Blue NRG

Blue NRG

Blue NRG are an award-winning Australian-owned business electricity retailer, serving thousands of SME’s across the country.

Based in Melbourne, Blue NRG was created in 2012 in response to the need for an electricity retailer that specialises in servicing Australia’s businesses only, with a focus on small and medium-sized enterprises. Many large electricity retailers focus on the residential market and overlook customers who have higher electricity usage. Today Blue NRG provides electricity to thousands of businesses in Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia and South East Queensland.

The Challenge

“We paralleled this to being on the Titanic, and we had just realised how deep the iceberg really was."

Sarah Lawley, Head of Energy Markets, Blue NRG.

For electricity providers in the National Electricity Market, the introduction of 5-minute settlements highlighted a significant change in bidding patterns, increasing the amount of data stored, processed, and analysed with existing analytics platforms. For many providers, this required significant investment to not just be able to handle 5-minute settlements, but to be able to integrate the capability to release operational benefits of this requirement. New requirements required creative thinking on how to leverage and, in many cases, extend existing architecture.

Blue NRG were heading into the introduction of 5-minute settlements and Sarah Lawley, Head of Energy Markets and her team realised that many of their systems and processes were going to require significant modifications when the changeover occurred in October 2021.

Sarah and her team were new to Blue NRG at the time.

“If we tried to swerve to miss this thing, we would have struggled with the timeframe. Many of our core processes from load forecasting to cash flow forecasting could have been impacted if it didn’t crossover seamlessly. We had to face this straight on if we were going to ensure success. Ironically, had the Titanic done this, they would have fared better.”

The Solution

Enter Ignite. Sarah knew that she needed to hire the best people that they could and get them straight on it.

“We didn’t muck around. This is not something you would entrust to a consultant without the industry experience. I knew Harj and his team, and I knew that they had worked on this type of project before.”

Ignite’s team, led by Solution Architect David Hamilton, undertook a complete system overhaul for Blue NRG. We approached this project with the goal to streamline operations through automation and improve robustness of data integration by using cloud tools and techniques. Through this, we were able meet the immediate need of updating system interfaces to ensure 5MS compatibility, and implement several other smart reporting functions:

Our solution involved re-platforming SimEnergy with a cloud-based database (Azure), and move to automate manual processes, especially data integration, through Python, Azure Data Factory and Azure SQL. Upgrading the system interfaces ensured that the contract management system had data at the same granularity as the market – enabling continuity of wholesale analysis and reporting.

The build resulted in a comprehensive platform with all inputs flowing into it. From generation data, load data, spot prices, futures prices, contract positions and more, the platform enabled wholesale and finance processes to run out of the one system. Data enters overnight, and is refreshed every day, removing manual requirements to keep it up to date.

ZEN Energy - Ignite Utilities Platform Integration Diagram

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I look back and wonder – how did we do that in such a short amount of time? The plan came together very quickly because we pulled in the right organisation, there was no messing around figuring out what to do. We got good advice, and we actioned it.

Sarah Lawley
Head of Energy Markets

The Results

In a short space of time after Ignite were engaged, 5MS compatible interfaces were up and running.

“Having the system all working smoothly and being automated means that the Finance and Wholesale teams can get on doing their jobs. They don’t need to be concerned with the processes that are going on in the background. They can work efficiently and more strategically,” said Sarah.

Blue NRG draws on their own internal resource to manage the new platform, leveraging Ignite’s expertise as they need it. When they have new requirements, they reach out to Ignite. It might be a new calculation, or a new opportunity, so they work with Ignite’s Solution Architects to understand how they can extend the system.

There are now no manual inputs, other than new trades. Blue NRG’s contracts are maintained automatically. The system is now being frequently used by the Finance team in addition to the Wholesale team. Finance can generate cash flow forecasts and budgets.

“They’re unlocking new insights every week. We’ve become more strategic with increased confidence in the system and far less scope for human error.

Given the turbulent times in the energy industry, we have deeper, more reliable information and can provide quality business reports. Since this work has been done, the reporting that goes up to the board has become more consistent, reliable, and less subject to manual errors. This helps us all to build business confidence.”

Major policy changes like 5MS have significant consequences for businesses running on architecture lacking flexibility. But there are opportunities beyond fulfilling immediate technological needs when approaching projects with a holistic view to improve how a business operates. The overall outcome for Blue NRG is that they are now able to significantly reduce time spent on managing manual processes, and quickly access data required for critical business processes, while meeting regulatory mandates.

Where to Next?

“From a data perspective, the electricity industry is very complex. There is a lot more that we can do to leverage our system and there is a lot of opportunity to do better than our competitors if our system is better. We don’t need to divert time and resources managing systems, rather, our employees are working to get the most business benefit from them. We will be focused on that in the next year, and I imagine that Ignite will have a key role in that.”


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