We entered 2020 full of optimism for the future … particularly as we’d just past the milestone of 20 years in operation at the start of the year.
What a year this one has been for our 21st! We’ve invested a couple hours in this quiet week to compile the following list of some of the highlights for us. Hope you find it of value.
Wishing everyone a Happy 2021
a.k.a. General Dogsbody
Global-Roam Pty Ltd
(A) What’s happened in the NEM?
We’re a software company that strives to make complexity understandable in the energy market, so our clients can make better decisions.
For this reason, what happens in the Australian National Electricity Market (NEM) is central to what we focus on, and to the business of each of our clients. So it’s logical to start a review of 2020 (for us) with some headline notes about what happened in the NEM.
(A1) A very extreme summer 2019-20
As summers have gone in the NEM, 2019-20 was one of the more extreme ones, with high temperatures, bushfires and wild storms all wreaking havoc on operations in the NEM.
Looking back from the middle of the year, it seemed to me that summer was really bookmarked by these four headline events, each challenging in their own right.
(A2) Long-lasting effects of COVID-19
No sooner had summer finished than Australia was affected by the COVID-19 global pandemic.
The NEM was not immune from is effects, though not to the extremes of some doomsday predictions, in terms of demand destruction (in large part because the Australian economy held up much better than was the case in other locations).
As we head into the critical part of summer 2020-21, it’s worthwhile to reflect on these potential risks to the NEM, some of which are still working their way through.
(A3) Energy transition
This multi-faceted energy transition is continuing at pace, with this WattClarity article from 20th October 2020 highlighting how the aggregate installed capacity of Wind Farms across the NEM was nudging close to 8,000MW at the time … though certainly not without its challenges.
Frequent readers of WattClarity will have noted some of the concerns we have raised about the way in which the transition is being incentivised and managed (such as in this article from March 2020).
In amongst other projects, we’ve found a bit of time to start compiling this series of case studies of times when extreme cases of ‘Aggregate Raw Off-Target’ across all Semi-Scheduled plant have been seen to be escalating … both in magnitude and incidence. These Case Studies are attracting some attention … for instance I noted a reference to these in an AEMO presentation on 7th December 2020 to operators of (and other stakeholders in) Semi-Scheduled assets:
As time permits we will look forward to continuing to explore this energy transition (with a focus on data analysis to help the transition succeed with reduced risk and cost) in WattClarity articles into 2021, and also in Deeper Insights like these.
(A4) Broader public discussions
On top of everything else we were doing in a very busy year, on occasions we were asked to speak in front of a number of different gatherings (albeit virtually):
1) In conjunction with Jonathon Dyson, Marcelle Gannon presented two seminars for Clean Energy Council audiences on ‘maximising profitability’ (firstly for Solar Farmers in May 2020 and then for Wind Farmers on 17th Sept 2020). Following from this:
(a) Marcelle was asked to provide this guest perspective as part of the AEMO’s Intermittent Generation Forum on 7th Dec 2020; and
(b) Subsequently posted a series of four short excerpts from the September seminar for the CEC on WattClarity:
2nd snippet = ‘Conformance and Compliance – what’s the difference?’
3rd snippet = ‘How does a Wind or Solar Farm make money?’
4th snippet = ‘PPAs aren’t as easy as they used to be!’
2) In addition to these occasions, there were a couple where I also spoke with larger audiences, including:
(a) On 15th July 2020 to an audience of Wind Farm stakeholders organised by Vestas, exploring the question ‘NEM merchant pricing – is this the new normal?’ … which included discussions about these aggregated results extracted from the GSD2019; and
(b) On 17th July 2020 to an Australian Institute of Energy (AIE) event titled ‘Energy Technology – performing under (heat) stress’.
Strictly on a ‘where time permits’ basis, we would appreciate the opportunity to do similar things in 2021 (there were a number of occasions in 2020 that timing did not work out so well given our busy schedules).
(B) Team expansion, and distributed operations
In parallel with the large developments that occurred externally this year (i.e. in the NEM), it was also quite a year for us internally. Amongst the developments, there are two that I’d particularly like to highlight:
(B1) Two new (star) team members … not in Brisbane
In March, Marcelle Gannon joined us from Tilt Renewables (and AEMO beforehand) to augment our Software Engineering team. Marcelle has already made some valuable contributions to the software we’ve been working on (particularly with ez2view).
In between the core focus on extending our software capability, Marcelle:
1) has also been able to contribute 11 articles on WattClarity®, with more to come in 2021; and
2) spoke to large audiences on several occasions, as noted above.
Then in August, we expanded our Software Team (and Melbourne based presence) further with Linton Corbet joining us from the AEMO. I posted this note on LinkedIn at the time to celebrate, and the large number of responses we saw reinforced our sense that we’ve welcomed another star onboard in 2020!
(B2) Distributed operations
For two decades, our client-serving operations have all been distributed, and cloud based (which is one of the reasons why our service to clients was not disrupted in Brisbane’s floods in 2011).
However our internal operations had been based out of our offices in Brisbane … which means we had been thinking we needed Brisbane-based people to help us deliver on the growing number of client needs. The software development function had been based out of our office in Milton, Brisbane (and most working days we were in there).
Having Marcelle join us (from Melbourne) coincident with the appearance of COVID-19 forced us to revisit the way our software development processes functioned. Just part of our ongoing efforts to always continue improving how we serve our customers.
1) Previously we’d been very much based out of our offices in Brisbane.
2) As a result of the investment we’ve made through 2020, we’ve reached the end of the year with a much more distributed approach.
One advantage of this approach is that it will enable us to ensure that the next Software Engineer we hire need not be in Brisbane (nor indeed in Melbourne). Thinking of how spread our clients are across the NEM, there might be value in our next software engineer being in Sydney … or Adelaide … or Hobart … or ???.
If you know of someone who can help us in these two ways, please let us know?
(C) Further growth in our client base
It’s not our thing to publish our client list, or to put the spotlight on them individually.
Many of the clients we serve would see themselves as described (at least loosely) in one of more of these boxes:
We do really appreciate the opportunity to work with each of our clients one-on-one, and are grateful for all those opportunities that came our way in 2020 to serve the additional clients who came onboard through 2020.
Keeping in mind that we serve clients with a range of different products (such as below), and that counting client numbers if not something that really enthuses me (I’d rather be actually helping clients), I was asked and so did a quick scan.
I could see perhaps 50 new clients through the year, a sizeable sub-set of whom had each added a percent or more to our annual revenues. We appreciate the opportunity to serve each and all of these new clients … along with clients we have been serving for 10, 15 and in some cases close to 20 years.
Remember that we’re not consultants, and nor do we provide bespoke software development services.
Rather, our business is focused around serving a large and expanding group of clients through a small list of standardised software products that our clients choose to use in different ways to ‘make better decisions’ that are specific to their own relationship with the competitive energy market.
Some of these are listed below, with brief comments:
The first version of our NEMwatch software product was released during our first year of operations, 2000.
It’s come a long way since that time (v10 was first released in 2015), and we’ve appreciated the opportunity to serve some clients for a decade or more over the journey since that time.
Over the two decades since its initial development, we’ve also been able to deliver specially focused products that contain elements of the dashboard-style view of the NEM and, in addition:
(a) With deSide®, has been specifically focused on the needs of the particular users of the service (large energy users); and
(b) With ez2view, has been specifically focused on the needs of physical participants in the wholesale market (e.g. generators), and is also used by others who have large financial exposures.
Hence many clients who might have used NEMwatch years ago have upgraded onto these applications.
As such, NEMwatch increasingly represents a low-cost, entry-level dashboard to the National Electricity Market. We have designs sketched out for an upgrade to NEMwatch v11 (to take the product in a direction that’s intriguing for us), but did not have time to progress these during 2020 given everything else that’s been going on.
If you know of people who can help us expand our capability in 2021 such that we can also move on this project, please let us know?
We did make some progress with NEMreview on several fronts, as discussed in this fuller note here on the NEMreview portal.
In particular it’s worth noting:
(a) That there’s now an upgrade to the NEMreview v6 installed software; and
(b) Progress on the (in-development) NEMreview v7 online software progresses in several ways.
We’ve appreciated the many interactions we have had with NEMreview clients through 2020 (including the new ones that have come onboard, as recently as only a month ago), and will look forward to this continuing into 2021. There’s plenty of examples of analysis completed using NEMreview, sometimes in conjunction with ez2view or NEMwatch, in articles on WattClarity.
Our deSide® software has been assisting spot-exposed energy users since as far back as ~2003, I guess. It’s a form of Demand Response for large energy users operating in the NEM that has grown fairly steadily over the years since then.
The year 2021 will bring with it a number of developments that will necessitate an upgrade to our deSide® software bundle.
(a) One of these changes is the introduction of what is perhaps best described as a ‘Centralised Negawatt Dispatch Mechanism’ (commencing 1st Oct 2021).; but
(b) A far more significant change will be the move to Five Minute Settlement (5MS), also commencing 1st October 2021.
(c) There have also been other developments in the market relevant to these type of clients.
As such, we have invested time through 2020 in one-on-one conversations with most of our deSide clients, and will look forward to taking these perspectives into the development of a ‘deSide 2021 upgrade’ for release in time for the transitions on 1st October 2021.
Since late 2010 we have invested many $Millions into the ongoing development of our ez2viewAustralia software application … and this investment is really starting to pay dividends both:
(a) in terms of the value delivered by the software that is unique to this application; and
(b) in terms of the increasing number of clients that are coming onboard.
Even those not yet ready to upgrade (from other packages) to ez2view at this point are using terms like the following to refer to ez2view:
“The ez2view presentation of specific NEM region operations is best-in-class and is ideal for market operations staff actively bidding as events develop, or seeking to schedule maintenance at appropriate times. So too is ez2view’s widget showing the evolution of dispatch pricing or demand over time as a heat map.”
Name withheld to protect confidentiality.
Our ongoing investment into ez2view will continue for many more years (our ‘Product Backlog’ (a.k.a. ‘things to do list’) looks set to keep us going for many years already, the the ideas and suggestions keep on coming!)
It was great to be able to add Marcelle, and then Linton, to the team this year … but a couple more talented software engineers would be nice in 2021! Know of anyone?
(D5) Generator Statistical Digest (GSD2019 and GSD2020)
On 28th January 2020 we released the Generator Statistical Digest 2019 (GSD2019), a first-of-a-kind extension to, and update of, the statistical digest contained within the first of its kind Generator Report Card 2018 (released on 31st May 2019).
In part because of the favourable response, but also because it’s informing ongoing software development, we’ve invited pre-orders for the GSD2020 update (for only a couple more weeks you can save $300exGST on the final price by ordering early).
Given that the calendar is rolling into 2021 shortly, next week we will be cranking the handle on ‘BEAST’ to start the update process as a result of which we envisage that the Generator Statistical Digest 2020 should be released on, or around, Wednesday 27th January 2021.
(a) Looking forward to delivering access to the growing number of clients who have already pre-ordered their copies; and
(b) Time permitting, we’d look to share some insights from the GSD2020 on WattClarity.
Time permitting in 2021, we may continue the process and roll into the production of a Generator Report Card 2020 also… but no promises on that one yet (there’s a lot we have to do on top of that).
(D6) Other initiatives
We have a number of other developments in the work that we can’t talk about yet.
However it’s worth noting that (as discussed here in relation to NEMreview) we’re in the process of assembling an ‘Asset Catalog’ that will be accessible within (and licensed with) products like NEMreview and ez2view, but also separately accessible.
(E) Another investment
Not all of the customer needs we come across we’re able to focus on solving with the software we develop.
Indeed, we need to be quite selective in terms of the problems we choose to tackle, as our Vision is that we’ll never have a large internal team of resources (a couple more would be handy, but we’re not looking to grow massively). As such, we have built up a network of contacts we can refer clients onto if they have problems we choose not to help them with (one-on-one consulting services, for instance).
It was a bit of synchronicity about a year ago that enabled us to take part in some initial seed funding in a startup company (Overwatch Energy Pty Ltd) in conjunction with 3 other entities, with the aim being to tackle some of these other opportunities.
This short note from the Overwatch Energy team was posted a couple weeks ago:
… though note that the numbers are already out-of-date (number of clients is now 7, with an end-of-year rush to get assets under management before summer really starts).
What a fast-changing first year it’s been for Overwatch!