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Virtual power plants

We’re trialling new vehicle-to-grid and smart-charging technology as we work towards the launch of a virtual power plant that will make New Zealand’s electricity system more flexible.

What is a virtual power plant?

A virtual power plant is where an energy company like Meridian remotely manages and optimises the use of the stored energy in people’s homes (mainly EV batteries) and the timing of things like EV charging and heating hot water to take pressure off the grid. This is done using special software and customer preferences, so we know – for instance – how much charge you need in your EV at any given time.

By doing this on a large scale we’re aiming to free up power in peak periods and reward customers for the part they play, saving money on their overall power bill.

The potential is huge. We believe a virtual power plant could offer as much peak period electricity as a wind farm or small hydro station, and they will play a key role in helping New Zealand’s electricity deal with the growing amount of wind and solar generation, which – needing wind and sun – can’t always be relied upon.

Households would need to sign-up to take part, but the potential savings are significant. Where possible, based on their preferences, the virtual power plant will charge batteries at off-peak times, releasing stored power back into the grid when needed in peak periods. Likewise, things like water heating will occur outside peak periods whenever possible.

When done on scale, all these little savings will add up to take substantial pressure off the electricity system in peak periods, with customers compensated for being part of it and saving money on their overall bill.

How close is Meridian to having a virtual power plant?

We are continuing to explore and test all the technology we need to make this happen. In late 2023 we ran trials of both vehicle-to-grid and smart charging (virtual power plant management) technology. Among many positive results we found that nearly all customers trusted Meridian to manage their charging and ensure they had enough charge in their EV when they needed it. That trust will be key to the success of any virtual power plant.

Tackling Zero

Tackling Zero is Meridian’s quarterly newsletter for people whose roles or studies are focused on sustainability, or for whom this is an area of interest. Each issue will offer Meridian’s insights into a topical sustainability issue, as well as stories on how we, our customers and supply chain partners are tackling sustainability. It also includes links to recent Meridian disclosures such as new policies and reports.