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Last night, New Zealand’s future energy centre, Ara Ake, announced the winners of its Decarbonisation Challenge at its final pitch event in New Plymouth.

Taking the prize from a shortlist of six impressive finalists were New Zealand-based ANSA, and Australian-based companies Future Grid and Gridsight.

“This outstanding event was a first of its kind, and it was an opportunity to celebrate global collaboration in energy innovation,” says Ara Ake Chief Executive, Dr Cristiano Marantes.

“The winners were contending against some other brilliant energy innovations. Ultimately, the EDBs chose ANSA, Future Grid, and Gridsight to partner with,” says Dr Marantes.

The evening had a strong turnout, with almost 100 guests from across the energy sector. Finalists pitched their energy solutions to a panel of judges from the participating electricity distribution businesses (EDBs), including Aurora Energy, Counties Energy, Orion NZ, Powerco, The Lines Company, Unison Networks, Waipa Networks, and Wellington Electricity.

“The Decarbonisation Challenge is all about meaningful collaboration to solve energy-related challenges, as defined by our participating EDBs, and we’ve been really impressed by the strong international interest,” says Dr Marantes.

Minister for Energy and Resources, Dr Megan Woods, was impressed by the finalist pitches.

“There was no shortage of great energy solutions being pitched, and as expected, it was a tough decision for the judges to make. We look forward to seeing where the innovators take their technologies from here whilst collaborating with the EDBs towards the pilot,” says Dr Woods.

In September, Ara Ake, alongside US-based partner Elemental Excelerator, put out a call to energy innovators to present pilot-ready technologies that could assist EDBs with their decarbonisation challenges.

“We received nearly 40 entries from around the world. Five of the six finalists were from offshore. It’s really promising to see such strong international interest looking toward New Zealand.

“Ara Ake is committed to accelerating Aotearoa New Zealand’s transition to a low emissions energy future and this Challenge put that commitment front and centre,” says Dr Marantes.

The winning innovators will receive a combined of up to USD$250,000 in funding to pilot its technology with New Zealand’s participating EDBs, with the goal of scaling and commercialising it in Aotearoa New Zealand.

"We are grateful to be selected as a winner of the Ara Ake Decarbonisation Challenge and are excited to soon commence pilots with Orion and Waipa Networks to safely and reliably manage electrification and DER adoption across their low voltage networks," says Gridsight Co-Founder and CEO, Dr Brendan Banfield.

"It is very rare for innovation challenges to result in immediate outcomes, so we'd like to thank Ara Ake for organising such a high calibre and high impact event," says Dr Banfield.

It was through leveraging US-based Elemental Excelerator’s global network, Ara Ake was able to attract energy innovators from around the world.

“We applaud Ara Ake for using its platform to drive change in decarbonisation. The team has shown us they are here to invest in a better future, and driving to be part of global collaboration to create one,” Elemental Excelerator Head of Corporate Partnerships Saritha Peruri said.

“The New Zealand Decarbonisation Challenge is vital to jumpstart technology transfer, efficiently deploy critical solutions in the communities that need them the most and accelerate the pace at which change happens in New Zealand and beyond,” says Ms Peruri.

The work on the pilots is scheduled to commence in 2023.

About the winners

ANSA – New Zealand

ANSA, based in Canterbury, New Zealand, ANSA provides modelling and insights for the network connection of electric vehicles, solar power, and other low carbon technologies. It allows electricity distributors to understand the electrical models and data quality of LV networks by interpreting GIS data into topology and conductor/transformer parameters. Using this, models network PV and EV charger hosting capacity, including where and when congestion may occur, and advice on maximising network capacity, such that network capacity may be fully utilised. Provides tabular output, graphical output, congestion maps for every LV network, and heatmaps showing hosting capacity across an entire electricity distributor’s network.

ANSA was founded by Allan Miller and Scott Lemon to meet the growing demand of companies for useful, accurate information about network integration of solar PV and electric vehicles.



Future Grid – Australia

Australian-based company Future Grid provides power quality software to help enable the renewable energy transition. The reliability and stability of distribution networks are increasingly under threat due to the uptake of distributed energy resources such as electric vehicles and rooftop solar.

Specifically, the low-voltage (LV) part of the distribution network is being impacted and is traditionally unmonitored and invisible to electricity distributors in New Zealand. Therefore, electricity distributors require visibility of the low voltage network to manage the energy transition while minimising investment costs and minimising the impacts of energy equality as a result of this investment.

Future Grid's solution is its Compass™ software, using data from smart meters, IoT and increasing DER inverters to create real-time power quality visibility to understand the behaviour and impacts of DER on the low-voltage (LV) distribution grid. 

Using the outcomes generated from Compass™, electricity distributors can then take action to improve power quality on their network either automatically or manually, for example, through tapping down a transformer or fending a field crew to fix a network fault.



Gridsight Pty Ltd – Australia

Gridsight is passionate about decarbonisation through widespread electrification and recognises distribution utilities as key enablers of this change. Gridsight was founded to empower these organisations with the data analytics capabilities they need to navigate the unprecedented load, volatility, and distributed generation on their networks. Our software platform enables network engineers to gain visibility of their LV networks, make targeted investments, and harness distributed flexibility.



About the other finalists

Plexigrid – Spain

This Spanish company specialises in network and energy management systems. Technologies such as electric vehicles, solar panels, batteries, and heat pumps are increasing their penetration in electricity grids. All of this is occurring on low voltage grids, which traditionally have not been the focus area of distribution system operators (DSOs). This is creating problems that require DSOs to transform from being a mere one-way distributor of electricity to becoming a real-time manager of the energy being produced, consumed, and managed within their networks.

Plexigrid’s solution provides DSOs with the same powers that transmission system operators (TSOs) have:

Full visibility of what is happening in the network, integrating all information from all sensors, inventories and GIS.

Complete analysis and understanding of what is happening in the networks, improving both operations and planning thanks to a powerful digital twin.

Manage existing network flexibility to solve network problems with software instead of hardware.



Redback Technologies – Australia

This Australian business provides low-Voltage real-time monitoring and analytics solutions. The Luceo LV-Monitoring and Analytics solution is made up of low-cost 4G monitoring devices and an analytics platform that can help electricity distributors to assess the capacity constraints on their networks. Its solution involves installing low voltage monitoring equipment at several locations along each feeder and providing data in real-time back to a cloud-hosted software platform. The platform analytics then allow assessment of feeder health and hosting capacity, and can predict which feeders will run into voltage constraints.



Shifted Energy – USA     

Based in Honolulu, Hawaii, Shifted Energy specialises in distributed energy resources (DER) aggregation and optimisation software. Their mission is to develop world-class software and controllers to convert electric water heaters into valuable demand response assets, empowering electricity users and enabling utilities to stabilise their grids while accelerating the integration of renewable energy.

Increasing renewable energy penetration and electrification have created supply- and demand-side volatility. Shifted Energy solves these challenges through a distributed energy aggregation software platform, asset specific control strategies, and smart controls. They enable grid edge assets to provide a range of grid services, helping utilities to reduce costs and address load constraints at a local level. This enables customers to save money, and both utilities and retailers can build stronger relationships with their customers.

Shifted Energy’s technology solution comes in the form of their cloud-based software platform Grid Maestro®, which converts any water heater, pool pump, EV charger, or other behind-the-meter device with a controller or API integration into an intelligent, grid interactive asset capable of providing demand response, energy storage, and ancillary services to utilities. Their machine learning algorithms create device-specific consumption models that allow for accurate consumption forecasts and available load shift capability without inconvenience to consumers.