New Zealand lagging with smart meters


Dr Jan Wright,
for the Environment
Wellington, New Zealand — (METERING.COM) — August 18, 2011 – An ongoing failure to be smarter with how electricity is managed in New Zealand will have significant costs for the environment, consumers and the economy, the country’s Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Dr Jan Wright, has told the Commerce Select Committee.

Her main message, Wright said, is that smart meters don’t need to be identical in every respect, but that standardization of key features is urgently required if the country is to achieve a smart grid. But with current developments households in some parts of the country will have really smart meters and households elsewhere will be left with dumb meters.

“This will make it very difficult to achieve a smart grid. It’s a mess and it’s shaping up to be a mess that will cost the environment and the economy.”

Wright’s comments were intended as an update on developments since her June 2009 report, in which she found that smart meters being deployed in New Zealand were without the necessary functionality to deliver benefits to consumers or the environment.

Wright attributes the continuing “kerfuffle about smart meters and smart grids” to a “progressively fragmented electricity sector with a confusing number of companies all doing their own thing”, resulting in “a battle between retail companies and lines companies over who should be in control.”

“I am not advocating regulating and standardizing every aspect of smart meters and smart grids. But where communication – interoperability between devices – is required, ‘doing your own thing’ cannot be the best way to go,” said Wright. “What I am advocating for is that New Zealand lifts its game.”

Suggesting that the U.K. be looked at as a model, Wright added that she wasn’t completely pessimistic about what is going on in New Zealand, and highlighted the emergence of SmartCo – an alliance of 14 distribution companies with a joint smart meter rollout plan – as very encouraging.

“But until there is some real leadership in this sector, the frustration will continue,” she concluded. “What we need are really smart meters and a smart grid that will serve retail companies and lines companies and consumers and the environment. That is the challenge.”