ENGIE engages C3 to roadmap its digital journey
When French electricity utility company ENGIE needed a partner to help implement an enterprise-wide digital transformation, it turned to C3.ai.
Ranked as among the largest power producers in the world, ENGIE’s requirements ranged from optimising gas power plants, managing heating and cooling plants, energy analysis, fault-detection on wind turbines and more.
With a total energy production capability of 114.4GW and staffed by over 153,000 people, ENGIE’s reputation as a leader in the sector is well established, yet the company still envisaged a better and more integrated way of operating.
“Together with C3.ai, we’re determined to be one of the rare leaders that will invent the new world,” said Yves Le Gelard, CIO and Chief Digital Officer.
A large-scale undertaking
Implementing a digital transformation within ENGIE’s vast operational framework (24 units in 70 countries) was always going to be a challenge, but C3.ai was determined to make the substantial commitment of time and resources that it would entail.
Part of this preparation necessitated training 70 new staff, including data scientists, on how to operate and optimise the C3 AI suite.
With ENGIE’s global operations pooling data from more than 1mn devices in one minute to 15-minute intervals, the data collection capabilities of the company are huge, with the expectation that the number of devices could quintuple by the end of 2020.
The relevant solutions selected as relevant for ENGIE’s requirements included Predictive Maintenance (Gas Chain, Production of Electricity, Solutions for Cities & Territories), Sensor Health (Gas Chain) and C3 Enterprise (Solutions for Business).
In total, C3.ai devised a roadmap for digital transformation that made use of more than 30 applications from its suite, all linked to the maintenance of essential aspects of the company’s business.
In addition, to streamline the uptake, ENGIE established its own ‘Digital Factory’ and hired 100 technical staff to help promote the ideas and resources granted by C3.ai’s technology.
Ofwat allows retailers to raise prices from April
Retailers can recover a portion of excess bad debt by temporarily increasing prices from April 2022, according to an Ofwat statement.
The regulator confirmed its view that levels of bad debt costs across the business retail market are exceeding 2% of non-household revenue, thereby allowing "a temporary increase" in the maximum prices. Adjustments to price caps will apply for a minimum of two years to reduce the step changes in price that customers might experience.
Measures introduced since March 2020 to contain the spread of Covid-19 could lead to retailers facing higher levels of customer bad debt. Retailers’ abilities to respond to this are expected to be constrained by Ofwat strengthening protections for non-household customers during Covid-19 and the presence of price caps.
In April last year, Ofwat committed to provide additional regulatory protection if bad debt costs across the market exceeded 2% of non-household revenue.
Georgina Mills, Business Retail Market Director at Ofwat said: “These decisions aim to protect the interests of non-household customers in the short and longer term, including from the risk of systemic Retailer failure as the business retail market continues to feel the impacts of COVID-19. By implementing market-wide adjustments to price caps, we aim to minimise any additional costs for customers in the shorter term by promoting efficiency and supporting competition.”
There are also three areas where Ofwat has not reached definitive conclusions and is seeking further evidence and views from stakeholders:
- Pooling excess bad debt costs – Ofwat proposes that the recovery of excess bad debt costs is pooled across all non-household customers, via a uniform uplift to price caps.
- Keeping open the option of not pursuing a true up – For example if outturn bad debt costs are not materially higher than the 2% threshold.
- Undertaking the true up – If a 'true up' is required, Ofwat has set out how it expects this to work in practice.
Further consultation on the proposed adjustments to REC price caps can be expected by December.
"While it’s great that regulators are helping the industry deal with bad debt in the wake of the pandemic, raising prices only treats the symptoms. Instead, water companies should head upstream, using customer data to identify and rectify the causes of bad debt, stop it at source and help prevent it from occurring in the first place," she said.
"While recouping costs is a must, water companies shouldn’t just rely on the regulator. Data can help companies segment customers, identify and assist customers that are struggling financially, avoiding penalising the entire customer in tackling the cause of the issue."
United Utilities picks up pipeline award
A race-against-time plumbing job to connect four huge water pipes into the large Haweswater Aqueduct in Cumbria saw United Utilities awarded Utility Project of the Year by Pipeline Industries Guild.
The Hallbank project, near Kendal, was completed within a tight eight-day deadline, in a storm and during the second COVID lockdown last November – and with three hours to spare. Principal construction manager John Dawson said the project helped boost the resilience of water supplies across the North West.
“I think what made us stand out was the scale, the use of future technology and the fact that we were really just one team, working collaboratively for a common goal," he said.
Camus Energy secures $16m funding
Camus Energy, which provides advanced grid management technology, has secured $16 million in a Series A round, led by Park West Asset Management and joined by Congruent Ventures, Wave Capital and other investors, including an investor-owned utility. Camus will leverage the operating capital to expand its grid management software platform to meet growing demand from utilities across North America.
As local utilities look to save money and increase their use of clean energy by tapping into low-cost and low-carbon local resources, Camus' grid management platform provides connectivity between the utility's operations team, its grid-connected equipment and customer devices.