LIVING ON TOMORROW STREET:
The advanced energy neighbourhood.
In the future that Genesis Energy is exploring, you will be able to control all the major appliances in your home from your smart phone, tablet or computer, wherever you are, giving you complete control over the power you use. Chief executive Albert Brantley said: “We asked our customers, and they told us, ‘be useful’, ‘make it easy for me’, ‘be relevant to me, my kids and my family’, ‘give me the tools to manage my power better’. They were asking us to empower them to make changes, and to give them greater control.” Part of Genesis Energy’s response has been to form an exclusive partnership with a cutting-edge US developer of home energy management systems and a host of energy efficiency experts. Together they have created a testing programme to turn ideas about how we might control our energy use into reality. The system being trialled is called HomeiQ. Essentially, it is a set of single and multi-plug boxes that communicate wirelessly to a central ‘brain’ which is then connected to the internet as well as an in-home display unit. It makes it possible to remotely set your lighting to welcome you home, or switch on your MySky to record what you want, without having to leave it on all day. Or even switch everything you don’t need off in your home before you leave. As well as the comfort and control, the savings on your bill can really mount up: according to the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority, appliances use about a third of the average home’s electricity bill and across the country the carbon dioxide emissions just from electricity wasted on appliances on standby adds up to 130,000 tonnes each year. The idea is that HomeiQ will be used in combination with the latest advanced meters that provide half-hourly, daily and weekly power use information. Genesis Energy has so far installed more than 260,000 of the new meters, covering about half the company’s electricity customers. The combined system has the potential to become a very powerful tool for reducing home energy bills and wastage. It could help iron out the peaks and troughs of power use across the country, by giving people incentives and tools to avoid busy periods when they can choose to set some appliances for other times. This in turn, will reduce the need for energy generators like Genesis Energy to cater for maximum need, while keeping generators idle at other times. It’s another step closer to switching off some of the burners at Huntly. These basic ideas have been talked about for many years. If you have ever taken notice of the dial on a hybrid car while driving you will know how just being aware of your power use and its cost can really motivate changes in behaviour. Brantley said: “I installed the system in my Auckland apartment in 25 minutes. Okay, I’m a geek at heart but it was easy to do. I can now turn on the lights or shut down any or all of my appliances from my iPad, my iPhone or my computer any time and any place that I can get online. Best of all, it passes what I call the “mother-in-law” test, which means if I can get my mother-in-law to install and use, it is easily workable!” As well as by the chief executive, the system is being trailed at Tomorrow Street, by a mixed group of 15 households on Auckland’s North Shore. Before getting all futuristic, Genesis Energy did the basics. Every Tomorrow Street household underwent energy and electrical assessments at the start of the programme to see how energy efficient their home was. Then Genesis Energy brought each home up to the latest efficiency standards with a range of insulation and other energy efficient products. Only after that have the families been asked to try the energy management system, along with other efficiency measures, including solar hot water heaters, heat pump hot water, electricity-generating photovoltaic cells and even different pricing structures that help them use the management system to save money. Tomorrow Street began in April, and is already producing loads of useful information to help design the home energy systems of the future.
Albert Brantley, chief excutive of Genesis Energy.