Smart Grids Messy Society

Smart Grids Messy Society is a research project conducted by Professor Heather Lovell at the University of Tasmania, Australia, and funded by the Australian Research Council (ARC), under their Future Fellowships Programme (2015-20; FT140100646).

In these project webpages you can find a summary of the project outputs, and a detailed description of the different project research workstreams. Please email me at if you have any queries or comments on the research.


What are smart grids? Utility infrastructures are largely unaltered since first installed 100 years ago, and new information technologies have the potential to catalyse significant innovation. Smart grids are about the use of these new information technologies and capabilities – such as digital, communications-enabled meters – within utility infrastructures, most typically electricity.

Defining a smart grid: "Our national electricity system is like an old car. It works, but could be more efficient, and is sometimes unreliable. Like a modern car, a smart grid conducts regular checks to make the electricity system work smarter and better, reducing running costs in the long term and responding to changing conditions and emergency situations." Australian Government (2010) (PDF 61.3KB)

Why research smart grids? Smart grids have the potential to make traditional utilities radically more responsive and efficient, but their implementation is challenged by the realities of a complex messy society. This research on Australia's world-leading smart grid experiments aims to improve our understanding of how, why and where successful innovation and learning occurs.

It is a social science research project. The two main aims of the research are: 1) to investigate the societal drivers for, and implications of, smart grids; 2) to assess how smart grid implementation varies from place to place, and the implications of this for theories and practices of innovation and learning.

Professor Heather Lovell is an interdisciplinary social scientist (human geographer, sociologist) with research interests in the topics of energy, climate change and the environment. She is from the UK, with a PhD from Cambridge University, and was based in the School of GeoSciences at the University of Edinburgh prior to joining UTAS in early 2015. Further details on Heather's expertise and experience can be found at Heather Lovell.