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Lightning Lab Electric and Kiwi energy companies join forces to spark innovation

Lightning Lab Electric is one of the New Zealand’s first electricity sector-specific programmes.

It launched earlier this month and aims to provide the New Zealand energy sector with innovative ideas, ventures and products around electricity and sustainable energy. It also provides teams with mentoring and business skills to launch commercial ideas into the market.

Now, as one of its first initiatives, a collaboration between Creative HQ and Callaghan Innovation and energy companies Simply Group and Counties Power will see anonymous electricity data be used to create new products and services for the sector.

The data will be used as part of Lightning Lab’s Electric Innovation Challenge and Accelerator programme, with Callaghan Innovation providing funding for the initiative.

Groups participating in the programme will be given access to anonymous data sets that show power usage, consumer demand and network assets.

Managing director at Simply Group Stephen Peterson says the aim is to provide an energy consumption and network data set that can be used to create commercialised products and services.

“We hope to re-frame the current debate on advanced energy meter data around the opportunity data provides to drive lower costs and higher reliability for consumers, rather than the challenges that need to be overcome around legacy IT systems and legitimate privacy and competition concerns,” Peterson says.

He says one desired outcome of the initiative is for anonymous electricity data to be available on an ongoing basis as a result of this experiment, as well as products and services being developed for sale in New Zealand and internationally.

Stephen Peterson

The products and services in the pipeline are confidential, he says.

However, some of the ideas expected to emerge from the programme are software applications that combine data, artificial intelligence and statistics that allow engineers to make better decisions around electricity network.

“In New Zealand, we spend in the order of $3 billion per year on electricity networks with in the order of $30 billion of deployed capital,” he says.

“If we can give our engineers better data about the performance of their networks they can make better decisions about sizing plant, timing upgrades and asset replacements and network operation, saving many millions of dollars, at the same time as improving network safety and reliability.”

New Zealand is a world leader in electricity regulation and market operations.

There is $600 million invested in advanced meters in New Zealand, making it the highest penetration of advanced meters capturing information from a country.

An advanced or smart meter records the amount of electricity a household is actually using at half hourly intervals, and sends the data to the electricty retailer daily.

However, the current meter structuring doesn’t allow comprehensive data to be collected by distribution networks.

This public-private partnership hopes to change that by combining technology, expertise and consumer databases.  

Head of customer engagement at Creative HQ, Nick Churchouse, says the open and collaborative attitude towards the initiative companies involved are showing will create real change within the energy sector.

“With Callaghan Innovation’s support, Counties Power and Simply Group are taking a brave and inspired approach to opening up the data in a responsible and useful way to all innovators through Lightning Lab Electric,” he says.

“It’s hugely encouraging when potential entrepreneurs can look to established utilities as enablers and collaborators for new ways of doing things with energy.”

Callaghan Innovation energy sector manager Chris Thomson says like many other industries that are big on analytics, energy start-ups using data to develop consumer products and services is a sign of where the sector is heading.

“Energy technology is increasingly going to involve data in creating solutions for network and infrastructure investment, and consumer demand for choice,” he says.

Elly is Idealog's editor and resident dog enthusiast. She enjoys travelling, tea, good books, and writing about exciting ideas and cool entrepreneurs.

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