New partnership launched in South Auckland to drive sustainable energy solutions
Following on from the Ara Ake New Zealand Decarbonisation Challenge pitch event in November 2022, another pilot has emerged in collaboration between Counties Energy, OpenLoop, Europe-based Plexigrid, and Ara Ake.
The aim of the project is to demonstrate an end-to-end proof of concept for active capacity management, with the aim of accelerating Counties Energy’s customer-centric transition to a distributed system operator (DSO) strategy.
This will ultimately support customer investment in distributed energy resources, such as electric vehicles and solar panels and enable their participation in active network orchestration services.
“We’re thrilled to witness the implementation of this pilot. This partnership will actively contribute to the advancement of low-emissions energy solutions and enhance the affordability and sustainability of energy resources in Aotearoa,” says Ara Ake chief executive, Dr. Cristiano Marantes.
By leveraging their collective expertise and technologies, Counties Energy and Plexigrid aim to promote sustainable energy practices, drive the adoption of innovative renewable technologies, and empower customers to decarbonise their energy behaviours.
Counties Energy Group Chief Strategy and Transformation Officer Moonis Vegdani says the collaboration is one of the key projects for the distributor as they prepare to transition into a DSO, balancing their role managing core network whilst developing network orchestration capabilities.
“Our partnership with Plexigrid and Ara Ake presents an opportunity to further accelerate the development of some of our key DSO capabilities. The pilot will allow us to develop smarter energy orchestration through active grid monitoring and analytics, interfaces with distributed energy resource aggregators and capacity allocation using new innovative methods such as dynamic operating envelopes. It enables us to start small, be nimble and learn iteratively, scale fast and be right-sized.”
“Our electric vehicle charging ecosystem OpenLoop is a core part of this collaboration as the DER aggregator, consolidating access to multiple EV chargers through a customer facing agency. As a company it will allow us to focus on developing capabilities that unlock flexibility services from aggregators, optimising our future network investments and do what’s right by our customers and the environment.”
The project will play a pivotal role in addressing key challenges related to voltage constraints, network capacity, and future grid planning and investment decisions.
Through the adoption of Plexigrid’s innovative Ari, Tatari, and Tia products, Counties Energy aims to gain clear insight into the current and future low voltage network capacity to support electric vehicles, improve visibility for grid operators and network planning, and evaluate active network management using flexibility on low voltage for peak shaving and power quality control.
Additionally, the pilot will assess the potential of flexibility services as a viable alternative tool to network investments in certain cases.
To ensure maximum value and utilisation of the existing infrastructure within the business, the pilot will leverage the capabilities of the current smart meters, which provide unique visibility of the low voltage grid. Additionally, the pilot will leverage the quality assured network model and the in-house aggregator services provided by Counties Energy’s OpenLoop technology.
“Plexigrid’s vision is to enable affordable and sustainable energy for everyone. We believe it requires a transformation of how distribution networks are operated. Collaborating with innovation leaders across geographies is key to share learnings and accelerate this transition. Therefore, we are excited to work with Counties Energy and Ara Ake to trial our technology in the New Zealand context,” says Plexigrid co-founder and CEO, Alberto Mendez Rebollo.
The pilot project is now underway, beginning with initial data collection, and will be followed by field trials integrating the network analytics platform with distributed energy resources through aggregator services. It is expected to be completed by May 2024.
Ara Ake is Aotearoa New Zealand’s future energy centre. New Zealand Government-sponsored, it is focused on accelerating the nation’s transition to a low-emissions energy future. Ara Ake is the national hub of new energy knowledge and development, connecting and collaborating with many different parts of the energy ecosystem to enable energy solutions to become commercially viable.
Counties Energy is a multi-market energy services company in New Zealand. Its core business is in providing electricity distribution network services in the southern Auckland and northern Waikato regions. Counties Energy has a portfolio of investments in innovative energy solutions that contribute towards Aotearoa New Zealand’s decarbonisation goals. Counties Energy has developed an end-to-end e-mobility software platform and related mobile app – OpenLoop. www.countiesenergy.co.nz www.openloop.co.nz
Plexigrid is a technology provider that develops a real time digital twin optimizing planning and operation of electricity distribution networks. Plexigrid’s solutions increase the utilization rate of the network and free up capacity by using flexibility from distributed energy resources to integrate more renewable energy, charging infrastructure, heat pumps and energy storage. The company is based in Gijón, Spain and Stockholm, Sweden.