The Smart Grid
One of the most important developments in cleantech in the coming years will be how we wire it all together. For example, running our economy almost exclusively on renewable power, and making the transition to a plug-in electric vehicle fleet on New Zealand’s roads will require us to make changes in electricity distribution. Just installing the latest smart meters that allow energy monitoring offers an estimated 5% reduction in energy use across the economy, which could save more than $125. But the really exciting bit is that smart meters allow customers and power companies to iron out the ‘peaks’ in energy use, as we have already experienced in hot water cylinder control. This will make the use of renewable energy generation easier and reduce the need for fossil-fuel ‘back up’ electricity generators. Smart metering also enables power to be sold back to the grid by the next generation of localised or even home-based solar panels and wind turbines.
Vector subsidiary Advanced Metering Services has installed 450,000 smart meters across the country. These have been ‘future-proofed’ with switchable components so that they can be upgraded as the technology continues to develop worldwide. And Mercury Energy’s Good Energy Monitor (GEM) uses smart meter data that feeds to an online toolkit to provide customers with insights into their energy use every half hour.
Genesis Energy’s Tomorrow Street, where the company is testing a variety of energy saving innovations, provides a glimpse of what this kind of future might look like.