Meters offer energy-use insight

Network Tasman will invest $15 million installing electronic meters to homes and businesses.

It will allow the company to better manage its load, and will enable consumers to not only see how much electricity they are using but potentially also use them to provide information on their electric car, rooftop solar power system or check their water consumption.

Company chairman Ian Kearney said it was a significant investment that would move the electricity distribution system into the modern era.

The cost would not be passed on to consumers, he said.

"The investment return more than covers the investment cost. The consumer should benefit.

"Over the last 10 years our charges have gone up less than the CPI and we would hope this sort of investment will enable us to continue to do that. It will not be at any cost to the consumer, it will be a return."

The company has been working on the development for three years, and work on the meter replacement would start in January or February and would take three years, he said.

Network Tasman's supply area extends from Golden Bay to Hira and Murchison, excluding Nelson Electricity. It is expected 40,000 new meters will be installed, replacing the existing mechanical meters on Network Tasman's network, most now owned by Contact Energy, and will instead be owned by the Network Tasman.

Network Tasman is making the move in a consortium of 10 lines companies called SmartCo. The deal has involved multiple agreements with software suppliers, electricity retailers and hardware suppliers.

"From a company point of view it gives us much better information on the consumption around the network, so we know we can dial up and get a reading at just about any point in the network and that will enable us to manage the network much better.

"At the moment we can put fairly crude measures of consumption along major lines - this now measures any point."

The electronic meters would give consumers more information depending on who their retailer was, he said.

"Meridian is using electronic meters and you can dial in and find what your consumption is day by day, hour by hour - if your teenager comes home you can find out what happens to the power."

There was potential for electronic meters to have a chip enabling them to communicate with devices in the home. "As things like PV start to come into the network and people generate off their roof and as things like electric cars become more prevalent you really need electronic meters to make the most of those advances in technology."

Because the electronic meters would be read by radio signal or wireless system they might have other uses, such as remote reading of water meters.

"If the council wanted to have their water meters read they could use our wireless system to do that and have some benefits from a council point of view, and from the consumer's point would be able to look at their water consumption."

For many medium-sized businesses it would also mean getting consumption and control information to help cut their power bills, he said.