Looking into the future of electricity distribution
It's obvious that the electricity industry is changing fast, and that tomorrow's grid won't look exactly like today's. But what, exactly, will be different?
We're starting to ask leaders in the industry how they think things will look in 2027, and what it will take to get there. Rob Barr, one of our own big thinkers, was the first to put his foresight to the test. Here's what he sees:
It’s 2027. A time traveller arrives from 2017 to take a look at electricity distribution in New Zealand. What are the biggest differences she notices?
Rob: "The once-feared climb in prices is a distant memory, as local generation and storage technology investments - both public and private - are realised. I still pay a connection fee, but with my home management system and electric car batteries buying power from neighbours through my electric car lease company is not much more than small change. Sometimes when I'm not using the car, I even sell some power back to local businesses, which is a service my data provider recently started offering. The biggest differences, though, are the social changes resulting from New Zealand's new-found affluence, driven by the worldwide success of our power management industry. As our green New Zealand brand leader, this industry sees high demand from our overseas neighbours who have been less successful in meeting environmental targets."
Our time traveller asks which changes were the hardest. What does she hear in reply?
"It took a visionary Energy Minister to remove economic subsidies and create a level open-market playing field in which new ideas could compete. Of course they flourished. Digitisation across the industry was never going to happen until the Government drove agreement on data exchange standards, resulting in profoundly reduced operating costs. Also dealing with the thorny issue of fuel tax, by finding an equitable and politically palatable way to maintain Government revenue as both light and heavy vehicle fleets went electric."
Newly inspired, our time traveller returns to 2017 with a list of priorities for distributors. What’s on that list?
"Transfer investment away from high-voltage / high-loss distribution networks, towards local generation and storage. Ensure community collaboration schemes provide long-term financial independence. Rapidly digitise your business, from top to bottom and inside out, to: meet customers' service demands, and efficiently interoperate with service providers that deliver responsive and real-time operational and information services to supply, distribute, market, monitor, manage and store power, and balance and settle power transactions."
What are your predictions?
Tell us what you think the future will look like in the form below.