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The Ultra Award

Fortnightly Magazine - November 1 1998

and electronic commerce. As a result, RAS now offers solid-state meters, a sophisticated telecommunications network and a customer information system that enables energy service providers and industrial clients to monitor electric consumption on a near real-time schedule.

RAS also acts as a clearinghouse to track transaction details to ensure payments are accurately assessed and paid on time.

Christopher Hawkins, company general manager, says energy savings for customers using the system have ranged from 5 to 20 percent.

"One of the great mysteries that retail consumers of electric energy find themselves facing ¼ especially in the industrial-commercial realm, is to have a detailed insight behind the numbers that are often presented to them by their local utility," he says. "Typically their only interaction with the utility is ¼ if the energy stops flowing for some reason [and] ¼ when they receive a bill.

"There's typically no detail, no insight, nothing that can be used on the part of the retail consumer to better understand, and really control, how they consume the energy so they can better orient their business processes ¼ in a way that allows them to either reduce their costs or ¼ direct their energy usage.

"[RAS] changes it dramatically," Hawkins says. "Because what we have done, at the core of our business, is 'architected' ourselves around what we think customers demand in today's world and that's real time information."

The multimillion dollar project started in early 1997 with a contract to provide back office services to allow New Energy Ventures L.L.C. to compete nationally as an ESP. With the California market initially set to open Jan. 1, 1998, the development team had just seven months to put the necessary systems in place. (It later gained three months when the market's opening date was moved to April 1.)

The team partnered with Price Waterhouse on the customer information service component and customized PW Service 2000 software for customer information and billing services.

The team soon decided that the presentation of the bill and the payment methods would be made via the Internet. It contracted with Per Se Technologies to develop this application. Internet security was a major concern. With consulting help from The Meta Group, RAS installed firewalls, secure socket layers and digital certificates.

Rather than hire and train meter installers, LG&E partnered with Schlumberger and selected the Schlumberger Vectron meter for the project.

Capturing the consumption data from the meter needed to be done electronically and remotely to keep labor expenses down, so a partnership between RAS, Schlumberger and MCI provided a proprietary solution. While most remote meter-reading involves dialing the meter via modem, the RAS solution allows the meter to call in and deposit data. This solution eliminated the need to place servers and other network components throughout the service area.

RAS also contracted with Rapid Clip Neural Systems to accurately forecast load scheduling and minimize balances. The forecast accuracy is averaging about 2 percent. Industry norm is 5-7 percent. Forecasts are produced each morning showing an hourly forecast for each of the next 10 days. Hourly forecasts also