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Initiative to bring power retail into 21st century

Media Release

Embargoed to noon Wednesday 2 August 2006

Meridian Christchurch initiative to bring power retail into 21st century

Meridian Energy is launching a major new retail initiative in Christchurch which will set a new benchmark for electricity retailing in New Zealand.

Chief Executive Keith Turner says the initiative - developed in conjunction with Christchurch-based company Arc Innovations - will see more than 112,000 revolutionary electricity meters – or ‘Smart Meters’ installed in Canterbury homes, replacing existing meters which have been in use for more than 40 years.

The meter is described as a two-way intelligent communication device that can transmit energy consumption data between the customer and retailer.

Dr Turner stressed that with the new technology still in its infancy, customers will initially notice only two main changes.

“The main things people will notice immediately will be that their meters no longer need to be physically read, and that their bills will always be based on their actual consumption. But even this is a vast improvement on the existing situation, where meters are not always read every month, with sometimes large variances between estimated bills and bills based on a meter read.

“Eliminating this will in itself be a major help to household budgeting.”

Further down the track, however, there is exciting scope for adding new services to customers.

The system has already been successfully piloted in more than 1000 homes in central Hawkes Bay.

Arc Innovations Chief Executive Helen Bremner says the introduction of its intelligent measurement and management systems will bring electricity retailing into the 21st Century.

“Its significance is equal to the impact the cellphone has had on the telecommunications industry. The systems’ potential is huge. We plan eventually to extend the services offered to enable people to operate their appliances by remote – that is, you could be sitting in your office and turning the heaters or dishwasher on at home,” says Ms Bremner.

Helen Bremner says the system also has the potential to deliver greater network efficiency by helping manage peak demand periods and communicate customer incentives for reduced demand during peak times.

Dr Turner says the new Smart Meters will enable customers to make better energy efficiency decisions.

“They have the potential to show customers how much power a microwave uses compared to their oven. It also enables them to compare how much electricity they use compared to similar households,” says Dr Turner.

Dr Turner says the value of the contract between Meridian and Arc is approaching $100 million – but says the meters will come at no extra cost to consumers.

“The set-up costs are significant but we are in no doubt Smart Meters will deliver a more dynamic service to our customers. It will also save us time, money and effectively future-proof the energy industry,” concluded Dr Turner.

The Smart Meter roll-out is expected to take at least two years to complete.

ENDS

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