Britain sitting comfortably with deregulation, software provider says

May 17, 2001–Problems with electricity deregulation have been causing havoc across several US states recently, resulting in rolling peak time blackouts while supply chains are sorted out.

This could have been avoided, according to Formfill, a utilities software solutions provider.

Despite the potential revenue offered by the American market, millions of dollars are being wasted unnecessarily each day as companies are forced to purchase electricity at inflated prices on the eleventh hour just to keep districts in power. The problem, Peter Kennedy, Director of Formfill argues, is that the state-by-state process of deregulation is not working.

Britain’s electricity supply market, on the other hand, has been operating successfully since its deregulation in 1998. Communication issues between participants of the programme were overcome with the implementation of the standard Data Transfer Catalogue (DTC) and Network (DTN). This standardised dictionary of all dataflows and supporting network was developed to help manage the flow of information between electricity supply organisations, freeing up communication channels and ensuring smooth business transactions.

“As a company, Formfill has achieved success by identifying and developing software that will address all the issues associated with managing, validating, sending and receiving information, specific to the utilities industry. Our research enabled us to develop the DataFlow range of solutions for utilities and more recently solutions for the UK’s New Electricity Trading Arrangements (NETA) programme. It is my view that the US should follow our lead,” Kennedy said.

“Despite the policies implemented by the CUBR (Coalition for Uniform Business Rules), to promote competition and encourage interaction between suppliers and utilities, different US states are not working together to find a solution that will form the bedrock of a nationally integrated system. Instead it appears that each state seems to be working to its own agenda, which in the long run will only serve to compound the inefficiencies of a system that is already showing cracks.”

Kennedy said that the smooth implementation of UK electricity supply deregulation process is due to the cooperation of all concerned. “When the market deregulated everybody in the industry came together to discuss the issues and potential problems that could arise. It was the sharing of minds and information to achieve a common goal that was so valuable to the final outcome.”

While UK electricity supply organisations can freely interact with each other and enjoy the benefits of the DTC and its supporting infrastructure, the UK gas industry, in comparison, does not share a communal data dictionary. Instead Transco holds it, although from its consultation document on improving customer transfers, Ofgem believes it should be widely available to all involved in gas industry in electronic format.

The lack of an openly available electronic data catalogue across the gas network means that many industry members have to communicate by traditional fax or paper, which considerably slows down the process of customer information exchange. It is inconsistencies such as these that led Formfill to develop GasFlow Director, a complete electronic set of all the gas dataflows, which operates in a similar fashion to DataFlow Workstation, but applies uniquely to the gas industry.

Kennedy continues: “If a method that allows the free flow of data between all concerned can be introduced the industry as a whole will benefit from greater operational efficiency. Implementing a system that has the ability to digitally transfer information between parties not only speeds up the whole process, but allows companies to get on with providing an efficient, cost effective public service.”

Based in Blackburn, Formfill is a provider of e-business software solutions that enable businesses to increase operational efficiency by transforming expensive paper processes into digital processes and providing solutions for the integration of different systems.

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