Electricity Authority considering future of switching registry
AUCKLAND: The registry that underpins the country’s electricity market provides a worldclass switching service but may not be fit for purpose within a decade, the Electricity Authority says.
The registry, which records customer switches among retailers and within networks, is at the core of the market and enables firms to bill users, pay distributors for their lines and reconcile purchases from the wholesale market.
While the ability to complete most switches within three and ahalf days, and some within in a day, is worldleading, the system is doing things it was never designed for when it started in 1999, authority principal adviser Ron Beatty says. It was last ‘‘refreshed’’ in 2013.
He said firms were spending time resolving switching issues manually, and that might become more of an issue as more retailers entered the market and offered more sophisticated services.
‘‘We think it may be limiting competition,’’ Mr Beatty told an industry workshop in Wellington this week. ‘‘The last thing you want is to have that innovation limited by the switching process.’’
The increasing use of new technologies such as solar panels, batteries and electric vehicles is changing the way people use electricity and interact with the market. More consumers are using realtime pricing and peertopeer trading among solar panel owners is starting.
The authority wants to ensure its processes are ready if those sorts of changes take off in the next five to 10 years. It is trying to gauge whether fixing issues with the registry is sufficient or whether itis time to ‘‘start again’’.
The registry records the details of more than 2.1 million active ICPs — customer connections on networks around the country. More than 1000 users can be accessing it at peak times and there can be 300 million inquiries in a month. A record 558 million inquiries were made in June and 99.7% of all inquiries are resolved in less than 2 seconds.
Mr Beatty said the switching system was ‘‘not broken’’. It had achieved that performance because of the cooperation of industry participants, who had worked to keep it up to date and had invested heavily in their own processes to make that work.
But he said the industry had never stepped back and asked whether this was the best switching process for the future.
In future, it might need to cater for customers receiving services from more than one player or dealing directly with the market. Metering companies may have a greater role to play in providing data; load aggregators may also become more of a feature in the market and could become a new class of participant.
‘‘The industry could be a very different animal,’’ he said.
The authority is seeking feed back from participants on more than 20 potential issues it has identified with the current system, and whether it may be time for more fundamental change.
While some problems may be fixed quite easily, any major change to the registry would take time and would be expensive — particularly because of the complex systems retailers and lines companies have developed to work with the registry.
Any fundamental change would take at least three and ahalf years and probably five. A costbenefit analysis would also be required. — BusinessDesk
New tech . . . an electric vehicle rapid charger in Filleul St, Dunedin. Technologies such as solar panels, batteries and electric vehicles are changing the way people use electricity.