MSL - Flicking the Switch on Electricity

Helping to secure NZ’s supply, now and into the future.

Case Study – MSL - Flicking the Switch on Electricity

The Challenge

New Zealand’s grid is extensive and complicated. Renewable electricity combines with some generated by gas, coal and oil to produce one of the world’s greenest grids. Almost 12,000 km of high-voltage lines transmit that electricity to 39 regional distribution networks, and a maze of overhead wires and underground cables then deliver it to our homes and businesses.

But with private companies, state-owned enterprises, and community trusts all involved in the process, building trust between them is key to securing our electricity supply and matching supply with demand. For consumers, being able to rely on their meter readings helps them to choose a suitable retailer. And looking further ahead, NZ’s energy landscape is likely to diversify further, with a wider roll-out of electric vehicles and a growth in power electronics.

The MSL Solution

MSL has had a leading role in New Zealand’s electricity landscape for more than three decades. We acted as advisers in discussions on electricity reform in the 1990s, and when the market went on to be deregulated, we helped to draft the first set of codes to standardise it. When advanced metering was introduced in the mid-2000s, MSL again worked with electricity providers and the government to update the codes, and keep the market honest.

Since then, we’ve continued to work with the Electricity Authority, and the 18 approved test houses that manage the calibration of all domestic and industrial electricity meters used in NZ. MSL-developed software ensures that meters at larger installations measure current and voltage sufficiently accurately, giving confidence to consumers that they’ll only pay for what they use. Our introductory guide to measurement is widely used by test houses, and we also run regular workshops that support all organisations involved in the buying and selling of electricity.

Our research programme allows us to look beyond today’s measurement challenges, and towards a future powered by electrical vehicles and quantum computing devices. In collaboration with other national measurement institutes, we’re working to redefine the fundamentals of electrical metrology, one electron at a time.

The Impact

In an electricity market based on trading, MSL’s measurement expertise builds trust and confidence between parties, and provides a common language that allows everyone to collaborate fairly. The updated codes ensure that the ‘metrology layer’ of every instrument in the distribution network is secure, ensuring our electricity infrastructure is fit for purpose.

Through our Traceable Electrical Energy Metering Workshop, we offer a key service to the electricity industry, allowing attendees to discuss their specific issues with MSL scientists. We have regular meetings with the Electricity Authority and Transpower to keep them abreast of any issues with electrical measurement, and we act as IANZ assessors for all accredited centres, in particular, for the Class A test houses.


With more than 80 % of our grid powered by renewable sources, NZ is well-placed to reap the environmental benefits of electric vehicles. Investment in charging infrastructure and improvements to battery technology will go some way to encouraging drivers to go electric, but there are still unanswered questions around how best to quantify electric fuel, both ‘at the pump’ and at home charging points. Electrical metrology will be central to establishing related standards, and MSL will lead the NZ charge.