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Vector: helping to create a new energy future for Auckland

Karl Check

· Auckland Climathon

New Zealanders are increasingly choosing new energy technologies as global decarbonisation trends and initiatives come to the fore. Vector is a leading enabler of new energy solutions, supporting this rapid shift in consumer behaviour, be it with solar and battery power, electric vehicle chargers, or platforms to transact energy.

Climathon Auckland is a great opportunity to generate the kind of ideas that will create a new energy future for our city. Aucklanders interact with energy use and transport on a daily basis and our Climathoners will no doubt offer some great ideas on how we can combat high levels of emissions from these sources.

It is particularly exciting to know that we are entering a phase where individual consumers, communities and cities will be the driving force for the low carbon transition of the energy system. Distributed energy and disruptive technologies are set to create a much more customer-centric system and open up opportunities for new ideas, new modes of energy delivery, and new players.

Peer-to-peer trading is a great example of a technology that can enable consumers to embrace new and decarbonised generation sources. Peer-to-peer is taking the ‘off-grid’ approach of generating power on-site, for a home or business, a step further. Using solar panels, modern battery storage technology, and a peer-to-peer digital platform, a consumer can transform into a “prosumer” – someone who produces and sells energy themselves.

Prosumers have the option to use, store, share or sell the electricity they generate, without needing to go through a traditional retailer. The trading platform can be used to buy locally produced low carbon electricity from, say, a solar and battery set-up.

This kind of “sharing economy” is even more efficient in a communal housing development, where the energy produced by solar could potentially be shared by residents as it is produced, or stored for use at peak times. Here in Auckland, Ngāti Whātua’s Papakāinga housing in Ōrākei already sees solar generation and battery storage supply the majority of the residents’ needs, with the shortfall met by the grid. Residents of this affordable housing development are experiencing lower energy bills while knowing they are also helping to reduce emissions.

Storage is also now becoming a mainstream part of the electricity infrastructure, with grid-scale batteries incorporated into the system to provide resilience, flatten out the peak demand on the grid, and enable better use of renewable resources. Vector have installed a 1MW grid-scale battery in the suburb of Glen Innes. It works much like a home battery - but with the ability to meet the energy requirements of 450 homes over a two-hour period, the grid-scale battery helps to reduce the peak demand.

Increasing local generation, combined wtih energy storage and sharing, creates less demand from the national grid. This, in turn, has the potential to reduce the demand for higher carbon-emitting generation sources.

The gradual electrification of transport also presents a significant opportunity for emissions reduction and for electric vehicles (EVs) to be integrated into a connected energy system.

Vector has already rolled out a widespread rapid EV charging infrastructure in Auckland, helping the city accommodate the inevitable rise in EV ownership as vehicle production rises and prices drop. It’s the start of a journey Vector is supporting by investing in a range of solutions to meet customer needs as EV ownership grows.

Increasingly, electric vehicles are considered less as a competing resource for electricity and more as a crucial storage element in the energy system. Using vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology, which Vector is now trialling in New Zealand, EVs (which like other cars are unused the majority of the time) can be used to store renewable electricity.

Vector is proud to be supporting Climathon Auckland, as part of our commitment to bringing a new, sustainable energy future to Auckland. This global event aligns with our commitments to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, particularly the need to take urgent action to combat climate change and its effects.

Karl Check is the Group Manager – Sustainability at Vector Limited. Find out more at www.vector.co.nz

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