Our data-driven energy future is NEAR

February 28th, 2019

Our scientists are part of a data collaboration to help deliver a secure, affordable and sustainable energy future for Australia through the National Energy Analytics Research (NEAR) Program.

There’s nothing like a hot summer to put our energy systems to the test. Heatwaves and long, warm days usually mean air conditioners running at full force, and a high load on our energy supply network.

As we power our homes, businesses, cities and infrastructure across the country, streams of data on energy supply and use are simultaneously generated. Vast amounts of incredibly useful data are collected – however it’s typically stored in different formats, by different organisations, and it’s often not available to be used.

That’s all changing with the NEAR Program, funded by the Australian Government, and delivered by CSIRO in close collaboration with the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO).

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

“In times of rapid change in the energy sector, we need rich data to plan for the energy systems of tomorrow,” says Adam.

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.

“When we say ‘data platform’, what we really mean is a huge online warehouse,” says Adam. “NEAR contains energy consumption patterns, characteristics of buildings where we live and work, information on how we use fridges and clothes dryers, statistics about weather patterns, and much more!  It’s a range of different data sources that can deliver answers to really complex energy problems. So it’s a data warehouse and a data workhorse.”

Using NEAR Program data, the research team can do things like anticipate how a 35 degree day will drive air conditioner use across an area or State and where energy supply will be most needed. Being able to marry up that sort of information with locational data on solar power generation and battery storage, for example, can assist with decisions regarding the location and priority for future energy infrastructure.

On those hot days, the NEAR Program will help identify areas of risk and provide evidence to support decisions like when to draw on reserve options or to apply ‘rolling blackouts’ if needed.

As a central platform for energy data, NEAR aims to help Australia plan and shape its energy future as it transforms through developments like the rise of distributed energy technologies. NEAR will link consumer patterns with energy sector data, to build a more complete picture of the modern Australian energy user. This will support research focused on increasing comfort and lowering costs for Australian households.

One way you can contribute to the NEAR Program and our overall understanding of household energy use is through the CSIRO Energise app. Anonymised data provided through the app provides a rich insight into household energy and appliance use. You can participate by downloading the app.

The NEAR Program will provide information to support the next phase of Australia’s energy system.

Dr Nariman Mahdavi Mazdeh is part of the team centralising Australia’s energy data into the NEAR Program.