The move to five-minute settlement data, commencing 1 July 2021, will generate vast quantities of data — five times more than what is currently being processed —  requiring additional resources and creating more potential for human errors. Greater efficiency can be achieved by minimising manual handling processes through the use of automation.

The National Electricity Market (NEM) is an intricate network of communications and transactions between different market participants, including generators, distributors and retailers.

It has five trading regions covering New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania, and operates as a gross pool market, where all electricity delivered to the market is traded 24-hours a day, seven days a week.

The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) manages trading in the NEM, according to trading rules governed by the National Electricity Rules.

Operating within this market involves a variety of complex processes and interactions, including receiving aseXML messages from AEMO and creating CATS change requests to provide MSATS with up-to-date standing data information.

AEMO dispatches electricity every five minutes, so generators are required to bid to supply electricity in five minute blocks. For the past two decades, for the purposes of settlement, this price has been averaged out over 30 minutes — resulting in what is known as the spot price.

On 28 November 2017, the Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC) made a final rule to change the settlement period for the electricity spot price from 30 minutes to five minutes.

 

Eliminating the need for human interaction

Automation of the messages exchanged between the market and market participants can dramatically reduce costs and improve efficiency, while ensuring accuracy and compliance – something that will be even more vital when the market moves to five-minute settlement.

According to Igor Green, CEO of Utilibill, a cloud-based utility billing software provider, automation enables a reduced cost-to-serve while optimising efficiency.

“Navigation through AEMO’s systems has traditionally been quite hard and involved a lot of manual processes that can be a bit clunky, which means that anyone using these systems really needs to know the market back-to-front,” Mr Green said.

“We’ve got the systems and the knowledge required to automate a lot of the processes involved in market systems integration, which takes a lot of the crunch work out of operating in the marketplace.

“Instead of several humans sitting around and manually going through all the tasks, we’ve automated many of these tasks through various process flows and robots, meaning less resources are required. We use a modern web-based interface that’s very intuitive so there’s also less training for anyone using our platform.

“Any retailer that signs up with us will achieve massive efficiency gains, both in the front and back office.”

Featuring a direct import of all NEM data, Utilibill’s software can automate all key processes associated with managing and monitoring Australian energy market transactions.

This includes the automation of B2B requests and processes, as well as full automation of responses for CATS requests and B2B processes. Automation ensures the integrity of the data, reducing errors related to billing, invoicing and reconciliation.

 

Keeping up with market changes

In the move to five-minute settlement, the rule change sets out a significant transition period in anticipation that many organisations will need to upgrade their IT systems to cope with the extra volumes of data.

Utilibill is not concerned by this, with Mr Green commenting that the platform is more than capable of handling the extra load.

“Utilibill’s underlying architecture has been designed and built with high volumes of data in mind. Utilibill supports multi-dimensional scaling which happens on demand. We have proved this many times over with our rapid customer growth and their data in turn,” Mr Green said.

Utilibill aims to offer utilities more out of their e-billing solution, offering a truly cloud-based billing platform, with everything consolidated into a single, self-enabled system.

With high-quality, Australian-based customer support available at no extra cost, Utilibill is committed to providing exceptional services in an evolving regulatory and technical landscape.

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