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Banpu is part of one of Asia’s largest energy companies. Banpu strives to be an international, versatile energy provider through strategic businesses in ten countries across the globe.

Banpu intends to increase its global renewable energy business from its current 657MW to 1600 MW by 2025 and Banpu Energy Australia, launched in 2020, is a significant part of that intent.

In its inaugural year, Banpu Energy Australia has gained important renewable capabilities, from project development and operation of small solar to acquisition of two utility scale solar farms, as well as digital and energy optimisation capabilities. These capabilities provide strong foundations for Banpu Energy Australia to expand its business in Decarbonisation Projects, Energy Solutions and Portfolio Optimisation.

The Challenge

For Australian electricity providers, the introduction of 5-minute settlements in October 2021, highlighted a significant change in bidding patterns, increasing the amount of data processed, analysed, and integrated with analytics platforms.

For Banpu Energy Australia, who were new to the Australian market, this first presented an opportunity to leverage this new requirement to assess asset acquisition. It quickly then became a challenge, one that many other electricity providers faced – to build a robust platform capable of dealing with large amounts of data from inception.

“The Australian energy market is a big, complex, data source. You are dealing with data from your own generation, as well as information about what the rest of the market is doing. Clean, time-series data is freely available in real time, and we wanted to access that. We wanted to set up a data interchange with AEMO,” says Matthew Szwec, Energy Solutions Lead at Banpu Energy Australia.

“This was a process that we couldn’t pull off on our own. We needed subject matter expertise. We went to market looking for someone who had done it before. We chose the team at Ignite.”

Ignite proposed developing a core platform where Banpu Energy Australia could integrate the business data that is particular to them, with the existing market data and develop analysis the way that they wanted, when they wanted. The focus was on unlocking data that Banpu Energy Australia previously could not access and bringing it all into a single unified platform.

The Solution

Ignite worked directly with the team at Banpu Energy Australia to get the proposal right. They worked together to massage the requirements through a series of planning workshops.

“Ignite is driven by business value. They looked for the ‘so what’ in everything that we do. Their focus went beyond capturing data and into the solutions that we could build with that data."

Matthew Szwec, Energy Solutions Lead, Banpu Energy Australia

Ignite proposed the development of dashboards so that the data was presented in a way that would deliver business outcomes, immediately. The focus was on gathering data and taking the project all the way through to reporting platforms for the business.

“Ignite showed us that we could take the settlement data for our solar farms and build both settlement and performance reports for these assets. We undertook a blueprint phase – a waterfall project, from the proposal, we blueprinted it out to look at results. We drafted the technical specifications together and then launched into the ‘doing’ phase,” adds Matthew.

“I found the architecture team really good. Dave and Kris were great at walking me through step by step on all the decisions that we would make. I enjoyed this the most as I learned a lot and I was confident that we were putting together the right solution.”

Ignite started with a strong architecture. One that the team at Banpu Energy Australia understood and wanted. Together with the team at Banpu Energy Australia, they specified the data needed and defined the business logic to translate raw data into business intelligence. The team established a strong project governance combined with regular rhythms to ensure focus on the end goal, whilst tackling immediate roadblocks.

“There were additional challenges stemming from Banpu being a global organisation. We had to work closely with our HQ team in Bangkok to stand up certain capabilities. Ignite was really good at laying out what we needed done and could work well with them.”

The project kicked off late April 2022 and was completed in October 2022, moving forward into a continual manage and grow phase, where the Ignite team manages the core platform whilst working with the Banpu Energy Australia team to deliver new data assets.

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I found them all friendly and approachable. We had twice weekly ‘stand ups ‘and I always looked forward to those meetings. We had such productive and creative conversations. Roma and Tina were always friendly and upbeat, even when we were working on something hard. Mitch took on a lot of the architecture and leadership. All the team were really professional and knowledgeable. And we have done the whole project online. I have actually never met them in person!

Matthew Szwec
Energy Solutions Lead

The Results

Together, Banpu Energy Australia and Ignite has worked with a hybrid approach where each party focuses on their core competencies. Banpu Energy Australia wants to create their own in-house data science discipline and develop this as a strategic competitive advantage, utilising the platform that Ignite has built and manages.

ZEN Energy - Ignite Utilities Platform Integration Diagram

Ignite acts as the architect and conductor, developing a proven, cloud based, Microsoft Azure and Databricks platform, capable of processing Banpu Energy Australia’s unique data input requirements, along with seamless access to the AEMO MMS database.

Using Azure SQL for the consumption of AEMO MMS data, Azure Data Factory to handle inputs from an existing SimEnergy database and other sources, and a Databricks workspace functioning as a unified environment for inputs, Banpu Energy Australia is able to interrogate, explore and develop its strategic advantage, enabling its data scientists, analysts, developers and report consumers to access information in structured formats in Power BI, Excel and more.

The data platform enables detailed analysis of asset performance, allowing drilldown models into causes such as curtailment, weather, or outages. The models also allow comparison to budget and more detailed invoice reconciliations.

The Benefits

“The biggest thing is access to the AEMO data. We are able to do more detailed analysis of the performance of our solar farms. We can conduct analysis on other solar farms, access their data and make an assessment on the value of those assets. Previously, this would have taken a whole day, now I can create analysis like this in 30 minutes,” says Matthew.

“It is a truly scalable compute capability. I can create faster queries. We have levelled up and there is still further we can go,” he adds.

“It’s about being able to make accurate decisions. We are able to assess assets accurately and provide guidance to the team. We reviewed an asset that we found was located in the Rhombus of Regret and we avoided a bad investment. We could see exactly how that asset was really performing. So we are significantly contributing to generating business value.”

Where to Next?

As of January 2023, Banpu Energy Australia has scaled up the team for reporting and are building further momentum for the capability. They are now doubling down on data engineering and ingestion.

The next step is to move their data into a warehouse in a structured model to access more data. They will add more solar farms, ASX trading data, and more AEMO instances – widening the breadth of data they can use. They are building more self-service convenience tools – common filters and slicers to help the whole business get value from their new platform.

“We went into this looking for a long-term partnership and Ignite came in with that mindset. That is what we have found.”

While at first a cause for panic, major policy changes like 5MS provide energy businesses incredible opportunities in data, when a healthy focus on improving how a business operates is applied. For Banpu Energy Australia, there was no regulatory requirement for this undertaking. They were opportunistic, seeking to derive a business benefit from a change in compliance. In that, Banpu Energy Australia has significantly reduced time spent on managing manual processes, while enabling their people to access and interrogate data required for making critical business decisions.


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