Knowledge is power
Want to reduce your home’s energy use? Then start by monitoring where, and when, it is being used.
The internet, combined with new ‘smart’ electricity meters that provide accurate monitoring of your electricity use, now allows us all to see how much power we are using. What are some of the options in New Zealand, and how are they driving us to be more energy efficient?
Vector owns and operates the electricity distribution network in the greater Auckland region, and its subsidiary Advanced Metering Services has so far installed 450,000 new smart meters that allow constant monitoring and remote control of a building’s electricity system.
More than 200,000 households of Genesis Energy customers have switched to this kind of meter, and the company is currently trialling its ‘MyTime’ variable tariff, which offers cheap rates for off-peak electricity in a bid to encourage customers to shift their use where they can. The company also offers ‘MyEnergyCoach’, an online service that provides coaching in energy efficiency to customers that is proving particularly popular down south during the winter.
And Genesis is trialling all sorts of innovations in electrical appliances, electricity efficiency, monitoring, and remote control through its Tomorrow Street programme, made up of a mixed group of 15 households on Auckland’s North Shore. Over the last year the homes in the project have reduced their electricity use by 18 per cent compared to the energy usage in the previous year.
Meridian Energy also provides a user-friendly online system for tracking electricity use, which provides a variety of tips on how to save power and lower bills. Those who still have ‘standard’ meters can track household energy use and compare it month to month, view their latest bill and running balance, see the last three years’ of transactions and look ahead to the next bill. With a smart meter installed, customers can set goals and budgets and track progress against them down to the half hour. They can also set email alerts on a monthly power budget and work out next month’s projected energy consumption. If you are the competitive type, or concerned your particular home is not conducive to power saving, you can even compare your energy use against other homes in your area.
Hamish McEwan, Meridian’s retail innovation and relations manager, said: “It has made some customers much more engaged. The exciting bit for me is that customers are starting to think about their energy use. A lot of it comes down to the feeling that they couldn’t control their bills, and now they realise that they can. But we are still really at the early adopter stage.”
Meridian subsidiary Powershop is probably at the forefront of this in New Zealand. Its system not only allows customers to monitor their power use, it allows them to buy units of power at clearly defined prices from a whole range of suppliers, and even buy them at cheaper rates weeks or even months in advance. Each customer has an online calendar that helps them to calculate how much power they have paid for and how much they need to buy. There are also various discount packs and deals offered throughout the year. If customers don’t buy in advance, the system bills them, just like a normal power company would.
Founder and CEO Ari Sargent, says: “We describe this as the ‘weight watchers’ effect. If you monitor what you eat, you’ll eat less. We want the same effect with electricity.”
All three companies said that the most powerful driver for energy efficiency has so far has been to ensure their customers can save money by cutting down, and that important change already seems to be well underway.
“If you monitor what you eat, you’ll eat less. We want the same effect with electricity.”
Powershop founder and CEO Ari Sargent