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Clocktower clockThursday 13 September 2018 11:52am

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Dr Michael Jack

“How much electricity do heat pumps really use? When is hot water heated and are the lights kept on all day in winter?” These and other questions can now be answered thanks to the release of anonymised electricity power demand data from a sample of 45 New Zealand households.

The households were recruited in 2014 as part of the Renewable Energy and the Smart Grid (NZ GREEN Grid) project, a collaboration between the Universities of Otago and Canterbury. Each household was equipped with devices that measure the power carried by each electricity circuit every minute. By monitoring each circuit the researchers can analyse power used for heating hot water separately to that for cooking, for space heating or for other uses.

As an example, the chart (below) shows the especially high daily peaks in heat pump demand in winter. In New Zealand electricity peaks are currently met by hydro generation, but increased heat pump use may require more fossil-fuel based generation making achieving net zero carbon emissions much more difficult.

The researchers have used the data to investigate the potential effects of widespread increases in heat pump, photovoltaic panel (PV) and electric vehicle (EV) charging on electricity networks and also the economic viability of rooftop PV for householders. This work has concluded that flexibility measures which shift the timing of demand could play an important role in avoiding expensive upgrades to the electricity network as well as enabling greater use of variable renewable low-carbon generation. Energy storage such as stand-alone batteries, smart hot water cylinders, and also vehicle-to-grid scenarios with EVs could play a significant role in this.

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Dr Ben Anderson

The team have taken the unprecedented step of releasing the data collected from 2014 to 2018 before the project has concluded. This means that students, academics, commercial analysts, government researchers (or anyone else) can use the data to explore questions that the GREEN Grid project does not have the resources to cover.

“We hope that making this unique data freely available will enable novel commercial or policy-relevant research to be carried out by as many stakeholders as possible. This will help to not only ensure maximum return on MBIE's investment but also support analysis of the innovative transitions needed for a smart low-carbon NZ electricity system,” says GREEN Grid co-leader and Co-Director of the Otago Energy Research Centre, Dr Michael Jack.

“Innovation in data access, especially in the context of smart meters will be as important as the development of new technologies in achieving such a system. We hope that by making this relatively small dataset available we can stimulate discussion of how existing data can best be accessed and used to enable innovative behavioural 'smart grid' solutions which are potentially much faster and lower cost to implement,” Dr Jack adds.

Dr Ben Anderson, who led the data release work said, “While a few similar datasets have been released in other countries this is a first for New Zealand. Experience in the UK and globally is that releasing datasets leads to unanticipated uses and innovative research with positive benefits. With New Zealand's rate of smart meter installation leading the way we need data like this to help train a next generation of analysts and to provoke all stakeholders to come up with secure and equitable ways to create a data-driven smart electricity system.”

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For more information, contact:

Dr Michael Jack
Department of Physics
Tel 64 3 479 7753

Ben Anderson
Centre for Sustainability
Tel 64 22 583‬‬‬ 9080‬‬‬

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