Unison Networks Defends Price Hike for Solar Users

Hawkes’ Bay electric company Unison Networks, removed the network charge discount of approximately $300 a year for solar panel users in April. The increase was challenged, but the Electricity Authority ruled this month that, while it was “not as clearly service-based and cost-reflective as it could be”, Unison had not breached the electricity industry participation code. Because of this several of Unison’s solar-using customers remain angry about the cost hike. “It was time for Unison to go into the solar business, rather than penalising those who embraced the technology,” Retiree Jenny Povey, of Hastings said. Fellow Hawke’s Bay solar panel user, lawyer Gary Tayler, also said Unison’s approach amounted to “monopoly abuse”. Unison told the authority its April tariff changes were an “interim step” to long-term fair pricing, which would be possible once more smart meters were installed on its network. “That data showed most of its customers with solar panels were using only about 50 per cent of the electricity output from their panels,” General Manager of business assurance Nathan Strong said. “Some people do go above and beyond to match their lifestyle to when the sun is shining, and they receive a lot of recognition for that,” he said. “You can reduce your lines charges quite significantly if you do align your consumption to your solar output, but we’re finding that’s not necessarily the case for a lot of the customers,” he added. All customers connected to the Unison network needed to carry the cost of maintaining that network, he said. It was built for “the cold dark winter nights, and solar doesn’t help out in away...

Solar Powered Beacon for Safer Drive

As the new technology set out, driving from Chistchurch and Queenstown is now made easier. The Tansporation Agency of NZ installed 60 roadside beacons on the heavily-used tourist route. This technology communicate with a smartphone app in passing vehicles and a computer voice warns drivers of hazards ahead, including accidents or changing conditions. The app tells drivers about travel times and suggests good places to stop and refresh. The device also told how long it would take to drive to Geraldine and later Christchurch airport. Different messages were sent from the same beacon depending on the direction of travel. About 50 vehicles from Go Rentals have been equipped with the smartphones, which were deactivated except for the app. “This technology will be tested for three months and a decision whether to make it permanent could be made before the end of the year,” said Jim Harland of NZTA. The Bluetooth technology does not specifically target tourists but they may get the most benefit. “The beacons were the way of the future. They provided up-to-date information, automatic and in real time,” NZTA journey manager Lee Wright said. The roadside beacons, including a solar panel for power, cost $4000 each. Hardware cost for the entire trial was about $274,000, plus development costs. The Christchurch-Queenstown route was chosen because it was popular with tourists and risky due to changing winter conditions, especially further south, said Wright. If another route got the technology, it would probably be Queenstown to Milford Sound because of its popularity with tourists. The beacons’ messages can be changed from traffic operations centres in Christchurch or Wellington 24 hours...

NZ: Gisborne’s Change in Electricity

Gisborne, East Coast and Wairoa region are now on its way for better electricity, as Eastland Network’s solar research trial to gather “real world data” is already launched. “Solar panels will be installed at up to 12 sites, including the roof at Eastland Network’s Carnarvon Street premises, in a trial designed to last between two and five years,” Eastland Group chief executive, Matt Todd, said. “The aim is to assess the technical and commercial impacts of new technologies on the distribution network, and to gain some real world data that can help local people to make informed decisions on emerging technology,” he added. Solar installations on the basis of unrealistic assumptions around power price increases, network tariffs and maintenance costs are being sold to Tairawhiti residents and that’s what he is concerned of. “It’s exciting that solar will form part of the region’s energy supply, however our ingoing assumption is that solar is not yet economic for the majority of grid connected properties. We also know that the price of solar is dropping rapidly so solar may well be economic sooner rather than later,” Mr Todd said. “I believe the future opportunity is for the company to have a closer relationship with customers who are producing their own electricity,” Mr Todd added. By gathering data about how people are likely to source and manage their electricity needs in the future, the trial will help Eastland Network understand the threats, opportunities and the economics of the technology. While the number of on-grid solar installations on the Eastland Network has doubled in the past six months to 114, he says that...

Electric Authority Introducing Solar Tax

“All the home-owner who has their own power through solar has an ‘artificial advantage’ over the power generator such as large hydro, wind and cola generated electricity, and in doing so disadvantages their customers using those powers source,” the Electric Authority (EA) stated. Electric Authority has ruled the Hawkes Bay lines company Unison isn’t breaking any laws under schedule 6.4 of the Code which sets pricing principles for large scale power generators connected to local lines companies. This is New Zealand’s first ruling of its kind. Unison did not breach the Code by introducing a new tariff for electricity retailers when it found schedule 6.4 doesn’t pertain to tariffs between distributors and retailers. While the authority doesn’t state in its decision on Tuesday whether the laws need to be updated to allow for new power generators such as solar generation by home owners, it is presently consulting on the removal of schedule 6.4 from the Code because it creates an unfair advantage to some power generators and increases costs for consumers. “The three sources of power; small scale solar generation provided by home owners, the distributed generators connected to lines companies, and the grid-connected generators such as large hydro, wind, coal and gas, are treated differently under the Code,” Electric authority Chief Executive, Carl Hansen said. Solar power owners actually have an advantage because of the current pricing arrangements by most lines companies, but when a person owns Tesla wall pack and charges electric vehicles, they are probably in disadvantage. “The fact they see the solar user as advantaged, and coal as disadvantaged is a blatant admission that the...

New Zealand: We Are Disappointed

Greenpeace NZ stated that “New Zealand’s electricity watchdog is not fit for purpose and is working with big energy companies to destroy the future of rooftop solar power in New Zealand.” This is after the Electricity Authority (EA) decided to tax solar panel owners last July 12. “I am very disappointed by the authority’s decision,” said by the Chairman of Sustainable Electricity Association, Brendan Winitana. “Here we have solar users who have installed solar and used their own capital and yet here they are being penalized with a solar tax. We are very disappointed for them and for the rest of those who have solar in that area,” Winitana added. Greenpeace climate campaigner, Simon Boxer also said that the ruling now gives lines companies throughout the country the green light to follow Unison and put a tax on solar. “This is a blatant move by the EA to wash its hands of protecting and promoting renewable energy like solar so that it can continue to massage New Zealand’s electricity monopoly.” “It’s no secret that the EA isn’t big a fan of solar. In the past it has even publicly advised New Zealanders not to rush into installing it. By giving the nod for Unison to penalize solar, the EA is effectively attempting to kill the uptake of solar in our near future.” Boxer said. “We’ve heard that many other lines companies are champing at the bit to issue similar charges, and the EA’s ruling means we’ll see these begin to roll out soon,” he added. The authority’s chief executive Carl Hansen argued a far more sophisticated system of electricity...