Talent hooks Octopus Energy

The pool of talent in Wellington has lured the UK’s fastest growing energy supplier to set up its New Zealand headquarters here

The UK startup began five years ago and is now one of Europe’s biggest renewable energy investors with a portfolio of about 300 renewable energy projects, across six different countries, enough to power more than 1.2 million homes.

Now Octopus Energy has plans to launch into New Zealand later this year, basing itself in Wellington and enlisting help from veteran electricity innovator Ari Sargent to get the job done.

The managing director, who ran online Kiwi electricity retailer Powershop for almost a decade, says setting up Octopus Energy’s New Zealand headquarters in Wellington was a no-brainer for his English counterparts.

“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.

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 which will make establishing the company in this part of the world much easier.

“Octopus Energy expects to eventually employ about 50 staff in Wellington which is great news for the local economy. It will see employment opportunities for locals as well as attracting talent from further afield to grow Wellington’s workforce.”

Ari says New Zealand itself was chosen as a target market for a number of reasons – English speaking, competitive energy markets, a high proportion of renewable energy generation and shown to be innovative, as in early roll-out of smart meters, and innovation in energy retailing.

When it launches, Octopus Energy NZ will join 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 employ up to 50 people across a number of disciplines, including software engineers, sales and marketing experts and, as Ari says, “the best customer service people we can find”.

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

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

Ari Sargent

“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 to name a few. 

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

In the UK Octopus Energy has almost two million customers, and commitments to supply another almost 15 million in Germany, the United States and Japan.

Here in New Zealand Octopus Energy has three main initiatives – to establish an energy retail business targeting residential customers, to explore opportunities to licence its technology with existing larger energy retailers and 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 Ari.

In the overall 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 also on our ability to export the knowledge and experience of a decade old smart-metered, highly competitive energy market from our Wellington headquarters.”

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