Alinta Energy sells gas and electricity to over one million customers. Originally a Western Australian business, the company has expanded to the east coast and now owns and operates power stations across Australia, including the Braemar Power Station in Queensland and the Wagerup Power Station in Western Australia, as well as the Glenbrook power station in New Zealand.
The company has been focusing on the importance of quality data as late, turning recently to Microsoft for help. The Alinta Data Warehouse is at the heart of Alinta's operations, providing the single source of information for the enterprise, its customers, and for regulators.
Alinta Energy is one of the first companies in Australia to use Microsoft Azure Synapse Analytics, which is touted by Microsoft as the "latest evolution of Azure SQL Data Warehouse which promises a limitless analytics service bringing together enterprise data warehousing and big data analytics".
See also: Azure Synapse Analytics: A progress report
Alinta Energy needed a modern digital platform able to support the growth of the business and to meet its regulatory obligations. The company's general manager of data and analytics Brad Walker said Alinta is "quite a complex business that has brought together a whole bunch of smaller and legacy assets over the years".
One of the first projects to take advantage of the Azure-based Alinta Data Hub (ADH) is the Unbilled system that provides accrual data to the business. Alinta has created models that track the amount of energy that the company buys, help employees manage financials, and use machine learning to predict future energy requirements.
The ADH acts as a secure source of data detailing Alinta's energy generation, as well as data from market regulators and networks, and Walker is planning to add feeds from weather agencies and other sources to help with trading in the future.
"We've drastically improved the quality of our accrual models, driving our financial positions and our reporting to the board. There are about 22 models that are running in there. We're doing something like 150 million records per run," Walker said.
From a regulatory perspective, Walker said the ADH will also help ensure Alinta is ready to respond to the "five-minute settlement" requirement when the Australian Energy Market Operator introduces the mandate.
See also: Energy sector asks not to be forgotten in changes to Aussie data-sharing rules
"We have done the architecture and design at the high level for that, and ADH will be a core component of Alinta's response to make the markets meet the five-minute settlement data," he said.
Walker said Alinta is looking at how AI and machine learning can be further deployed across the business, building models able to ingest data from weather services for example, to better predict demand.
"We fundamentally see the ability to: One, capture a significant amount of our historic data and have that available for machine learning and AI to run. Second is the ability to have a cloud-based platform that can acquire data both internally and externally, everything from weather and energy markets through to our internal transactions so that we can not only have a full history of data, but also have rapid application of real time data so that models can run," he said.
"Then the third part is having that scalability in our processing so that we can run models real time, to drive real-time decisioning rather than just doing historical or trending analysis."
The ADH, built using Azure Synapse, provides those strong data rich foundations that will allow Alinta to continue to grow, develop new customer services, meet regulatory requirements, and power ahead.