Smarter, more coordinated, less customized; those are words that describe plans for the future state of the Bonneville Power Administration’s metering, billing and Western Energy Imbalance Market settlements systems.
We can say those things because recent vendor selections for the systems BPA uses for meter data and billing take us in that direction. BPA also advanced its efforts to manage EIM settlements should it decide to participate in that market.
This is a major milestone for BPA’s grid modernization efforts.
“We have set the stage for interfacing between our metering and billing systems, which is new functionality that offers benefits to BPA and our customers,” said Chief Operating Officer John Hairston. “The vendors we have selected will implement systems with less customization and more automation. Each of them has experience that will help BPA streamline efforts to meter power and transmission and bill customers.”
Metering and Billing System
As BPA embarked on its grid modernization effort, it found that its agency metering system was failing to meet evolving business needs. The team tasked with replacement reimagined metering and billing. The team looked for ways to not only meet the agency’s current requirements, but for a solution that would enhance BPA’s ability to meet broader grid modernization objectives and, if needed, EIM requirements. All scenarios have complex requirements for providing validated meter data in accelerated timeframes to downstream customers using more complex automated validation and estimation methodologies than the current platforms can provide.
To meet these requirements, BPA has selected separate vendors for systems to collect and manage meter data. One will handle meter data collection. The other will handle managing the data, which includes editing, estimating and validating the data collected. The twist is that the same entity providing the meter data management system will provide BPA’s new customer billing system, resulting in less data movement between systems and improvements to business processes. Finding a vendor that could offer tight integration between the meter data management system and our billing module was key. This added feature is a win-win for BPA and its customers.
“The new interface between our meter data management and billing systems will offer efficiencies and improvements that advance BPA’s capabilities on both fronts,” said Jamie Sims, previous executive sponsor of these two projects.
“We look forward to working with the vendor to maximize the benefits of these integrated systems for our customers,” said Jinah Nakaji, Director of Customer Support Services.
In addition to the new interface, the customer billing system will also be able to integrate more efficiently with the meter system, apply rate calculations, interface with BPA’s financial management system and produce bills. This is a big process improvement because the current process is cumbersome, time consuming and manual.
Another benefit is that both of these vendors are implementing off-the-shelf cloud hosted solutions. This will allow BPA to more easily take advantage of new application features as they are rolled out and help avoid layering customization onto a system that could become obsolete. BPA also expects the new system to be more user friendly and efficient for its customers.
BPA has selected the vendor it currently uses for management of its energy trades and settlements in the California Independent System Operator’s day-ahead and real-time markets to provide the system it could use for EIM settlements. So while systems to manage settlements for the EIM are complex, the vendor is not starting from scratch with BPA.
“The metering, billing and EIM settlements projects collectively aim to meet our need to modernize legacy systems and ultimately improve customer service, all while reducing customization to streamline and improve current and emerging business needs,” said Hairston. ”These advancements highlight how bright the future for BPA and its customers is shaping up.”
BPA acknowledges these systems are not inexpensive to design and implement. However, their integrated and automated nature are expected to yield cost savings over time. By implementing these solutions, BPA will be able to take advantage of new features and functionality as it is rolled out by the vendors instead of waiting 18 to 24 months for customized upgrades. BPA should also realize savings of $500,000 to $2 million each rate period by avoiding on-site hosting costs.
“I am proud of the work we have done so far on these systems,” said Hairston. “The pay up front to produce savings down the road fits neatly into our efforts to exercise cost discipline and enhance customer service.”
Stay tuned for updates on the progress BPA is making on these systems. These improvements are part of several grid modernization projects that support the implementation of BPA’s strategic goals to modernize federal power and transmission system operations and supporting technology, and to provide competitive power and transmission products and services.
If you want more information, visit Grid Modernization.