Knowledge Hub
New partnership launched 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

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

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.


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.

  • Why was my credit card charged $50 at the start of a charging session?

    With pay-as-you-go, we will put a hold on your credit card of $50 at the start of any charging session. If your charging session cost $30, we release the difference of $20 at the end of your session.

    During this time, your bank account may show that there is a $50 pending transaction. When your bank processes the release of the funds back to your bank account, you will see a finalised transaction in your account for $30. Typically, this process can take from 1-3 business days, but up to 10 days, depending on your bank.

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    Openloop has a pay-as-you go payment system which allows our customers to charge their EVs using a saved credit card on their account without needing a minimum balance on their app.

  • How do I save my credit card details on my Openloop account?

    When you are in the mobile app, go to “Account” using the bottom nav bar, press “payment” and add your credit card to save it there.

  • What happens if I still have some money on my top up balance?

    Existing balances will be utilised first before credit card charges are applied. For example, if a customer currently has $5 on their account balance and their charging session cost $15, then their credit card will be charged the $10 difference and their account balance will be reduced to $0.

    Alternatively, if your top up balance more than covers the cost of your total charge, this will be used first and your credit card charged only in future transactions.

  • How do I get the Pay-as-you-go payment function on my Openloop app?

    To access Pay-as-you-go for public chargers on the OpenLoop charging network, please update your mobile app by visiting the Apple App Store or Google Play Store.

  • Is there any change to the EV charging process for free or paid chargers?

    No, there is no change to the existing steps that you take to start a charging session. The only change is that you no longer have to top-up.

  • What is a “free” EV charging station?

    On the mobile app, you may come across EV Chargers that have a tariff listed as “FREE” these EV Chargers are free to use.

  • Why does the app look different?

    We have updated our logo and visual identity to better reflect what OpenLoop represents – a forward thinking and innovative technology company. The new look app also reflects customer feedback to improve the experience of using our mobile app.