Transport platform serving the energy data management
On the liberalized energy market, the challenge was to design the processes so that they could be traced easily and, as one of the main players on the Swiss energy market, to meet the standards for handling exchange processes in line with the market:
- Automation of bulk data exchange and exchange processes as well as their implementation according to the SDAT and MC-CH industry documents
- Integration of the very heterogeneous IT landscape
- Due to a lack of resources and the requirement for prompt implementation: no in-house development but a tried and tested standard product
Approach and Results
inubit convinced ewz as the only full-scope solution that met its requirements:
- Complete automation of the transport of metering and scheduling data as per SDAT via FTP, with e-mail communication as a backup
- Integration of the energy data management and energy industry systems
- Use of the preconfigured “ebIX LW” process package for supplier changes
Above and beyond meeting the legal requirements, ewz profits by using inubit to:
- Save time and costs thanks to the faster implementation of changes to the system environment and save personnel costs for operating the system due to its ease-of-use
- Automate the supplier change processes with complete opening of the market
- Automate internal company processes
Changing requirements in consequence of liberalization
ewz, the electricity provider of the city of Zurich, relies on inubit to handle change of supplier processes in line with market standards and as transport medium for external communication of metering and energy data. With inubit, ewz meets the changing requirements on the Swiss energy market while profiting from preconfigured process packages for the energy industry and its powerful integration capability for networking heterogeneous IT systems.
With the liberalization of the Swiss energy market through the electricity supply act (StromVG) passed in 2007, ewz was facing new challenges. While facing cost pressure, additional tasks had to be performed in the market data exchange area. According to internal specifications, the newly created competitive situation was to be handled by increasing the transparency and efficiency of the processes.
Another aim at ewz, as one of the major players in the Swiss energy sector, was to meet the requirements for exchange processes in line with market standards. The first stage of the opening of the market in the years 2009 to 2013 affects all customers whose yearly consumption exceeds 100 MWh who can now choose their electricity provider.
In contrast to the market prices available on the free market, customers who do not change provider are still supplied at cost-based prices by the basic provider. In a second stage from 2013 onwards, it is expected that all customers will be able to choose their energy supplier.
Requirements for standardized data exchange
The industry documents drawn up by industry representatives and overseen by the federation of Swiss electricity companies – “Implementation document for standardized data exchange processes in the Swiss electricity market” (SDAT) and the “Metering Code Switzerland” (MC-CH) – describe the data exchange processes required in the first stage of the electricity market liberalization.
The documents define, in particular, standards for the exchange of metering data, change of supplier processes and their implementation, which enable all required processes to be automated. These standards must be implemented by the energy suppliers themselves or in cooperation with a service provider when the liberalization comes into effect.
To meet these requirement as the energy supplier of the city of Zurich, ewz sought a solution for mapping change of supplier processes according to the Swiss industry documents and transporting metering and energy data efficiently and traceably. The required middleware had to be powerful enough to network a very heterogeneous IT landscape.
Due to the limited availability of resources and the short implementation deadline, it was not possible to implement the originally planned individual solution. In addition, the ewz employees did not know the processes that had to be standardized, which made an in-house solution even more difficult.
In searching for a tried and tested standard product available on the market, Bosch Software Innovations stood out as the only supplier offering a full-scope solution that would meet the specified requirements. inubit also impressed ewz because of its preconfigured process packages for the energy market, which were immediately available to ewz “out-of-the-box.”
Transport platform with preconfigured process packages
In the context of a test phase, a test system for transporting the metering and energy data was first installed on a virtual PC. In parallel, initial in-house courses and workshops were held to introduce the employees to the use of the software.
Before inubit was implemented, various communication channels were used to exchange data between the different systems in use and external market players. Now, after the uccessful completion of the test phase and production startup of the system, ewz bundles more than 600 data exchange processes every day, using inubit and the numerous networked systems, and a further increase is to be expected.
Both the energy data management system (EDM) and the energy industry system (EWS) could be integrated so that inubit can safely transport the data provided by these systems to and from the market players to meet communication requirements.
inubit is used on two physical servers that are operated as Microsoft cluster servers to guarantee the highest availability possible. According to the SDAT industry document, the data is preferably transferred using FTP. With the exchange via e-mail as a backup, availability has been increased even further by ensuring that the data is transferred smoothly without any manual intervention, even if an FTP server fails.
Data bases and processes
An SQL Server 2008 is used as the database, which is available for archiving the messages as well as storing the setup and process information. This bundling of the data exchange has already enabled ewz to significantly reduce costs. In addition, this means significantly lower costs for future changes to the system landscape and a shorter implementation period because adjustments have to be made only at one point and not for each individual system.
While the processes for the transport of metering and scheduling data have already been automated completely, the processes that take place in case of a change of supplier will only be automated when the market is opened completely.
Bosch Software Innovations can easily adjust the “ebIX LW” process package preconfigured for this purpose to changing conditions in the context of the maintenance agreement. It is already designed for integration with different EDM systems, such as SAP, using clearly defined access points, and also ensures the required flexibility in case of changes to the system landscape.
Due to the number of different systems used, the newly gained master data distribution without media discontinuity is a great advantage for ewz. As a side effect, the yearly reporting to the regulator has also become significantly easier
Integrated process monitoring saves actual costs
With increasing agility on the Swiss energy market, the scope of the data exchange processes that are handled using inubit will increase further. In addition to meeting the legal requirements, ewz also managed to gain significant other advantages by using inubit. For example, the ease-of-use of the software has reduced the HR costs for system operation. Moreover, the increased operating safety, traceability of the processes and integration documentation make process monitoring significantly easier, saving real time and costs
The ewz employees are currently learning the intricacies of inubit so that they will be able to implement entire processes independently in the future. Soon, internal company processes shall be automated using inubit, thus saving additional costs.
ewz can potentially reduce costs further, for instance, in the entry of incoming invoices using scanners, which prioritizes the release processes depending on the amount and turn-around time and makes automatic postings in the accounting system.
As a company of the city of Zurich and a vertically integrated plant, ewz is one of the few companies that produces, handles, transports and distributes energy. With more than 900 employees, and 100 of these in Graubünden, ewz is one of the ten largest energy service providers in Switzerland. ewz offers products and services that go beyond its actual core competencies. These include energy consulting as well as the business areas of energy provider services, telecommunication and network services. In addition, ewz is responsible for the public lighting and clocks in the city of Zurich. With the ewz solar exchange, ewz is a renewable energies pioneer.
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