Lightning Lab Electric is lucky enough to be partnering with some of the most innovative companies in the New Zealand energy sector. Today, we talk to Dr Thahirah Jalal from Unison about why they got on board. Jalal is the Asset Intelligence Manager for Unison, one of the leading electricity distributors in New Zealand. They manage the lines network in Hawke’s Bay, Taupo and Rotorua, catering to over 100,000 customers.

Unison is one of the most progressive lines companies in the country and has received significant recognition for its award-winning Smart Network, which aims to optimise asset utilisation while keeping costs down and maintaining reliability.


In the past six months alone, the Company has been awarded an Engineering Excellence award for its Dynamic Rating system, been recognised as a finalist in the Innovation in Energy category for the 2017 Deloitte Energy Excellence Awards and was also named as a finalist in the Smart Grid category for the IDC Smart City Asia Pacific Awards.

Sponsoring programmes like Lightning Lab Electric also puts the lines company at the forefront of the energy sector.

Like Lightning Lab, Unison’s values are to support, improve and grow the wellbeing of its communities.

Jalal says,  “Our sponsorship of Lightning Lab is about encouraging New Zealand’s innovators to share their ideas and achieve their full potential as well provide solutions to meet the opportunities facing our sector.”

Unison itself is doing a lot of work to optimise their systems by integrating assets with analytics software. In Lightning Lab Electric, we are seeing a trend of using data. While this may seem like it won’t have an effect on consumers,  Jalal says, “If assets can work better, and run for longer before needing replacement, our costs are lower meaning that consumers get lower electricity bills longer-term.”

Thahirah and her team are behind developing the algorithms for Unison’s Smart Network.; This has included putting in place systems to monitor conditions (including ambient and weather conditions – from Unison’s own weather station) to determine the maximum asset capacity and loads to improve efficiency gains.

Thahirah also spoke of her personal interest in the predictive analytics area and developing the “Holy Grail” of analytics to predict asset failure.

So what did the Lightning Lab Electric ventures learn from Thahirah?

From the programme, Marion noted that Unison are challenging the tendency within corporates who silo information, to open out their data in a company-wide, accessible solution which can inform decisions across the board, including out in the field. Brett commented that there is seemingly a lot of untapped value from the data lines companies collect.

From the ventures, Jamie, from emhTrade, took away the learning that, despite being regulated, some Electricity Distribution Businesses (EDBs) such as Unison can be really innovative and are exploring how they can get more out of their existing assets using data and analysis.

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