Vector - New Zealand’s largest electricity distribution and multi-utility infrastructure company – is currently carrying out the largest rollout of smart meters in the country.
It aims to have one million of the new meters installed by 2017 and, as of March 31, had fitted 472,452 devices to homes. Vector is achieving an installation rate of 600 meters per day, or 12,000 meters a month, and is consistently meeting the annual installation targets it set.
Now just under halfway through the programme, Vector says the successes are visible: financial targets have been consistently met, meter-read attainment is up to 99.5 per cent – against a target of 98 per cent - and maintenance costs are coming in below budget.
The service level agreements with major customers Genesis Energy and Contact Energy have been met or exceeded. Vector says the project is a good fit with its core objective – the safe, efficient and reliable delivery of essential energy services to its 700,000, diverse customers.
Smart or advanced meters offer a suite of potential benefits to customers, lines companies and retailers. Customers will be able to take better control of their power consumption by monitoring what they use and when. Lines companies will be able to monitor demand, detect faults faster, and have them repaired sooner. Retailers are pushed to be more competitive, improving their customer service and operating efficiencies.
Further out, Vector sees a role for smart meters in the development of smart grids facilitating demand-side management, distributed generation and energy storage.
In planning for the national rollout, Vector had to anticipate a number of challenges. These included network specific issues such as the wiring of existing meters, individual network operating procedures, differences in meter configurations, and communications solutions.
It also had to ensure close cooperation between 150 people across the Vector team, retailers, communications provider Vodafone, meter provider EDMI, and field service providers.
To overcome them, Vector developed collaborative planning processes and incentive schemes for field personnel, implemented new health and safety systems, and made improvements to the supply chain.
A key feature of the project has been the development of a tailored communications solution using Vodafone’s GPRS mobile network.
Vector’s strategic partnership arrangement with the telecommunications provider enables each individual smart meter to communicate data to a central data collection point. Each meter is online for just 40 seconds each morning to limit the telecommunications network burden on the system, but can then be accessed anytime for instant on-demand meter reads.
Vector says this market led roll-out of smart meters and the technologies that enabled it are increasingly being seen as a model for smart meter rollouts globally.
The Energy Project of the Year award category is sponsored by ITL.