Scientists stay current to make power measurements accurate

Friday 7 April 2023, 9:02AM

By Callaghan Innovation



New technology being tested by Callaghan Innovation scientists has the potential to more accurately ensure New Zealanders are getting the power they are paying for.

In the past week scientists at the Measurements Standards Laboratory (MSL), part of Callaghan’s Lower Hutt campus, have been trying out new equipment supplied by Australia’s National Measurement Institute (NMIA) that can improve the accuracy of electrical power meter calibration across the country.

The new equipment – called a Reference Power Standard – is part of a technology upgrade that will ensure New Zealand’s electricity network power measurements remain in line with international standards.

Callaghan Innovation senior research scientist Tom Stewart says meeting international standards is crucial for consumers to have the confidence that they are being fairly charged when buying energy.

“This gives us new capability that is better, faster and more accurate. It’s a great improvement that also gives us the opportunity to do more research in different areas of power measurement.”

Household power meters are monitored by electricity companies, which ensure they operate in line with Electricity Authority rules. Network connected power meters have their accuracy regularly checked based on a schedule determined by the quantity of power they convey. Approved test houses check the accuracy against their reference standards. 

These in turn will be calibrated against the MSL Reference Power Standard and a report issued. A calibration of a reference happens about once every two years.

NMIA’s head of electrical and time standards Ilya Budovsky who is in New Zealand to help install the new technology – and ensure it measures up - says the new reference power standard offers a world leading combination of accuracy and automation.

“When we began collaborating with New Zealand, the emphasis was not only on providing a fully automated system, but also one that can build on their own capabilities. A lot of maintenance can now be done based on New Zealand’s own research.

“Measuring electrical energy and related quantities is also important for technological reasons. Knowing what happens on the electricity networks is very important to ensure their reliability and safety.”

Mr Stewart says the new technology will ensure they maintain robust reports that can be produced faster.

Dr Budovsky also says it’s important the technology also supports renewable energy and energy efficiency.

“This is clearly the future for the industry. Modern electronic appliances require measuring instrumentation to have a broader frequency range, and only by measuring correctly can you make sure our networks are reliable, safe and efficient.

“This equipment will expand calibration capabilities to include wider frequencies, which is absolutely essential in supporting renewable energy that is technologically intertwined with broadening the spectrum of currents and voltages that circulate through our power networks.”