Information Is "Power"

Published: Mon 13 Aug 2001 03:20 PM
** Businesses to benefit from new initiative in electricity industry **
Immediate access to information on power usage is the key to controlling power costs and consumption, says Stream Information Limited, a new company launched today.
Stream is a joint venture between Auckland lines company VECTOR and Total Metering Limited. The company will be marketing innovative metering services that herald a new era for New Zealand businesses seeking to control energy costs.
The service is based on combining high-tech electricity meters with internet technology. Readings from the "Time of Use" electricity meters are downloaded onto a web-site which has password-protected access for businesses. The meters record electricity usage on a half-hourly basis.
When it is downloaded onto the web, the information from the meters is transformed into clear, easy-to-understand and actionable formats such as graphs, tables and charts, allowing a business to identify energy cost-saving opportunities.
Stream General Manager Sue Tindal says businesses can state how frequently they want readings downloaded onto the Stream website.
"The information they are able to access on-line on their electricity consumption can provide a number of benefits that can directly impact the bottom line," says Mrs Tindal.
"While the Stream service is totally unique in New Zealand and way ahead of anything else on the market, the cost is comparable to what businesses are currently paying in metering charges."
Typically a business receives its monthly electricity account a long time (sometimes weeks) after the meter has been read. This gives no scope to analyse or adjust electricity consumption in real-time.
With the Stream service, businesses can download information on their power usage as frequently as daily and monitor the impact of their ongoing business practices.
For instance if a business starts a new manufacturing process it can see what its impact is on power usage. The business can take into account its overall power usage and decide whether that new process could be better scheduled within the context of the overall business.
"There can be direct savings made as many businesses are charged different rates depending on the time of day or peak usage. By spreading its power demand a business can reduce its electricity costs," says Mrs Tindal.
For businesses with a number of meters anywhere around the country, the manager can access the website and monitor and compare power consumption at the individual sites. The information can also be used to benchmark site against site, and site against industry standards.
Having a record of electricity usage over time also gives a business control over electricity pricing if it chooses to enter a long-term contract with an electricity retailer (supplier).
"If you can show what your usage has been over the past year including the peaks and troughs then retailers can provide more competitive costings. It's a matter of then being able to compare apples with apples when considering competing retailer quotes," says Mrs Tindal.
Switching retailers is also made easier, with the meters remaining independent of any retailer.
When the electricity meters are remotely read monthly, the same information is provided to the business (via the website) and the retailer at the same time. Some companies even create their own virtual invoices which act as an audit for the electricity bill when it arrives.
A more sophisticated use of the information from the Time of Use is the ability to actually predict power consumption.
"One very large customer which has the metering technology installed is able to predict what its electricity consumption is going to be over the next half hour and act accordingly. Because the company is charged on the basis of its peak usage, if power consumption reaches a certain trigger point, the system will automatically go into what's called load-shedding mode. This brings down power consumption for a fixed period," says Mrs Tindal.
"With other measures the company is able to introduce as a result of its ability to track power consumption, savings of tens of thousands of dollars a year on its electricity bill have been achieved."
Benefits are not confined to large companies.
"We anticipate that as businesses realise that having information about their power consumption literally at their fingertips will help them bring costs down, they will seriously consider the Stream service."
The Stream web-enabled metering service starts as little as $49.80 per meter per month which compares with around $75.00 for a standard meter which is read monthly by a meter reader and seen by the business only in the form of a monthly account.
"The difference in the information that's provided for very little cost is enormous," says Mrs Tindal.
In the words of one company that has taken up the service ? "It's a no-brainer!"
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*** About Stream Information Limited: Stream Information Limited (Stream) is a joint venture between Auckland electricity lines company VECTOR and Total Metering Limited (TML), with VECTOR holding 70 percent and TML 30 percent. TML was established in 1994 and is a design and development technology company focused on electronic metering and IT solutions for the utility market. Stream has been established to market advanced metering services to the New Zealand business sector. While Stream is a jointly owned, it is a separate entity with its own Directors and business plan. The Directors are Patrick Strange (Chairman), Peter Drummond, Simon MacKenzie, David Houldsworth and Dean Gowans. For further information visit www.
*** Time- Of- Use (TOU) meters: Time-Of-Use (TOU) meters record electricity consumption every half-hour. The meters are remotely read (ie do not need a meter reader) via an automatic landline or cellphone link. Many New Zealand businesses have TOU meters installed but are unable to access the information provided by those meters. Their readings are sent directly to the retailer and typically a business would not be aware of the level or pattern of consumption in any one month until it received an account from the retailer.
*** Web-enabled: The information from Stream meters is downloaded onto a website. Businesses have direct web browser access to their up-to-date meter data via a security-protected password. The information from the meters is transformed into clear, easy-to-understand and actionable formats such as graphs, tables and charts, allowing the business to identify cost-saving opportunities. How much electricity is being used, when it is being used and how it can be used more efficiently are all essential ingredients in managing and reducing electricity costs. No other company in New Zealand is providing such a web-enabled service linking into TOU meters.
*** Frequency of reporting: Businesses can specify how frequently they wish to have the meter read and downloaded onto the website. The Stream standard service level provides a monthly download of the information from the TOU meters to the website. This is identical information to that forwarded to the retailer. More frequent downloads are available at a small charge ($5 - $10 per download), with the information on the web for the start of the new business day.
*** Ownership and cost: In the electricity industry, meters are typically owned by either the retailer, lines company or an independent metering company such as Stream. A monthly meter charge applies and this has often been included on the electricity account. With Stream, the metering charge is as little as $49.80 per meter per month ranging up to $65 per meter, depending on the needs of the business (and therefore the sophistication of the meter). These charges cover the monthly download and web-access.
*** Customers: Many New Zealand businesses are already taking advantage of the TOU meters linked to the website. Existing customers include McDonald's, The Warehouse, Lion Breweries, Restaurant Brands, and Allied Foods.
For further information contact: Sue Tindal General Manager Stream Information Limited Tel: 978 7650
For an overview guide of New Zealand's current electricity situation, please contact: Pam Wong Professional Public Relations (09) 979 2028

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