22 Apr 2015

Electricity wires warning

4:42 pm on 22 April 2015

Concern is growing that electricity-saving devices could one day leave New Zealand criss-crossed with electric wires doing little or, in some cases, nothing at all.

The problem would stem from cheap solar power and enhanced batteries which could free up many people from the national grid and local power lines, leaving assets underused that cost billions of dollars to install.

This problem surfaced when Wellington City Council revealed plans to install LED streetlights to save on electricity, only to find out it might have to pay higher transmission costs to offset lower volumes and maintain earnings for the electric lines company.

At the time, the local lines company complained about new technology eating the lunch off its table.

Since then, the debate has grown to cover all power-saving technology that can reduce the need to send electricity down a wire.

Electricity Authority chief executive Carl Hansen said these matters needed careful scrutiny.

"There's investment in these assets. The issue is when you get very significant changes in society with technology, or with just new options for consumers, that it can actually make their assets redundant," he said.

Mr Hansen said his officials were doing analysis on this subject, and the Commerce Commission was also looking into the problem.

Get the new RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs