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Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

Find answers to all of your questions about Unison's Networks for our Future.


 

‘Networks for our future’ describes Unison’s work to prepare for the coming transformation of electricity systems to support New Zealand’s de-carbonisation initiative and be environmentally sustainable.

Unison’s vision is to lead a sustainable energy future that supports consumer’s changing energy needs, while enabling our communities to prosper for generations to come. This is what inspires and compels Unison to innovate and enable the delivery of smart energy solutions through a dynamic, flexible, and sustainable electricity system.

Although the changing energy landscape places significant demands on the electricity sector, Unison is well equipped to deliver into the future. The Company is realising the benefits of forward planning and preparation for this future, through the interplay between Unison Networks and its subsidiaries - demonstrating the power of the Unison Group to design, construct and service networks of the future, with sustainability at the core.

As the future unfolds, the Unison Group will remain agile, flexible and customer focused while navigating the changing energy landscape and maintaining momentum towards delivering its long-term vision

In 2019 Unison developed a ‘least regrets’ Roadmap to chart our development of business and technical capabilities expected to be required in a range of plausible futures. The work delivered as part of this roadmap is delivering excellent value, including improved safety, efficiency and network performance. The initiatives on the roadmap are reviewed every two years to ensure it aligns with the current thinking.

  • Macro-environmental trends -- The macro environment and customer behaviours are shaping the new energy future. To proactively meet those expectations, we need to have excellent insight into our customers’ behaviours and expectations. Considering this Unison has established a routine business capability to:
    • Identify and track leading indicators of change in the industry
    • Generate insight into our customers’ expectations and how these are changing
    • Communicate this information effectively to various internal stakeholder groups.
  • LV Visibility -- LV Visibility is a programme of work to enhance both static and dynamic asset information for LV networks, supporting safety, investment efficiency, and the capability of the network to host distributed energy resources.
  • Network Standards -- Network standards provide definitive guidance to teams in the design, construction, operation, and maintenance of Unison’s networks, and play a critical role in assuring technical integrity of assets and systems.

    As stakeholder requirements of Unison’s assets and services evolve, so must network standards. Low voltage (LV) network design and distributed energy resource (DER) connection standards are key areas of focus because LV networks will be impacted the most from high levels of DER penetration.

  • Flexibility - In the future when there is increased penetration of controllable DER, these resources could be used to provide a range of services to different actors within the electricity system. Control and management of these resources to provide network support or mitigate constraints on the network is defined as Flexibility services.
  • Technical competencies -- This work recognises that the changing landscape will impact the skills, capabilities and experience required of Unison’s people. A framework has been developed to better define existing competencies and identify those competencies that are likely to change in the future.
  • Customer understanding -- To achieve the de-carbonisation targets, Unison’s customers, especially industrial customers, will start their own electrification journey. The shift from fossil fuels to electricity will add further demand on Unison’s network and it is in Unison’s best interest to advise and guide their customers on this journey. By being close to the customer Unison can manage the impact and timing of additional load on the network and be in a better position to manage power quality issues that will arise from this shift.

Senior leadership at Unison is part of Electricity Networks Association’s (ENA) Smart Technology Working Group (STWG). It consists of representation from 15 electricity distribution businesses and Transpower. In 2019, Unison along with other members of STWG produced the Network Transformation Roadmap which provides set of guidelines for EDB boards and senior management to consider when setting their strategies and future-focused plans. Its emphasis is on the new activities and functions EDBs will need to undertake in the future. More information on this can be found on 484 (ena.org.nz)

Unison has also joined with several industry peers to form a steering group with Evnex, a leading New Zealand manufacturer and installer of smart electric vehicle chargers for the home and workplace.

Together, the group hopes to develop a richer understanding of how New Zealanders plug in and charge their electric vehicles. Smart load control of EV charging will be needed as the rate and level of up-take increases over the next decade.

As part of Unison’s Growth and Innovation Strategy, Unison is focused on acquiring complementary businesses that encompass or support its core competencies, including sustainability. This has the potential to deliver tangible product development and service benefits to the wider group, a potential which is already being realised through industry recognised innovations such as the sustainability focused Windsor Substation which uses product innovation directly undertaken by Unison subsidiaries.

Unison’s vision is to lead a sustainable energyfuturethat supports consumer’s changing energy needs, while enabling our communities to prosper for generations to come.

Developing a sustainability strategy that supports the delivery of Unison’s vision to lead a sustainable energy future held significant focus this financial year. The strategy is built on insights gained from a range of key stakeholders to ensure it is relevant and effective for Unison and its communities.

Unison is best equipped to influence climate change aspects of sustainability including transport, industrial heat, and housing; whilst also improving affordability and employment. Interest in technologies such as solar, battery and electric vehicles is increasing. We still need energy to power our lives, but how we get that energy and what we use it for is rapidly transforming.

Together with its Subsidiaries, the Unison Group is proving itself to be at the forefront of delivering smart, sustainable solutions that enable people’s energy choices.

The technical term Distribution System Operation (DSO) refers to a smarter, more flexible electricity system. It is used to describe the bundle of functions required to managed an increased complexity in the future network system.

The coming transformation of electricity systems will support environmental sustainability and improved energy equity; however the complexity of the system will be significantly greater than it is today.

DSO functions may include:

  • More granular forecasting of demand, generation and distributed energy resources (DER)
  • Coordination of flexible DER at the transmission and distribution interface
  • DER hosting capacity analysis
  • Data management and sharing

Modern electricity systems are being shaped by the ‘Three D’s’ – Decarbonisation, Decentralisation and Digitalisation.

  • Decarbonisation refers to eliminating carbon-based fuels for electricity generation and electrification of sources of demand that currently utilisecarbon-based fuels (e.g., transport, process heat). While an increase in renewable energy sources will make the grid more sustainable, renewable generation can be highly intermittent which make balancing energy supply and demand more challenging.
  • Decentralisation refers to reduced reliance on just a handful of large generation plants. This means dispersing generation across many smaller plants. It also refers to the increasing amount of embedded generation and storage coming online, for example, solar farms, batteries, CHPs (co-generation) on business sites or solar panels on residential properties.

    The energy market is undergoing complex changes and effective management in real-time is imperative.

  • Digitalisation provides the means to achieve this through comprehensive monitoring and control throughout the electricity system, from generation to transmission, distribution, supply and demand. Digitalisation also provides the foundation for innovation by enabling monitored information to be analysed to identify opportunities to improve the efficiency of the system.

Unison’s award winning substation, Windsor Substation, located in Hastings, is leading the industry in sustainable design.

Operational since 1 January 2022 and the first of its kind in New Zealand, the Windsor Substation has been designed and built in a way that reduces the Company’s carbon footprint and uses materials that are kind on the environment and people.

The substation is self-sufficient; it produces and operates on renewable energy, sending any excess back to the grid. It captures and recycles water which is used to irrigate its surrounding habitat. It will result in an estimated 363% reduction in carbon compared with a typical substation over a 60-year lifetime.

Windsor Substation is a showcase of sustainability and provides Unison and the wider industry with a platform to reap the benefits of sustainability for future substations, the community and the network.

In June 2022, Windsor Substation was awarded the Low Carbon Future Award at the annual New Zealand Energy Excellence Awards.

You can read more about Windsor Substation here.

Unison provides support to large processing and manufacturing businesses across our regions, to enable them to achieve their growth and sustainability objectives. The Government’s GIDI Fund (About the Government Investment in Decarbonising Industry Fund | EECA) offers a major opportunity for local businesses as they consider how to fund their emission plan.

In addition to building infrastructure, Unison’s role is to provide relevant information and advice on fit for purpose optimal electrical solutions, to assist businesses in determining their electrical requirements.

Unison is starting to see an increase in larger commercial scale DG (solar) enquiries as international players scope the New Zealand landscape for suitable locations. Enquiries are increasing from consultants acting for major or key customers on decarbonisation and increased electrification plans.

Unison is working to ensure we are fully resourced to meet expected demand and in front of the change.

The Government announced plans to decarbonise transport by 2050 with its new Electric Vehicle (EV) subsidy scheme. The scheme provides financial incentives to consumers who purchase EVs and is likely to accelerate the uptake of EVs across New Zealand.

Unison has carried out substantial work to forecast the future impact of EVs on its network. This work resulted in changes to the low voltage (LV) network design standard last year, to better accommodate EV load. Unison Networks is working with its ETEL subsidiary to develop and enhance concepts associated with network monitoring and control as well as voltage regulation.

Unison has joined with a number of industry peers to form a steering group with Evnex, a leading New Zealand manufacturer and installer of smart electric vehicle chargers for the home and workplace. Together, the group hopes to develop a richer understanding of how New Zealanders plug in and charge their electric vehicles. Smart load control of EV charging will be needed as the rate and level of up-take increases over the next decade.

Unison has transitioned all of its pool cars to electric and its first electric traffic management truck joined the fleet in May 2022.

You can read more about the electrification of transport, including information if you are a customer who owns an electric vehicle, here: Electric vehicle revolution (unison.co.nz)