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Mercury

Utilities

Mercury is an integrated energy generation, trading, retailing and metering business. It was established in 1998, when the Electricity Corporation of New Zealand (ECNZ) was broken up by Government into three independent companies as part of the electricity reforms.

Ownership of the Waikato hydro scheme and its stations was vested in Mercury, building on a proud heritage dating back to the turn of last century when the Waikato River was first identified as a low-cost and sustainable source of electricity.

Mercury own and/or manage a diverse and expanding portfolio of generation assets throughout the North Island. Mercury’s portfolio includes the Waikato hydro scheme, geothermal interests at Mokai and Rotokawa, the Southdown co-generation station and the country's most active biomass generation programme. 

Mercury operates a diverse and expanding generation portfolio and more than 20% of their energy production is now non-hydro.

The Problem

Enlighten were contracted to scope and develop the primary tool used by Mercury for the trading of electricity in the New Zealand commodities market. Mercury trades in the “Spot Energy Market” by offering Generation, Reserve and Frequency offers from Hydro, CoGen and Geothermal stations. 

Generators compete by creating offers to generate a quantity of power at a specific price. These offers are submitted to the Market via a secure internet site, where they are loaded into a complex solving program which is set up to minimise the final cost to consumers for each trading period. 
Transpower, the System Operator, then uses this information to produce dispatch instructions using the solving program, which it issues to all power stations around New Zealand via a computerised dispatch tool in real time.

Mercury offered Hydro Generation and Reserve through an existing tool, based on Microsoft Excel for its graphic functionality. The performance of this tool was increasingly unsatisfactory and Mercury’s trading abilities were being constrained. Mercury required a single solution that allowed graphical representation and editing of energy, reserve and frequency offers for the complete portfolio of their thermal and hydro schemes. It needed to be able to perform complex power trading calculations in real time and removing the requirement for these calculations to be performed manually by Mercury traders.

Furthermore, Mercury required:

  • A highly stable trading platform that enables them to continue to trade during grid emergencies. 
  • A spot energy market trading tool that allowed graphical representation and editing of energy, reserve and frequency offers for the combined thermal and hydro schemes of Mercury.
  • A mission critical application, with a strong focus on performance and stability, as well as the development of a Business Continuity mode that allowed traders to continue to trade outside the Mercury network in case of an emergency. 
  • Continuity of the user experience for the new tool, to minimise user re-education and training, while providing greater flexibility for the editing of Offer data.

The Solution

The New Zealand Electricity market is a highly complex and competitive environment. Generators sell their generation into the market, and conversely retailers have to buy the electricity that their customers use out of the market. 

Traders need to determine whether to buy or sell electricity based on the spot price and the generation assets that they have available to them. Enlighten spent time onsite with Mercury Traders, reviewing and learning about Electricity trading. Enlighten then worked closely with Mercury Business Analysts to scope and document the business requirements. Excelsior replaced Excel as the User Interface for trading with a rich application utilising Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF). 

A mission critical application

As a source of competitive advantage, a strong focus on performance and stability was a necessity. Excelsior has delivered in this regard with changes to charts, tables, or calculations completed within 1 second and larger block calculations completed in less than five seconds. User confidence has also increased significantly, allowing Traders to continue to automate processing and feel confident in the tool’s ability to calculate and display correct data representations without needing to manually edit equations in Microsoft Excel.

The Result

Excelsior made the user interface more consistent and intuitive, so Mercury were able to cut down training time. By using WPF, the application has drastically increased in performance and has lower response times. This enables the Traders to quickly submit and review offers on the market, which is a time-critical activity. 

Excelsior has provided significant performance enhancements, allowing traders to rapidly respond to changing market conditions with updates provided instantly.

 
"Since the introduction of Excelsior, Traders have experienced significantly improved performance and stability. No longer is there a concern that the application will fail or hang at inopportune times. The new editing features also allow for quick and concise trading decisions to be implemented almost instantaneously."
- Andrew Anderson
Trading Manager, Mighty River Power
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