University of Canterbury research funded to make New Zealand’s grid smarter


Dr Allan Miller,
Director, EPECenter
Christchurch, New Zealand — (METERING.COM) — August 31, 2012 – The University of Canterbury’s Electric Power Engineering Center (EPECenter) has been awarded a grant of NZ$6.3 million (US$5 million) from the country’s Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment for research on the smart grid.

The focus of the program is on ways to safely and economically embed new renewable generation into the electricity network, especially the distribution network, to ensure a secure electricity supply.

New Zealand is targeting 90 percent of electricity generation to be from renewable sources by 2025, providing this can ensure a secure supply of electricity – a target that is challenging but realistic, given New Zealand’s renewable energy potential, and expertise in renewable development.

“New Zealand currently generates about 75 percent of its electricity from renewable generation, making it a worldwide leader in this area,” said the EPECenter’s director Dr Allan Miller, who is heading the research. “However finding the additional 15 percent will be a stretch, remembering that the demand for electricity typically grows each year as well. It’s not just finding 15 percent, but continuing to develop renewable generation to keep up with load growth.”

Miller said he believes the additional contribution will be made up predominantly from geothermal, wind, and solar, with much of the solar being from rooftop installations. As wind and solar are variable in output, one of the areas the project will investigate is this issue of variability in ensuring a secure supply.

The project will also investigate consumer behavior around some of the new technologies in the industry. This includes domestic solar installations, home automation, and the use of smart meters with smart appliances to deliver home automation.

“We want to make the national grid smarter through better integration of the demand side with generation through the grid. This would be achieved through pooling resources from smart appliances, electric vehicles and domestic rooftop solar power to use to manage the variability of renewable generation,” said Miller.

The project will survey consumers to understand their perceptions and anticipated use of new technology in the electricity network, including solar panels on their roofs, home automation, electric vehicles, and demand management.

The project will also investigate solar renewable generation and the technical aspects of feeding it into the distribution network, where it may completely change the direction that power flows.

The research will pull together expertise from Auckland University’s Power Systems Group, and Otago University’s Center for Sustainability to form a national research team. Contributing to the research will be companies such as Transpower, Orion, Unison, Vector, Mercury Energy and Mighty River Power, the Electricity Authority, the Electricity Engineers Association, and Fisher & Paykel Appliances.