How does it work? Can I buy solar electricity off my neighbour?
Yes, you can.  Solar share works by matching the surplus solar exported by members of BEN with the demand from other members at that time.  Only once all the local solar is used, is electricity bought from other sources. This matching of solar and demand is done the same half hour window so you can be confident that this is a genuine peer to peer match.  Another solar sharing product on the market will offset solar from someone else’s bill even if they use that power at night – in our view, not making a genuine connection with the renewable power.

Will it make my electricity cheaper and how can you guarantee that?
If you are using other people’s solar, rates for this shared power are significantly below our rates for non solar electricity (which already are very competitive).  The average solar share customer saves around $86 p.a. whilst getting local, green power. But that is just the beginning. Exporters get favourable rates for selling power.  And every member can use Powerpal to understand when electricity can be cheaper and change when they use power to cut costs – in March we were seeing active users earning rewards of up to $236 p.a.  The amount you save, your carbon impact and your local impact will be impacted by the choices you make and action you take.

I’m a bit confused. It seems very complicated. What will it do for me?
It is very simple. If you own PV or micro wind, you simply earn a better rate on your qualifying exported electricity.  You need to do nothing – but we find most people do open their weekly solar share report as they love to stay in touch with what is going on. If you want to buy solar power from your neighbours, there is nothing you must do.  We simply match up what you use with what is available and apply the better price. But where we differ is we give you the choice to do even more.  Tell us if you prefer community, cleaner or cheaper power and you can receive a notification (currently daily) of the best time to use power to meet your personal goals.  If you act and change use, you earn rewards. No penalties, just the control to do even better.

Isn’t this just another money making exercise by BRCT?
First and foremost this is about better environmental and community outcomes. BRCT is a registered charity to provide community benefit and BEN is designed to contribute to a more resilient local electricity network. Many people have told us they are frustrated with their current electricity options. They do not have control to work as a community, use local power, reduce their climate impact or save money. BEN offers a fresh approach to help people participate in the energy system, live by our values and democratise power. BRCT is dedicated to developing climate solutions and service. We have managed to do so through BEN by reducing costs to residents while covering some of the service costs.

Is it all owned and run by BRCT?
BEN is run by Blueskin Energy Limited (BEL), owned by BRCT.  BEL is working with P2 Power to develop and deliver the service.  P2 Power is the retail division of emhTrade, a licensed electricity retailer and a member of the Electricity and Gas Complaints Commissioner (EGCC) Scheme. emhTrade’s mission is to create a better power society and is investing in the tools to help make that happen – making the relationship with the like minded BEN a win:win. The existing local electricity network, owned by PowerNet, is used for distribution of electricity, just as it is at present.

Isn’t all our electricity renewable in the South Island anyway?
Great question.  NZ operates a national electricity system that means that more renewables in the South Island or changes of when power is used will still reduce non-renewable North Island generation.
This is also more than just about renewables. It is about supporting local resiliency and the local economy.  And for those with an eye to the household budget, it is about knowing when you can act to use cheaper power.

The Smart Meter data isn’t encrypted is it? What will stop the Government knowing everything about me?
Smart meter data does not go to the government and is covered by strict Privacy rules.

I heard Smart Meters put out radiation. Will I be irradiated?
We are exposed to radiation on a daily basis. You’re only exposed to low levels of radio frequency radiation from a smart meter.

Smart meters:

  • only transmit periodically, using very brief signals.
  • use a relatively low-power transmitter.
  • are normally installed outside the building.

Exposures to radio frequency radiation from a smart meter are very low in comparison to the limits set out in the New Zealand radio frequency exposure standard (even if the meter is installed inside the house).

Smart Meters use electricity to run. How can they save electricity?
A smart meter uses about 1kWh of energy a year - approximately 25 to 30 cents. www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/.../How-electricity-smart-meters-use-cost-run.html The benefit of the smart meter is that the data can help us understand better when we use power, and allow us to be rewarded when we change so we use less polluting or less costly power. Incidentally we save on a bit of petrol as meter readers do not need to drive the streets!

What difference will it really make? Aren’t you overstating the benefits? How will BEN help make a better world?
The financial benefits we quote for individuals is based on our experience with customers to date, and will vary with the level of engagement. In an engaged community like Blueskin, by making it more attractive for residents to install renewables and change behaviour to share electricity we can reduce emissions and make our system more resilient. The reality is that each year globally millions of tonnes of carbon is emitted and many households spend $s unnecessarily in the electricity system, primarily as people all use power at the same time and are not informed on their choices.  We believe that BEN can help people act differently and stimulate a very positive change – and the model can be shared across NZ and beyond.

When can I connect my EV and use it as a mobile battery or use V2G?
You can start changing when you charge your EV right now using you phone app or manually.  The PowerPal app will help with tips. But we will be looking at how we can help automate this for you in the coming months and are very keen to extend this to V2G once the technology is available and affordable.

Can you match my night rate?
We are really keen to work with you to best meet your needs and are sorry we cannot meet your needs fully today. We are planning to update the BEN system with a night rate.  In future, we would like to explore with you opportunities to, for instance, charge your EV at a low cost and climate impact during days when there is a lot of PV to spare. As we get more feedback from the community, we will prioritise updates and we will come back to you in a few weeks to indicate when we expect to offer a night rate.

I’m really interested, but I don’t live in Blueskin Bay. Is this opportunity available to me?
The Blueskin Energy Network powered by P2 actually covers a very large area from near St Bathans in the North to the Chaslands in the South and inland from the Blue Mountains in the West to Shag Point on the North East coast. This is because we operate in the local network area of the OtagoNet Joint Venture. http://www.powernet.co.nz/line-owners/otagonet/ We aim to extend coverage in 2019 so stay in touch if you are outside this area and if you are not sure, just register your interest and we can easily tell you.

I am currently a standard user and want to change to be a low user.  What is the process?
Firstly, make sure to check that you qualify under the local lines company rules (typically use less than 8000 or 9000kWh per annum depending on location, and your property is your principle place of residence, i.e. not a holiday home, temporary housing, non-natural persons, ICP with outbuildings or used for any commercial activity. Then please advise us and we will initiate the change.  For some lines companies these changes may be restricted to once per year.


Once again thank you for your support and insights.