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Friday, 17 September 2021 08:02

Kiwi software to help ease in big change in Australian energy market Featured

Jessica Venning-Bryan: "At present, many energy retailers know that their legacy platforms are not future-proofed to fit the growth of Australia’s renewable future." Jessica Venning-Bryan: "At present, many energy retailers know that their legacy platforms are not future-proofed to fit the growth of Australia’s renewable future." Supplied

Australian energy operators will use a solution from a New Zealand company to handle the biggest change in regulations in the energy market, a switch of energy settlements from 30 minutes to 5 minutes, on 1 October.

The FlexiBill solution has been devised by Flux Federation, the technology division of Meridian Energy, the biggest renewable energy generator in New Zealand, a statement from the company says.

The software automatically processes any interval data it receives and this allows retailers to capitalise on the rapid growth of solar and home generation, battery storage, virtual power plants and paves the way for vehicle to grid technology, which is essential for the rollout of electric vehicles.

Flux Federation's chief client officer Jessica Venning-Bryan told iTWire in response to queries that the 30-minute price settlement period had been put in place due to technological limitations when the Australian national energy market was set up more than two decades ago, along with a five-minute dispatch period.

"Over the years, this discord between supply and demand resulted in inherent market inefficiencies and pricing inaccuracies," she said. "However, with the advancement of new technologies and ongoing efforts to modernise electricity markets in preparation for the explosion of renewable energy, Australia has mandated a move to a five-minute settlement (5MS) period of energy prices on 1 October.

"The move to 5MS offers more opportunities for sustainable innovation and change, supporting and accelerating Australia’s journey to a renewable future. The switch to 5MS presents a significant tech challenge, as six times the settlements, means six times the workload, and six times the data to process."

Explaining how the energy market operated, Venning-Bryan said energy prices changed throughout the day based on demand, with the national electricity market (NEM) making it possible for generators and retailers to exchange electricity.

"All electricity supplied to the market is sold at the ‘spot’ price. The NEM operates as a market where generators are paid for the electricity they produce and retailers pay for the electricity their customers consume. The electricity market works as a ‘spot’ market, where power supply and demand is matched instantaneously. The Australian Energy Market Operator co-ordinates this process," she said.

"The issue plaguing the Australian energy market at the moment is that not all that energy is as affordable or as competitive as it could be, which is where five-minute settlements will make a difference."

meridian energy story

"Australia is the global centre of renewable energy resources - it’s the sunniest country in the world and one of the windiest." Photo: Pixabay

Venning-Bryan said the term interval data referred to a record of energy consumption, wherein the readings were made at specific regular intervals throughout the day, as opposed to in real-time.

"It’s near real-time electricity usage recorded by your smart meter," she added. "Depending on the meter type, your energy usage is broken down into 15- to 30-minute intervals. It’s essential for a business to understand how to read this data because it’s the foundation for calculating energy costs. Therefore, it can help businesses to budget more accurately by better understanding the highs and lows of energy usage."

As far as helping retailers to capitalise on the spurt in solar and home generation, Venning-Bryan said Australia was seeing record consumer demand and uptake of renewable energy technologies right now.

"Between 2.6 million and 3 million Australians have now installed rooftop solar, and an additional 3 million are expected to do so in the next 10 years," she pointed out. "Similarly, new car sales data released in August 2021 shows 8688 battery and plug-in electric vehicles were sold in the first half of 2021, which is more than in any calendar year.

"There’s a clear demand from consumers for these new types of green energy resources and, therefore, a need for Australian energy retailers to keep pace with the evolving space in order to remain relevant and competitive.

"As it stands, energy retailers who process and provide these new forms of energy to consumers struggle to manage and price them accurately, leaving these innovations languishing in the energy network. Having modern software solutions would enable these retailers to process and price properly, removing the bottleneck for consumers and enabling everyone to capitalise on cleaner and cheaper energy."

Venning-Bryan said software was needed at this juncture because the energy market had never been designed to process and manage the diverse forms of new energy that were now available.

"Australia is the global centre of renewable energy resources — it’s the sunniest country in the world and one of the windiest — and has invested significantly in renewable energy projects that harness them. This is all part of Australia’s ultimate aim to decarbonise and end a reliance on fossil fuels like coal, which still dominate our energy use," she said.

"At present, many energy retailers know that their legacy platforms are not future-proofed to fit the growth of Australia’s renewable future. The conversation around Australia’s journey towards a ‘renewable future’ has always lacked the ‘how’ element.

"Sophisticated software solutions have now reached a point where they can fill in that narrative. It’s therefore essential that they form an important part of the discussion and are embedded into the processes that deliver on improved sustainability from the start."

Elaborating on what the advances in sustainability that businesses would now be able to achieve, Venning-Bryan said solutions like FlexiBill supported the growth of more sustainable and resilient forms of generation, and enabled energy retailers and their customers to do the same.

"For the energy retailers benefitting from advanced software, the handbrake is off in terms of bringing new sustainable and cheaper products to market," she added. "This, in turn, provides businesses with more choice than ever, in terms of what kinds of energy they choose.

"It’s a significant sustainability landmark, especially for energy intensive commercial and industrial industries. FlexiBill not only makes reaching the C&I market possible, but also simplifies serving it.

"Flux enables retailers to rapidly provide new offerings or scenarios to C&I customers, whatever their needs. In turn, they’ll benefit from faster service times, great operator interactions, and a suite of modern consumer experiences designed to exceed customer expectations."

Venning-Bryan claimed that FlexiBill was the most advanced energy billing solution available globally.

"It’s industry-defining because it supports all meter categories and data types across all market segments, and marries them with complex tariffs to generate accurate bills, on time," she said. "...it [also] accommodates non-metered products such as solar panels, batteries and bottled gas.

"FlexiBill allows energy retailers to move faster, price smarter and provide a wider range of renewable offerings for customers, whether they’re feeding energy into the grid or taking it out — or both — by automatically processing any interval data it receives."

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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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