Portrait of Ari Sargent from Octopus Energy working on a laptop.

Ari Sargent, Electricity innovator.

The UK start-up began in 2016 and is now one of Europe’s biggest renewable energy investors. It has a portfolio of about 300 renewable energy projects, across nine different countries, enough to power more than 1.2 million homes.

It was a global search for the most innovative minds in energy that led Octopus to New Zealand and it has set down roots in Wellington. The company enlisted help from veteran electricity innovator Ari Sargent. The former managing director of Kiwi electricity retailer Powershop is now the director for APAC Markets in Singapore. He oversees retail operations and develops and manages businesses and partnerships in the APAC region. These help leverage Octopus technology and expertise from energy markets across the globe.

Setting up Octopus Energy’s New Zealand headquarters in Wellington was a no-brainer for his London-based counterparts, he says. “It was all decided during Covid. No one from Octopus Energy came out here, it was more a case of the talent they needed was in Wellington so it became a no-brainer,” says Ari.

“Wellington was selected as headquarters primarily because of the people. We have a good supply of people knowledgeable in energy here, and a thriving tech community.

“Equally importantly there’s a plentiful supply of people whose values align with that of Octopus Energy. Namely wanting to do the right thing for the planet [decarbonising energy] through the use of smart technologies.

“We’re also a very inclusive organisation and this sits well with the diverse population in Wellington,” Ari explains.

Unable to render element

WellingtonNZ Regional Development Destination and Attraction general manager David Perks says the decision by Octopus Energy to base themselves in Wellington speaks volumes about the city. “There is an abundance of talent already in Wellington that feeds a can-do attitude which maximises success. Octopus Energy recognised they could tap into this well of expertise."

Ari says New Zealand itself was a target market for many reasons. Including being an English-speaking, competitive energy market. There’s also a high proportion of renewable energy generation and we’ve shown to be innovative with the early roll-out of smart metres.

Octopus Energy NZ joins 30 companies already offering electricity here. But Ari says there’s always space for another player to shake up the industry. “Most energy consumers want to save money and save the planet, but the complexity of the energy industry makes this difficult. Our job is to make it easy.”

Over the next few years, Octopus Energy NZ expects to hire up to 50 people across many disciplines. Including software engineers, sales and marketing experts and, as Ari says, “the best customer service people we can find”.

Some staff in Wellington will also be working on the migration of Origin Energy’s customers to Octopus’ Kraken technology in Australia.

“Octopus has an unbridled enthusiasm for global expansion and for accelerating the energy transition,” says Ari.

“The exciting thing about bringing Octopus to the New Zealand market is that we become part of a global family. And have access to a number of tools in their toolkit,” he says.

“In addition to direct energy retailing, Octopus has invested in an EV business, a grid-scale distributed energy resource platform, and hydrogen.”

“Wellington was selected as headquarters primarily because of the people. We have a good supply of people knowledgeable in energy here, and a thriving tech community.”

Ari Sargent

The company has embarked on massive international expansion in the past few years. With major licensing deals for its technology signed in the UK, Australia, and Japan.

In the UK Octopus Energy has almost 2 million customers, and commitments to supply another 15 million in Germany, the United States, and Japan. Here in New Zealand Octopus Energy has three main initiatives:

  1. To establish an energy retail business targeting residential customers.
  2. To explore opportunities to license its technology with existing larger energy retailers.
  3. To provide retail operations support to the UK energy business.

“Our access to a global network with a commitment to using smart technology to accelerate the decarbonisation of energy in a way that is affordable to consumers is what sets us apart from other energy retailers,” says Air.

In the scheme of Octopus’s global business, he says the New Zealand business is tiny. “Our success here will not only be judged on our financial performance. But on our ability to export the knowledge and experience of a decade-old smart-metred, competitive energy market from our Wellington headquarters.”