Friday 26 January 2024

Demand bringing forth supply

Marlborough's lines company saw an opportunity to sell more electricity.

The EV hub – believed to be the largest currently operating nationwide – was installed by the distributor after the 658-square-metre parcel of industrial land came up for sale last March. 

Chief executive Tim Cosgrove last month told Energy News the narrow strip of land had been leased to Marlborough District Council for car parking and was of "little use for anything else”. When it came up for sale, the distributor saw it was ideal for EV charging.

“It’s located right in town, right off State Highway 1, next to a supermarket, a cafĂ©, The Warehouse, an easy walk into town,” he says.   

“We get a lot of vehicles coming through with people coming on and off the ferries, going to Nelson, and those sorts of things.”

“It’s come together really well.”

The Park Terrace EV Charge Hub has three 150-kilowatt chargers with two sockets each, capable of charging six EVs simultaneously. Cosgrove says Tesla was invited to install its three 300 kW units “right alongside”.

Customers pay through their ChargeNet phone app, RFID fob or card.

Some holiday parks might find it worthwhile to pay for upgraded power supply and put in charging stations. 

Meanwhile, others are coming up with innovative supply strategies - but do read the whole piece for fun council consenting issues, including whether the charge station counts as a 'service station'. 

Saegers is now finalising the business model and working out the technology required.

A key point is not all 78 cars will be “charging at 250 kilowatts” at once, he notes.

“That’s never going to happen – it's totally impractical and we wouldn’t put that infrastructure in for that to happen.

“You might have four or five simultaneous fast charging activities.”

ROA will offer a flexible pricing structure – “similar to the way that the wholesale energy market works” with pricing depending on supply and demand.

Short stays using fast charging would pay more, while people parking there while they work could receive cheaper or even free power when there is abundant production.

“If that facility existed now, I might plug my car in, but I don’t necessarily want to pay for a charge. But if there's any spare power, I’ll take it," he says.

“It’s about creating flexibility. There’s no need to charge a car and potentially crash the grid, when you don’t need it fully charged, and it might be sitting out there for four hours.”

Thursday 25 January 2024

Afternoon roundup

Sure doesn't take long for the tabs to pile up after summer break.

Some worthies:

Summer dispatch

We had a summer winter holiday. 

Kids out of school for summer holidays, we headed properly North (and East) for the first time since maybe 2016. A few weeks with my family now on Vancouver Island; a few weeks with Susan's in Pittsburgh.

Minor highlights and travel notes:
  • Cannabis shops are ubiquitous on Vancouver Island. They don't seem to cause any problem. They do seem to affect the ads I get served on Twitter.
    • There are, however, an awful lot of vagrants around, who seem to be affected by substances that aren't cannabis. 
  • Huge amount of mixed-used building going on around Parksville and Qualicum. Fourplexes. 3-6 story condos with retail below. Concerns about whether water infrastructure was up to the increased development, but didn't meet anyone who knew how that was funded or financed.
  • There are a lot of bald eagles on Vancouver Island. They sound nothing like the eagles one hears on television.
  • We hit a Costco and normal grocery shopping. Overs and unders on pricing relative to New Zealand, no clear advantage all-up. Beef particularly expensive on the Island relative to other meat, as compared to the price of beef vs other meats in NZ. Prices there for cheap cuts were higher than what we pay in NZ for good cuts. 
  • Getting the 15 year old a dose of the updated Pfizer shot was quick and easy at pharmacy. Canadian rules precluded the 13 year old (she had Covid in late October). Sue and I were boosted in early October so figured we'd wait until the Pittsburgh leg of the trip to get our new-version boosters. 
  • Cannabis shops are also ubiquitous in Pittsburgh, where they're dispensaries for medical cannabis. They also seem to affect the ads I get served on Twitter. There were also a fair few people around who seemed affected by 
  • We hit a Costco, Aldi, Whole Foods, Ikea, pile of other spots. Again, overs and unders on pricing, hard to see systematic advantages. Beef again very expensive. $10 USD/lb for low-end cuts was common. $10 USD / lb = $35 / kg NZD, and remember that I haven't added GST. On getting home I bought scotch fillet for $29.90 / kg at New World, including GST. A need a new blazer; decent ones there were running $250 - $400 USD. We responded to relative prices. Did relatively little shopping while there. Was told that one reason for high US beef prices is changes to BLM lease access to grazing land but that is hardly satisfactory: why aren't more good NZ cuts being exported to get to global law of one price? A good roast there is crazy expensive. Like "We'll do this for Christmas but only for Christmas for special" expensive. Chicken/pork/eggs cheaper for low-end stuff, but a lot of that would be from farming reg differences like cage-free eggs, pig crates and the like. 
  • The rest of us got our vaccine re-ups while there. You can get Covid vax at Target. Target has an in-house pharmacy. You just walk up. They get a bit confused by people who just want to pay cash; they're used to dealing with a lot of insurance forms. But pay your $190 and they'll give you the jab. In NZ, we'd have had to have convinced our GP that we had a special medical reason. Daughter had had the low-dose shot when they first came out, as under-12 and it was impossible to get a booster. In the US, we could just get the shots. New Zealand policy is really abysmal on this one. Medsafe Delenda Est, and same for the vaccine recommendations outfit that makes it impossible for GPs to enable access. 
  • Mask use as low there as it is here, but lots of Covid around. 
  • 2 Degrees charges $8/day for international roaming. I wanted that so I could be available on my NZ number. Downside: your IP address still shows up as being in NZ, so you can't do a pile of normal stuff like order takeaway food at restaurants, download apps for McDonalds - anything where they figure you're in NZ because of your IP address.
  • Work from home has been way stickier in the US. Most friends we caught up with were regularly working from home. They also had a way worse Covid schooling experience, with learning from home for a couple years rather than the short bursts we had in NZ. 

Wednesday 24 January 2024

Water metering - a small piece of silver buckshot

Chris Parker at Treasury sometimes quips that there are no silver bullets for solving housing in NZ, only pieces of silver buckshot. Basically you've got to do a lot of things to solve the problem; any one of them on their own won't do it. 

I was on RNZ's The Panel yesterday afternoon (here, from around the 11 minute mark) talking volumetric charging for water and water metering. It's come up as a solution for Wellington's increasingly obvious water problems

It's good. But it's only a small piece of silver buckshot. The other bits of shot are more important. 

Currently, Wellington Water manages pipes it doesn't own on what bits of funding it can beg from the councils that own the pipes and set the levies for water. It also currently seems to be terribly managed, with atrocious-sounding costs for repairs. Councils have to give them more money to fix the pipes, but need to be able to trust that it won't just be eaten up by having (purely hypothetically) engineers spend days of paperwork on minor repairs. 

If you added water levies into the mix, it'd be good, but it wouldn't solve the main problem. I love volumetric charging. But if the water agency has limited capacity, and the same kinds of folks fix pipes as put meters onto pipes, I'm not convinced it's the first thing that should be done. 

One great feature of water metering is identifying leaks. Wellington Water cannot keep up with very obvious known leaks. The leak on Tinakore Road that I'd walk by every morning I walked to work for months before Christmas was still there when I got back from Christmas break. Eyeballing it, the volume would be comparable to what might come out of a couple of garden hoses put together, fully open, 24/7. That leak hasn't been big enough to hit their priority list. 

Do you want the next Wellington Water employee fixing leaks like that, or installing meters? How many meters would you have to install before households would reduce water use by an amount comparable to what's flowing out of that one leak? 

The first-order problem is still that the water company doesn't own the pipes or decide on its own charges, subject to ComCom oversight on charging, with ability to back independent debt with water system revenues.