy sector and new tools were needed to manage the transition.

“The rapid rise of rooftop solar, local generation, energy efficient equipment and battery storage means managing networks is becoming both more challenging and more collaborative,” Mr Dunstan said.

“The three year project will provide a key resource for developing this collaboration between networks, customer and renewable energy providers.”

He said the project could lead to lower electricity costs, improved energy services and new markets for networks and renewable energy.

ARENA chief executive Ivor Frischknecht said the maps, which would be updated annually, would help renewable energy and demand management project developers anticipate potential network constraints, reducing the need for new grid infrastructure, leading to lower bills.

The move follows a rule change put forward by the Property Council of Australia, ClimateWorks and Seed Advisory, which makes it easier for distributed generation to be connected to the grid, with electricity network companies now needing to provide location-specific network information to help applicants find out early where potential “no go” zones are.

The ISF maps could also enable faster development of renewable energy by showing where employing renewables and demand management would be more cost effective than performing expensive network upgrades, Mr Frischknecht said.

“Currently there is a lack of clear, accessible and timely network information across the National Electricity Market,” he said.

“A consistent, standardised approach will be developed with Australia’s poles and wires businesses to make data more accessible and easier to understand and use.”

Ergon Energy, one electricity distribution company involved in the project along with ElectraNet and TransGrid, said it fully supported enabling alternatives to network upgrades.

“Ergon Energy sees these maps as a valuable tool to provide customers and stakeholders with information on the location and value of network improvement opportunities,” Ergon Energy manager of demand management Glenn Dahlenburg said.