Northern Ireland Electricity integrates for open market


Belfast, Northern Ireland — (METERING.COM) — January 17, 2008 – Northern Ireland Electricity (NIE) has just completed the second phase of a £15 million ($30 million) major systems integration program to meet the requirements of Further Electricity Market Opening in Northern Ireland (FEMO) and important elements of the All Island Single Electricity Market (SEM). The utility worked with UK-based business and IT technology services organization Parity Group, which was responsible for managing the systems integration program for FEMO and data aggregation (for the SEM) including the provision of project management, supplier management and contract management expertise necessary to meet the tight deadline. Key business areas included customer care and billing and data aggregation.

Serving around 800,000 customers in Northern Ireland, NIE provides electricity to both domestic users and businesses and is part of Viridian group, one of the largest businesses headquartered in Northern Ireland. The SEM is the flagship scheme ahead of the imminent EU-wide common energy market. FEMO in Northern Ireland will allow domestic consumers to choose their energy provider according to their own needs and transfer their custom easily once suppliers have entered the new market.

Meeting the requirements of FEMO and data aggregation required NIE to ensure that its systems were able to accommodate not only the new demands placed on it internally, but also from its customers. Therefore the IT systems had two distinct requirements – first, to process customers’ provider selections and ensure any changes in service provider were accomplished smoothly; and second, rationalising which utility company has supplied energy to which customer and ensuring the information is aggregated appropriately for billing and settlement.

Parity’s role specifically revolved around managing the system integration and associated contract billing and relationship management. The team defined the precise requirements of the two strands of the project with the help of two UK-experienced consultancies – Engage and St. Clements Services – and then managed the contracts of three sub-contractors; Oracle, PRI and Northgate Information Systems, who were responsible for customer care and billing, an automatic billing aggregation system, keypad metering and legacy system evolution respectively.

Once these four separate elements were completed under Parity’s supervision, an 80-day integration test was performed to ensure a smooth collaboration from the disparate providers, ultimately to a successful conclusion. Parity and its partners are now looking to re-use the skills and experience gained on this program in the smart metering area, which the government is committed to in order to achieve significant household carbon savings.

Michael Atkinson, NI 2007 Program Director at Northern Ireland Electricity, comments, “We have been very impressed with Parity’s work on the program delivery and training, given the tight deadline and steep learning curve. Parity has displayed a professional and very determined approach to delivering their part of the overall program. The successful completion of this phase of development is a testament to the team’s hard work and dedication to the task.”