Millions ploughed into new meter system

LOUISE BERWICK
Last updated 05:00 04/02/2014

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A big investment by a company partially owned by the Invercargill City Council is under way, with millions of dollars being ploughed into a rollout of a new metering system.

PowerNet will begin its installation of smart meters within the next couple of months, after the announcement of a $24.5 million investment.

The move is being welcomed by community leaders as a way of empowering consumers and possibly saving them money.

The investment is the largest for the company - which is owned by Electricity Invercargill Ltd and The Power Company Ltd - in the past decade.

The new system, which will take up to three years to install, means electricity companies will be able to get readings electronically through signals emitted from the devices.

PowerNet chief executive Jason Franklin said it would spell the end of electricity estimates and enable the company and power retailers to ensure the system was working efficiently.

"We will have a lot better idea of what's happening on the networks in real time."

Mr Franklin conceded that some people had reservations but he was confident that with education most people would embrace the change. "Ultimately, if someone doesn't want a smart meter we won't impose one on them."

One million meters have been installed throughout the country, including Auckland, Dunedin and the Waikato.

Mr Franklin said the Southland-wide rollout was a part of wider change and advancement in the electricity industry, but the ripple relay function would not be lost.

He envisaged future appliances would be able to "talk" to the meters. But the main benefit was accuracy. With no need for meter readers, it would mean households would consistently have accurate readings, no matter where they lived in the region.

"Retailers get information a lot quicker; they don't have to have a manual meter guy."

That would hugely benefit provincial Southland, where some people had to phone in readings or rely on estimates, he said.

Southland Federated Farmers president Russell MacPherson said the project would benefit rural and urban dwellers and it was a good step forward in technology.

Mr Franklin said during the replacement of the meters, the number of them would decrease from 76,000 to 60,000 "as we clean up metering stock".

Electricity Invercargill Ltd chairman Neil Boniface welcomed the new project.

The Holdco company would be investing about $7m in the project as part of the $24.5m.

The accuracy and efficiency would ensure the companies could continue to provide a quality service and easily find issues in the system.

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Southland Grey Power president Geoff Piercy also welcomed the rollout. People would not be surprised by large estimates and would be able to keep a close eye on their usage, he said.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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