Electricity traders get wired

Electricity will be traded like any other commodity from this week with buyers and sellers working over a new multimillion-dollar information network.

Electricity will be traded like any other commodity from this week with buyers and sellers working over a new multimillion-dollar information network.

As part of ongoing deregulation, the electricity market goes wholesale from October 1. The two sellers of electricity, ECNZ and its offshoot and competitor Contact Energy, will trade with the 40 or so power companies as well as large industrial customers such as dairy boards and Tasman Pulp and Power. Some buyers, including Auckland’s Mercury Energy, also plan to start generating and selling in the future. The new system they will trade over is based on Reuter Triarch foreign exchange dealing room system used by banks, with the software developed by Logica.

The project was initiated by the Wellington-based Electricity Marketing Company (EMCO), which was set up by the New Zealand electricity industry as a regulatory body. EMCO is owned in thirds by ECNZ, Transpower and the Electricity Supply Association of New Zealand.

EMCO and Transpower, which distributes the country’s power and maintains the national grid, is positioned between the sellers and buyers.

The locally-developed trading application called Comit (commodities information and trading) has been incorporated into the Reuter system, running on Sun servers with Windows NT 3.51 clients. The systems’ workstations run Comit, TPIX (Transpower’s dispatch software), MS Exchange and Reuter terminal for live market data. The trading system is fully backed up with fibre-optic cables linking EMCO to a reserve site nearby.

From August 25, client sites have had Reuter workstations installed in their offices connected to Sun servers via Transpower’s national telecommunications network. Deals will be made on screen.

Other information available will include hydro-lake levels and relevant meteorological and hydrological forecasts.

EMCO technology manager Steven Howard describes the system as very complex not because of the telecommunications or client site requirements but because of the nature of the commodity itself.

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