There’s a smart meter box on the side of 70 percent of New Zealand houses. You’d be forgiven if you thought it was smart because, well, it’s in the name. But the data that these little meters collect and communicate is only as smart as whoever is collecting it. Electric Kiwi – a relative newcomer to the electricity game – is proving the meters’ intelligence with its own innovations. And it’s turning the electricity industry on its head.
Most analogue meters had a certification that expired in 2015, so you likely have one of these little boxes on the side of your house. Their basic function is to record energy consumption at regular intervals and communicate that data to a utility for monitoring and billing.
The big power companies are obviously happy because they don’t need to pay meter readers anymore and it makes billing more accurate. But smart meters can do much more than that. That’s where Electric Kiwi steps in.
The company is built around a proprietary platform that takes data from the smart meters and runs routines over it to determine the best time for the consumer to use electricity, giving them the ability to avoid peak power prices. The real benefit for the consumer is manifested in the “hour of power” – an hour in the day that the consumer can chose to have 100 percent free electricity.
Electric Kiwi managing director Julian Kardos explains: “It’s starting to disrupt the industry – from a fundamental perspective, electricity is generated on the fly, so the challenge is that on a really cold and wet night when you’re heating the home, oven is on, the dryer is being used, the country doesn’t have enough capacity to provide for that demand. So, a gas powered plant fires up for a few hours to meet it – it’s very inefficient.”
Kardos’ goal is to educate consumers on when to use electricity, with the hour of power intended to coax them out of turning everything on during peak times at between 7am and 9am then 5pm and 9pm. With the price of power changing every 30 minutes, this inefficient use of electricity hits consumers in the pocket and has unnecessary and detrimental effects on the environment.
“We need to educate consumers on when to use electricity,” says Kardos.
Electric Kiwi is, at its core, a technology company, which is another departure from the traditional electricity company mould.
“We use technology to disrupt the market – we’ve built everything in house and we’re always looking to innovate our billing platform and data routines,” Kardos says.