Sustainable Systems for Sustainable Energy

Forming an alliance on data with a key player in renewables future





“A strong ‘can-do’ ethos, with a good background in our industry. Ignite are creative, flexible and collaborative in their problem-solving.”

Chris Smyth,

GM Retail Operations

 




About SIMEC Energy Australia

  • Sustainable energy retailer for business, industry and government 
  • One of Australia’s leading renewable energy companies in solar energy and energy storage
  • ~ 50 Employees
  • ~ $250 Million in Revenue
  • www.simecenergy.com.au




THE CHALLENGE

Implement a sustainable data and analytics capability to support the growth of SIMEC Energy Australia. By bringing together the sudden growth of critical datasets from core business operations, market and external systems.



THE OUTCOME

Centralised Microsoft Azure, PowerBI and Databricks platform that enables cross business outcomes, from improved billing processes to improved load forecasting to risk profile management.



Background

As a start-up the focus is on getting things done. Even with the best business plans in place the focus rarely shifts from the task at hand. For new entrants to the energy scene, it is no different. The difference hits home when you grow your customer base, grow your generation portfolio and you are striving to optimise your position whilst being held accountable by the market in which you operate.

At the heart of this challenge is that even though data is at the core of utilities it can easily be forgotten as you are naturally focussed on winning even more customers, billing those customers correctly, hedging your market position and settling market interactions.  For some, that is whilst you are building and acquiring generation assets. 

Most start-ups, let alone new entrants to the energy market, will use the most accessible tools to get the job done. But it is easy to see how you can outgrow these rudimentary systems, ultimately leading to an inability to scale.   

This was the foresight that SIMEC Energy Australia (SEA) had – to not repeat the mistakes of new entrants of the past. They needed to rapidly implement data systems that could effectively collect, integrate, quantify and store their new and growing data sources to support the critical decisions of a growing business.

Like many similar start-ups SEA are experts in their industry, but lacked the specific expertise of working with technology and data that was needed to support their rapid transition from start-up to growth. 

This already daunting task would seem almost impossible without outside help.




Outcomes

By combining the utility expertise of SEA with the domain expertise of Ignite, together we have been able to establish a sustainable data and analytics solution leveraging Microsoft Azure, Databricks and PowerBI.  By sustainable we mean the ability to handle growing and new data sources, the ability to handle new data types, the ability to empower a growing team – all in a scalable and secure manner. 

We went from vendor selection, to blueprint, to production within two and a half months to deliver a platform that enabled the immediate needs of SEA and has continued to grow as the priorities have changed, enabling capability such as:

  • Streamlining retail operations.  The SEA retail team have taken a data driven approach to operations. Starting by handling robust and timely meter data along with the associated tariffs to correctly bill customers, they have gone on to ensure the integrity of billing and retail processes, and ultimately reducing unbilled customers by 98%.
  • Having a finger on the pulse. The earnings report brings together data from across the business to provide executive visibility on a daily basis.
  • Sharpening a view of the future. SEA analysts have combined the available Databricks and PowerBI capability with weather and meter data to improve load forecasting scenarios and thereby informing risk profiles to enable efficient and effective financial risk hedging.
  • Real time visibility of position. An extremely powerful capability to monitor position at 30-minute intervals. Unlocking key insights to help make decisions - in particular during peak summer periods.



“Position is everything. It’s about continuously navigating to a favourable and low risk position through various inputs to the portfolio.”

Sarah Lawley, Head of Risk Management & Innovation




The platform was designed with scalability and ease of use in mind and will continue to grow and evolve to fit the ever-changing needs of SEA. By removing the complexity behind the numerous different data sources the platform allows the SEA team to focus on competitive insights and process improvements rather than worrying about how to collect, transform and store the data.





Removing the complexity inherit in Utilities data



“For a small electricity retailer, just a one percent improvement in load forecast accuracy, with subsequent better hedging, can reduce portfolio hedging costs by many hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

Chris Smyth, GM Retail Operations



Approach

Our mission at Ignite is to put data at the heart of improving the organisations we work in and communities we live in. So, when we were approached by SEA, a new company in the renewable energy scene whose values strongly aligned with our own, we knew this was something worth pursuing.  We put skin in the game early to get SEA started on their data and analytics journey and continue to partner for future success.

From the outset the combined team has played to its strengths – SEA is focussed on being the partner of choice in renewables, Ignite is focussed on being the partner of choice in data and analytics. This gave SEA flexible access to a multi-skilled team of architects, data scientists, data engineers, BI developers and delivery leadership. 

In combination the combined team has leveraged the best of agile delivery which can be essential for a start-up where you need to react and adapt quickly to changing business drivers.  However, with sustainability in mind, we’ve kept a constant focus on long term quality whilst meeting immediate needs.



“In partnership with Ignite, we have successfully implemented a number of data-intensive and complex initiatives that have had a very positive impact on SIMEC Energy Australia’s growth. We have benefitted from their structured, yet nimble approach, and strong technical expertise.”

Chris Smyth, GM Retail Operations



Rapidly growing start-ups should take stock of whether their data systems and processes can scale.  For many it will be the bridge between start-up and sustained growth.  In particular, utilities can learn valuable lessons from the foresight shown by SEA – you can get on top of the data inputs from across the value chain both quickly and iteratively, without sacrificing longer term goals.

If you’d like further details on the SIMEC Energy Australia and Ignite partnership or discuss how analytics could help your growing business, reach out to us.

You can also learn more about SIMEC Energy Australia and their role in Australia’s renewable energy future in this ANZ Business Chief edition.



Ignite Services

  • Leadership
  • Architecture
  • Data Science
  • Business Intelligence
  • Data Engineering



Ignite Solutions

  • Data Science @ Scale
  • Business Intelligence @ Scale



Technologies

  • Microsoft Azure
  • PowerBI
  • Databricks