BES Utilities looks to help customers with ground-breaking research

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Commercial energy supplier BES Utilities has teamed up with experts from Lancaster University to undertake ground-breaking research aimed at reducing energy costs for its customers.

The Lancashire-based power firm has joined forces with the University – Europe’s leading centre for forecasting research – to develop new forecast systems which more accurately gauge gas and electricity consumption across the UK.

Analysing a combination of historical data, including peak usage times and seasonal trends, together with up-to-the-minute weather factors such as temperature and wind speed, the researchers are able to systematically and precisely forecast customer demand.

The new data-driven system, which Masters students are helping to develop, will enable BES to more accurately buy wholesale power at the most competitive price.

This will not only be beneficial for the company, in terms of assisting its long-term planning and efficiency, but should ultimately lead to lower bills for BES’ 40,000-plus gas and electricity customers – the majority of whom are small businesses.

David Ballantyne, BES Utilities’ Commercial Director, said: “We are committed to developing and implementing new systems which enable us to pass on the benefits to our customers.

“The wholesale gas and electricity market fluctuates massively over the course of any given month, week and day due to demand and so forecasting accuracy is crucial to keep costs down for customers.

“For example, in April, which was actually colder than December, we saw prices fluctuate between £45 per megawatt hour (Mwh) to £500 per Mwh. This shows the need to have systems in place which can more accurately predict customer needs and demand.

“This new collaboration with Lancaster University, which is home to Europe’s leading centre for forecasting research, will allow us to update our current systems and better plan in terms of forecasting supply and demand.”

Lancaster University and its Masters students have recently worked with the likes of L’Oreal, Jaguar Landrover, NHS England, BT, United Utilities and global toy giant LEGO on forecasting projects designed to cut costs and improve processes.

Masters students Dmitry Ishutim and Rimpy Malik are now working at BES’ Fleetwood headquarters under the supervision of Prof John Boylan, the University’s lead in the field of forecasting.

Not only will the research form a vital part of the configuration of BES’ new systems, but it will also allow the two masters students to conclude their MSc studies and potentially open the way for them to gain jobs in the hugely competitive energy supply market.

Russian student Dmitry, 22, from Moscow, said: “This is a really exciting project. We are enjoying being part of the BES team and developing new systems which will help the company.”

Rimpy, 24, from Delhi, India, added: “Through the university, we were given a number of options as to which companies to work with and we both chose BES because we could see how we could use our skills in forecasting to develop new systems to benefit the company.”

Prof John Boylan said: “As Europe’s leading centre for forecasting research, we develop applied research with companies, transfer knowledge between academia and business and build best practices in methods, processes and systems.

“We are delighted to be working with BES Utilities and believe our expertise can help the company best develop new systems which will be invaluable for both BES and its customers.”

BES Utilities, which was set up by entrepreneurs Andy Pilley and Michelle Davidson in 2004, saw a 20% rise in customers last year and is an industry leader in the roll-out of smart electricity meters.

More than 70% of their 30,000 electricity customers already benefit from a free smart meter – giving them real-time and accurate bills meaning the end of estimated bills, and the end of overpaying (or underpaying) for their energy.

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