The importance of innovation

We’re continuously improving what we do to get better outcomes for the customers we serve.  

Leveraging new and emerging technology is part of that mahi. 

The Commerce Commission’s Innovation Project Allowance supports lines companies like ours to trial new technology on our electricity network which would lower costs or improve the quality of supply for our customers – two really good reasons to try new things! 

In FY24 we conducted a number of technology trials, and we’re particularly proud of these three. They included looking at ways to use AI, leveraging existing tech for other uses, and trying to detect damage to lines that can’t be seen with the naked eye. 

We’ll be sharing our results with other lines companies so everyone can benefit from these trials. 

Our application to the Commerce Commission to drawdown some of Powerco’s Innovation Project Allowance provides more information on these three projects and our compliance with the Allowance criteria. 

You can read our Innovation Project Allowance application here


Leveraging satellites and AI to optimise vegetation management

Many widespread outages during storms are caused by trees or branches blowing into lines.  

That’s why being able to capture field information, identify immediate risks, and generate long-term plans on a network wide scale is becoming increasingly important for our vegetation management team. 

Using imagery from satellites, we’ve been exploring how to best leverage technology, AI and machine learning to create cost-effective risk plans that address immediate needs and use growth rates and fault trends to identify where our vegetation risk lies into the future. 

We’re currently concluding the data capture and analysis sections of this trial.  

Phase two will see us adopt the optimal plans for the feeders (main high-voltage lines that supply large numbers of customers) used in the trial, and then we’ll be able to measure and track whether this has a positive improvement on outage-rates on those sections of our network. 


Using low-voltage monitoring tech to detect live lines down

We’re working towards achieving greater visibility of demand on our low-voltage network, rolling out Eneida and ElectroNet monitoring equipment in targeted areas to provide real-time performance data to our Network Operations team (NOC).

In itself, having that technology in place is industry-leading. But it also prompted us to wonder whether they could also be used to detect if high-voltage lines were still energised from downstream transformers in a lines down situation.  

That sparked a collaboration with Eneida and ElectroNet to put the monitors through their paces when we conducted live lines down testing at our Ōakura Substation. Both monitors successfully detected the lines were still live 100% of the time across multiple tests. 

While the risk of lines coming down is low, we’re currently identifying areas on our network where having these monitors in place would be beneficial.  

More about our live lines down testing is here

The scenario

Diagram of a live lines down scenario

If a line comes down on the supply side, the circuit breaker fuse trips and de-energises the line. However, a downed line supplied by a downstream transformer can stay live (at ~4-6kV) but the current flow is low (~1-2 amps) and won’t trip the line. We wanted to find out whether LV monitoring equipment could detect the current.  


Aeolian vibration monitoring

We’re conducting a 12-month trial of 10 Sentrisense monitors to detect aeolian vibrations on our lines. 

Aeolian vibrations occur in certain conditions when low-velocity wind flows over lines at a 90-degree angle, causing the lines to vibrate. This type of vibration can damage the lines from the inside out which could cause failure at the bonding point (potentially causing lines to fall). 

If we can detect where this is happening on our network we can install vibration dampers in the appropriate areas.

More about our aeolian vibration monitoring is here