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Ergon Energy trials LoRaWAN in Townsville to run its network more efficiently

The world’s first group multicast LPWA deployment by Australia’s National Narrowband Network (NNNCo)

  • Solution : Utilities

"NNNCo is working in close partnership with Actility to leverage their Network Server and IoT Platform which has been successfully deployed by operators around the world."

Rob Zagarella, CEO of National Narrowband Network (NNNCo)

End customer

Ergon Energy

1.7 million km2

Geographic coverage

1st July 2016

Queensland government-owned Ergon and Energex merge

$24AUD billion assets

Energy Queensland: Australia’s largest electricity distributor

Customer Challenge

Energy demand variations place pressure on a huge distribution network

Ergon Energy has one of the lowest customer densities of any utility company, resulting in very long distribution lines, making load variation and management a key issue for the company. In response to load issues in the energy network, the traditional solution is to upgrade the network and increase capacity, with significant infrastructure costs.

In 2015, Ergon Erergy ran an internal Innovation Challenge that Sanjeewa Athuraliya, Telecommunications Architect at Ergon Energy, won with his Load Control Wire IoT submission. Ergon was looking for a scalable solution that has the capability to go beyond the trial. The company chose NNNCo as a partner able to provide a nationwide carrier service based on LoRa as their core technology and deliver the end-to-end solution. “I see it as a long-term relationship with NNNCo if the trial works and we roll out the network across the state”, adds Athuraliya.

The company chose its headquarter city Townsville (200 000 inhabitants) to trial the solution, developed with NNNCo and Actility, which will enable it to connect and control beyond substations to individual household power consumption, such as water heating. In October 2016, the company began a 6-month trial with a small number of households, where sensors and control modules are being installed on hot water circuits. If successful, LoRaWAN will roll out to other towns and regions throughout Queensland, Australia’s second largest state.


Leveraging unique LoRaWAN capabilities and ecosystem

“To be successful, the network needs a lot of players coming in so that it becomes mainstream technology and the costs come down”, argues Athuraliya. Indeed, Ergon Energy’s choice of the open-standard LoRa technology was guided by its ability to offer individual addressability to each end point, multi-cast functionality for group communication and bi-directional communication.

  • Long range technology is essential to support the utility’s network across very large distribution areas ie 1.7 million km2.
  • Open standard allows for an open and growing ecosystem, a choice in suppliers and no vendor lock-in.
  • Individual addressability means that Ergon Energy can configure each endpoint with unique characteristics and remotely.
  • Multi-cast functionality keeps the traffic in the LoRa network manageable and ensures the solution is scalable from communicating with a few end points to thousands.
  • Bi-directional communication ensures we get feedback from endpoints so that it becomes a managed network.

“The successful implementation of end-to-end Multicast functionality results in a truly cost-effective, robust and scalable two-way network service”, concludes NNNCo’s Zagarella.


A more efficient network management with the potential to drive substantial cost savings

The solution’s business benefits for Ergon Energy are:

Granular control and efficient management of the network

The LPWA IoT solution will give Ergon Energy granular control to switch individual loads on and off so that they can be reduced where needed and in times of peak power demand without impacting customers. For instance, it may change the time that a household’s hot water is heated up so that it occurs when network load is low.

Avoid unnecessary infrastructure spending

IoT makes network upgrades – which account for a large share of a utility’s infrastructure costs- unnecessary and thus drives significant cost savings in the long run.

A cheaper bill and better service for end-consumers

Energy consumers cost savings in the long-term: The objective is actually to be completely seamless to the consumer. We’re not trying to change their behavior or get them too involved and we won’t use their wifi. They will benefit long-term from a more effectively managed energy network but they don’t have to work hard for it.

To learn more about how deploying LoRaWAN could boost your business, contact us!

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