Elec­tric­ity Author­ity con­sid­er­ing fu­ture of switch­ing registry

Otago Daily Times - - BUSINESS & MONEY - GAVIN EVANS

AUCK­LAND: The registry that un­der­pins the coun­try’s elec­tric­ity mar­ket pro­vides a world­class switch­ing ser­vice but may not be fit for pur­pose within a decade, the Elec­tric­ity Author­ity says.

The registry, which records cus­tomer switches among re­tail­ers and within net­works, is at the core of the mar­ket and en­ables firms to bill users, pay dis­trib­u­tors for their lines and rec­on­cile pur­chases from the whole­sale mar­ket.

While the abil­ity to com­plete most switches within three and a­half days, and some within in a day, is world­lead­ing, the sys­tem is do­ing things it was never de­signed for when it started in 1999, author­ity prin­ci­pal ad­viser Ron Beatty says. It was last ‘‘re­freshed’’ in 2013.

He said firms were spend­ing time re­solv­ing switch­ing is­sues man­u­ally, and that might be­come more of an is­sue as more re­tail­ers en­tered the mar­ket and of­fered more so­phis­ti­cated ser­vices.

‘‘We think it may be lim­it­ing com­pe­ti­tion,’’ Mr Beatty told an in­dus­try work­shop in Welling­ton this week. ‘‘The last thing you want is to have that in­no­va­tion lim­ited by the switch­ing process.’’

The in­creas­ing use of new tech­nolo­gies such as so­lar pan­els, bat­ter­ies and elec­tric ve­hi­cles is chang­ing the way peo­ple use elec­tric­ity and in­ter­act with the mar­ket. More con­sumers are us­ing real­time pric­ing and peer­to­peer trad­ing among so­lar panel own­ers is start­ing.

The author­ity wants to en­sure its pro­cesses are ready if those sorts of changes take off in the next five to 10 years. It is try­ing to gauge whether fix­ing is­sues with the registry is suf­fi­cient or whether itis time to ‘‘start again’’.

The registry records the de­tails of more than 2.1 mil­lion ac­tive ICPs — cus­tomer con­nec­tions on net­works around the coun­try. More than 1000 users can be ac­cess­ing it at peak times and there can be 300 mil­lion in­quiries in a month. A record 558 mil­lion in­quiries were made in June and 99.7% of all in­quiries are re­solved in less than 2 sec­onds.

Mr Beatty said the switch­ing sys­tem was ‘‘not bro­ken’’. It had achieved that per­for­mance be­cause of the co­op­er­a­tion of in­dus­try par­tic­i­pants, who had worked to keep it up to date and had in­vested heav­ily in their own pro­cesses to make that work.

But he said the in­dus­try had never stepped back and asked whether this was the best switch­ing process for the fu­ture.

In fu­ture, it might need to cater for cus­tomers re­ceiv­ing ser­vices from more than one player or deal­ing di­rectly with the mar­ket. Me­ter­ing com­pa­nies may have a greater role to play in pro­vid­ing data; load ag­gre­ga­tors may also be­come more of a fea­ture in the mar­ket and could be­come a new class of par­tic­i­pant.

‘‘The in­dus­try could be a very dif­fer­ent an­i­mal,’’ he said.

The author­ity is seek­ing feed­ back from par­tic­i­pants on more than 20 po­ten­tial is­sues it has iden­ti­fied with the cur­rent sys­tem, and whether it may be time for more fun­da­men­tal change.

While some prob­lems may be fixed quite eas­ily, any ma­jor change to the registry would take time and would be ex­pen­sive — par­tic­u­larly be­cause of the com­plex sys­tems re­tail­ers and lines com­pa­nies have de­vel­oped to work with the registry.

Any fun­da­men­tal change would take at least three and a­half years and prob­a­bly five. A cost­ben­e­fit anal­y­sis would also be re­quired. — Busi­nessDesk

PHOTO: PETER MCIN­TOSH

New tech . . . an elec­tric ve­hi­cle rapid charger in Filleul St, Dunedin. Tech­nolo­gies such as so­lar pan­els, bat­ter­ies and elec­tric ve­hi­cles are chang­ing the way peo­ple use elec­tric­ity.

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