Smart meters, heat pumps and “demand response functionality”

Smart meters, heat pumps and “demand response functionality”

An earlier post on this website (since corrected) erroneously stated that having a smart meter could mean that householders could have their heat pump turned off remotely by their electricity company.  (In actual fact, some smart meters may be able to turn down heat pumps down to their lowest setting, but they should not be able to turn them off  altogether… please read on for more details and to learn whether you may be affected if you have a heat pump that may be able to be controlled via a smart meter.)

My initial error (in stating that a smart meter with a ZigBee chip* could potentially be used to remotely turn off a heat pump) was kindly pointed out to me by Graeme Purches from Trustpower.  In an email he wrote:

“There are probably less than 20 meters in NZ that are equipped for this [turning off  heat pumps and other devices remotely], and they are installed as part of field trials to test their capabilities.”

He added:

“At the end of the day, the direction the industry is headed is that people will in the future be able to determine at which price point they want their appliances to start and stop. The control will be in the hands of the consumer, unlike controlled hot water, which is a network load issue and can legitimately be controlled in return for lower price because those using the option have hot water storage. You can’t  ‘store’ the heat from a heat pump so the industry would never want to control those.”

I decided to investigate the issue of how smart meters may be used to remotely control heat pumps (without the householder’s consent) in more detail.

My initial (and as it turned out, incorrect) information about heat pumps having mandatory “demand response functionality”  came from the website of the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment.

In following up on this issue, I first tried to access the current  standard for heat pumps and found that while there was one in existence, I could not access it unless I either went to the central library in Auckland (not very practical) or paid a couple of  hundred dollars (not feasible either).

I therefore sought the advice of the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Agency (EECA). 

A helpful staff member wrote an email that explained the following:

1)  That having “demand response functionality” is not currently mandatory in NZ.

2)  That some of the heat pumps on the NZ market do have “demand response functionality”.  This “demand response functionality” cannot be used to turn the heat pump off altogether but it can be used to turn the heat pump down to its lowest setting.

3)  That manufacturers can choose to show that their heat pump has demand response functionality on the label on their heat pump.  You can click on the image to make it larger.  The tick mark which is circled in red indicates that the appliance has “demand response functionality”.

Photo of labelling showing demand response functionality

Presumably heat pumps that have “demand response functionality” will contain a ZigBee and/or some other radiofrequency radiation (RFR) producing device to allow the appliance to communicate with a smart meter.   I have no idea whether appliances which have “demand response functionality” will be producing RFR all the time or intermittently or whether the default setting for the appliance will have the “demand response functionality” switched off.

However, if you do not want extra RFR in your environment and/or you do not want to risk your electricity company being able to control your heat pump via a smart meter in your home,  it would seem prudent to avoid buying items with “demand response functionality” indicated by the label.

Please note that I do not know whether it is mandatory for manufactures that make appliances that have “demand response functionality” to declare this capability on the label.  For this reason it would be prudent to ask the retailer whether any appliance you would like to buy has any “demand response functionality”, regardless of the label.  If you already have a heat pump and it not longer has its label, please see the info at the bottom of this post.

Conclusion

So there you have it.  It does appear that some smart meters in NZ (those than contain ZigBee chips*) may have the capacity to remotely control some heat pumps, although this feature may not yet be active.  It also appears that there are heat pumps on the NZ market which have “demand response functionality” which could allow them to be controlled via a smart meter.

 

*In NZ,  smart meters that contain ZigBee chips include:

WEL Networks Ltd “smart box” (actually a Landis+Gyr smart meter) and the Landis+Gyr smart meters being installed by Network Tasman Ltd  and Counties Power in South Auckland/Franklin.  These contain a “silver spring” brand “network interface card” which includes a  modem and a ZigBee.  The default mode for the ZigBee on the “silver spring” brand “network interface card” has been stated to be inactive, so these ZigBee chips, may not yet be functional.  (Presumably they could be activated remotely by a power or lines company should the company with an active link to the smart meter modem decide to do this.)

It is possible other smart meters contain ZigBee chips; some EDMI smart meters which are very common in NZ have the potential to include a ZigBee chip. 

If  you are in any doubt about whether the smart meter at your home has a ZigBee chip,  your electricity retailer should be able to tell y0u.

 

If your heat pump no longer has its label you can find out about its “demand response functionality” through the following procedure:

 

1)  Go to this link: 

http://www.energyrating.gov.au/for-industry/regulation-information-for-industry/meps/

 2) Scroll down the link above until you come to this text:

Next steps for households and businesses

3) Click on the word “Compare energy ratings”…as above and you will get to this link:

http://reg.energyrating.gov.au/comparator/product_types/

 

4) At the link above you will see a list…pick “Air Conditioners” by clicking on this link Air Conditioners – AS/NZS 3823.2 and you will get through to this link:

http://reg.energyrating.gov.au/comparator/product_types/64/search/

 

At the link above you will see a row of black buttons…one is Download CSV. 

Click on this and you will get an Excel file. Open the file.

The field that indicates whether a heat pump has “demand response functionality” is labelled “BE” at the top of the column. The word “TRUE” in the “BE” column indicates the heat pump has “demand response functionality”.  The word “FALSE” in the “BE” column indicates that a heat pump does not have “demand response functionality” .