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Counties Energy and Transpower collaborate on TSO-DSO pilot project

Counties Energy and Transpower have today announced they have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to work together on a pilot project to create and share visibility of consumer energy resources (CERs) such as residential EV chargers and solar, and to co-ordinate the use of network flexibility from them.

The six-month project, the first of its kind in New Zealand, will see the electricity distribution and transmission system operators working hand-in-hand to develop visibility of the entire system, from the low voltage electricity network to the transmission grid level.

The project will investigate and pilot technology and processes to support information exchange and coordination of flexibility use between Counties Energy’s Distribution System Operator (DSO) capabilities and Transpower, the Transmission System Operator (TSO).

Counties Energy Group Chief Strategy and Transformation Officer, Moonis Vegdani says the collaboration between Counties Energy and Transpower is a key project that highlights the changing dynamic of the energy sector as participants prepare to transition into a DSO.

“This is an innovative and exciting project for the energy sector, and ultimately for Kiwi power consumers. Collaborating with Transpower on this project will help unlock a whole-of-systems approach between the transmission and distribution operators, fostering collaboration and synergy when using flexible resources,” he says.

“It is about balancing New Zealand’s increasing demand for energy while developing network orchestration capabilities and a balanced and more efficient, more sustainable approach to infrastructure investment. To develop this project, we have taken learnings from similar projects overseas and will test these in a New Zealand environment.”

The project aims to unlock ‘grid edge flexibility’, demonstrating an end-to-end proof of concept for active flexibility coordination and orchestration of CERs between a TSO and DSO. Taking learnings from international practices, the pilot will look to demonstrate how the TSO and DSO processes can increase visibility of the available flexibility, the coordinated use of flexibility between the TSO and DSO, and coordination between key participants such as distributed energy resource (DER) aggregators.

“For distribution and transmission system operators, the growing number of consumer energy resources presents an opportunity to develop flexibility into these resources to increase efficiencies within the energy system. This flexibility can build resilience and reliability at a transmission level, as well as local distribution level. As more CERs become operational and start unlocking the flexibility opportunity to both transmission and distribution systems, that need for coordination will only increase,” says Vegdani.

The project will utilise Counties Energy’s emerging DSO capabilities, the Counties Energy-owned OpenLoop EV charging platform, and smart metering data live to within five minutes of present usage. These capabilities will see the utilisation of dynamic operating envelopes (DOEs) communicating with EV chargers connected to the OpenLoop network. The bi-directional information exchange with Transpower’s FlexPoint™ will enable the participants to adjust CERs based on real-time conditions within the energy system.

The pilot will allow customers to offer flexibility from their CERs directly to Transpower as the TSO – unlocking shared value for customers and more choice. It aims to demonstrate how the coordinated use of flexibility can enhance accurate load forecasting, network capacity, future grid planning, investment decisions, optimal use of generation during the peak periods, and ultimately better outcomes for the end consumers.

Transpower Executive General Manager Strategy, Regulation and Governance David Knight says that Transpower sees the potential for innovation in flexibility resources to deliver significant benefits for the power system both now and in the future.

“In our paper Whakamana i Te Mauri Hiko, one of our projections forecast that distributed energy resources in New Zealand could number nearly four million by 2035, with the likes of smart appliances and EV charging making up a large portion of that number.

“This pilot is an opportunity to further our understanding of how flexible resources can be coordinated at the national and local level from a technical perspective, and how this is enabled by visibility of what flexible resources are available at any given time.

“As well as helping meet demand for electricity at times of tight generation supply, flexibility resources can slow or reduce the growth in peak loads. This can defer the need for costly investment across the electricity supply chain which impacts consumers in their power bills,”  says Knight.

The project forms part of the company’s significant work in the DSO space. Counties Energy announced in February 2024 the completion of a major DSO milestone on a project collaborating with OpenLoop, Europe-based Plexigrid and Ara Ake.   The programme’s next milestone will go further to use the intelligent DSO platform in an in-field pilot later this year, the core of which is based on learnings from South Australia Power Networks and their implementation of Dynamic Operating Envelopes (DOEs) using the IEEE 2030.5 protocol.

For more information on the transition to a DSO –  watch the video

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