As Australia’s first 1.5°C energy company, ZEN Energy continues to challenge the traditional energy retailer model in Australia. In five and a half years since they secured their energy retailer licence, they have grown their portfolio of customers and generation significantly.
Part of their new business model is making sure that data truly is at the heart of their business, that it informs their decisions, enables them to innovate and helps them to attract the best talent.
Approximately four years ago, ZEN Energy and Ignite embarked on their data journey together, culminating in a powerful platform, managed by Ignite, and enabling ZEN Energy’s business strategy.
ZEN Energy knew the energy industry was facing a pivotal moment as it embarked on the energy transition. In fact, ZEN Energy saw it more as a fundamental epochal transformation – rather than a transition. They wanted to build a platform that would enable them to flex, stretch and scale their business as they grew.
“An energy retailer is a data base and big piggy bank. OK, so that is a massive oversimplification but, in any case, retailers provide much of the working capital for the entire industry – so understanding how to create value from all the numbers and data that are moving around is key to a retailer’s ability to generate a sustainable business,” says Chris Smyth, ZEN Energy’s CIO.
“Ignite never just treats it ‘as a service’. They have helped enhance our core capability and put data at the heart of ZEN. They don’t jealously guard their area. They have been working with us to bring elements in house as we have upskilled our team and made us more capable.
They have enabled us to grow and develop. This means we want to keep working with them – because of the way they operate.”
ZEN Energy reached out to Ignite Data Solutions to help them design and build the platform that would enable them to achieve their business goals. They worked with Ignite to develop the architecture and the concept, bring in more data sets and expand their capabilities, growing to a full Platform Manage and Grow service delivered by Ignite.
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The integrated nature of the platform has enabled ZEN Energy to have all its key data accessible in one location (AEMO feeds, Customer meter data, billing data). So, when key industry changes like 5-minute settlements came in, ZEN Energy’s system could cope.
As the volume of data rapidly increased, ZEN Energy’s SQL Server struggled. Ignite advised on an architecture upgrade Databricks to handle the large volumes and computational power. “This is not just a managed service. Ignite constantly guides us on how to future proof our platform,” adds Chris.
ZEN Energy’s volume of customer data increased by 48% from July 2021 to July 2023 and they successfully managed a 141% increase in NMIs in the same period.
in NMIs managed.
in customer data volume managed.
Since its implementation, ZEN Energy has used their integrated platform as a recruitment tool, attracting top talent with an impressive technology stack.
The ZEN Energy platform is the most contemporary tech – all cloud based, enabling large volumes of data to be stored efficiently enabling rapid stand up of models and tool sets.
ZEN Energy now has deep load forecasting capabilities, both short and medium term. With this platform, their forecasting capabilities have enabled them to look beyond a weather forecast. They can look into the next few quarters, creating confidence intervals and insight into where they are heading.
“We absolutely have been putting data at the heart of the business. As we continue our journey through the energy transition, our business model is continually being enhanced from the platform,” Chris says. “All parts of our planning organisation, access the platform to test hypotheses and build strength into our capabilities.
The ZEN Energy Data and Analytics team has extended their capabilities, particularly in the crucial domain of risk reporting.
Reports, such as ZEN Energy’s earnings report, built on the platform by the Data and Analytics team, are accessed by other teams, when they need it. It serves the finance team and now ZEN Energy is expanding to intra-month reporting, enabling its leaders’ deeper insight.
The enhanced reporting capabilities aided ZEN Energy’s network reconciliations, by identifying incorrect network charges and in turn recouping a significant amount of value for the company.
ZEN Energy’s platform delivers a broad range of other capabilities such as regular contractual customer reporting and customer KPI reporting. These automated reports require minimal human intervention, freeing ZEN Energy’s data scientists to move onto new projects. They are now working on developing bespoke reports for customers including helping serve them the right data they need for their own journey to net zero.
ZEN Energy’s first customer portal used an-off-the shelf tool, integrated with the Ignite platform.
As ZEN Energy’s customers’ needs are changing, they are now replacing this solution with a lower-cost, easier to use, in-house capability, built on data from the Ignite platform.
The unique portal, designed specifically for ZEN Energy’s customers, can become a service differentiator. The new portal has enabled ZEN Energy to reduce its costs from a fee perspective from other providers. When fully implemented, the platform will enable ZEN Energy to reduce its OPEX, automate handovers and minimise human errors.
“We can now connect with our customers directly in, our own unique ZEN voice,” adds Chris.
The Ignite platform also enabled the seamless migration of data, efficiently supporting a significant business transformation project when ZEN Energy migrated their billing platform.
The Platform Manage & Grow service has enabled ZEN Energy to keep its data management costs stable through this period of growth, while meeting the demands of an evolving business plan.
“There’s intrinsic value in not having to create SOWs and RFPs and the like. The administration overhead is significantly reduced.
It’s highly reliable. Where there are issues at times, it is generally with data pipelines rather than Ignite’s platform. The platform is sitting on MS Azure. We have had no outages of the actual platform since we implemented it. That’s close to four years now,” adds Chris.
ZEN Energy has been delighted with Ignite’s focus on security, MFA for sign ins, data encryption and supporting ZEN Energy in achieving ISO 27001 accreditation.
“This has been a capability transfer/learning partnership. Not just a technical partnership. The nature of our relationship with Ignite has evolved over time and they have been generous with supporting our business’ capability development.
Ignite never just treats it ‘as a service’. They have helped enhance our core capability and put data at the heart of ZEN Energy. They don’t jealously guard their area. They have been working with us to bring elements in house as we have upskilled our team and made us more capable.
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