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NewEnergy, a subsidiary of Exelon Corporation, partnered with TEKsystems for development support of its proprietary VirtuWatt™ application.

Our customer, Constellation NewEnergy, Inc., a subsidiary of Exelon Corporation (NYSE: EXC), the leading competitive energy provider, headquartered in Chicago. The company’s Constellation business unit provides energy products and services to approximately 100,000 business and public sector customers and approximately one million residential customers. The company operates in all competitive energy markets in the United States, providing products and services that enable users to effectively manage energy costs.

Utilities manage the ever-increasing consumer demand for electricity by transmitting power to customers through an aging, stressed infrastructure. Smart grid initiatives seek to repair this model by transforming the way our energy is stored, shared and managed. A ‘smarter grid’ gathers, distributes and acts on real-time data on the behavior of all participants with the goal of improving the reliability and sustainability of electricity services. A key component of smart grid initiatives is demand response (DR): a shift or reduction of energy consumption in response to supply conditions.

Utility companies historically leveraged DR principles for certain customer segments as a way to restore equilibrium between supply and demand, reduce risk of brownouts or blackouts and offset the need for new generation of energy. Economic DR is a specific initiative in the commercial and residential markets that encourages the customer, not the utility, to reduce demand during peak periods in order to take advantage of financial incentives. In order for these shifts to occur, customers need assistance in deciphering their energy usage. In response, energy suppliers introduced consumer products such as smart meters, smart thermostats and other monitoring devices. NewEnergy, a leading provider of DR to commercial and industrial customers, created an innovative proprietary application known as VirtuWatt™ to encourage customer participation in DR. VirtuWatt presented a unique solution for commercial customers to access their real-time electricity usage and choose to reduce consumption during peak times. Real-time data provides greater transparency into the building management systems and allows the customer to make faster adjustments based on actual usage. 

Microsoft .NET, Oracle 10g

Utilities manage the ever-increasing consumer demand for electricity by transmitting power to customers through an aging, stressed infrastructure. Smart grid initiatives seek to repair this model by transforming the way our energy is stored, shared and managed. A ‘smarter grid’ gathers, distributes and acts on real-time data on the behavior of all participants with the goal of improving the reliability and sustainability of electricity services. A key component of smart grid initiatives is demand response (DR): a shift or reduction of energy consumption in response to supply conditions.

Utility companies historically leveraged DR principles for certain customer segments as a way to restore equilibrium between supply and demand, reduce risk of brownouts or blackouts and offset the need for new generation of energy. Economic DR is a specific initiative in the commercial and residential markets that encourages the customer, not the utility, to reduce demand during peak periods in order to take advantage of financial incentives. The efficiencies associated with the closer alignment of energy production and demand drives down operating costs, and the savings are often shared with the customer. In order for these shifts to occur, customers need assistance in deciphering their energy usage. In response, energy suppliers introduced consumer products such as smart meters, smart thermostats and other monitoring devices.

Our client, a provider of DR to commercial and industrial customers, created an innovative proprietary application to encourage customer participation in DR. The application gave commercial customers access to their real-time electricity usage and allowed them to reduce consumption during peak times. Real-time data provided greater transparency into the building management systems and let the customer make faster adjustments based on actual usage.

In order to further engage commercial customers in recognizing cost savings and participating in these load reduction programs, the client needed to increase the application’s functionality, modify the user interface and incorporate mobile features. These proposed changes required a major rewrite of the application and a more intuitive, visually appealing design.

TEKsystems had enjoyed a long-standing relationship with the client and was already providing IT support center services at the time of applications project. We were awarded the engagement based on our strong understanding of the client’s business, our expertise and technical capabilities in applications development with other clients and our ability to leverage our Montreal Solution Centre (MSC) to develop a flexible and scalable service model.

Given the client’s directive that the application must be complete prior to the beginning of the summer season (a peak energy time), TEKsystems’ experience with agile development principles played a major role in the win as well. An Agile process is collaborative and can accommodate the input of all the stakeholders involved with such an important initiative and the methodology is structured to adapt to the fluidity of requirements associated with a set deadline and the testing of a mobile application. The client, already an adopter of Agile development, leveraged TEKsystems’ expertise to enhance its existing processes. TEKnique™, our proprietary methodology, represents the refinement and evolution of agile practices based on our experience across 150+ application development projects over the last five years.

TEKsystems segmented the project into three main phases, with an overall project duration of 40 weeks:

  • Design and Analysis
  • Develop and Test
  • Integration and User Acceptance Testing (UAT)

To kick off the engagement, key TEKsystems resources met with NewEnergy’s leadership on both the IT and business sides at the MSC. Over a one-week requirements gathering workshop, the team jointly developed the framework for the application and its delivery. Leveraging the expertise from our .NET Applications Development team and our Architectural Center of Excellence, TEKsystems assembled a nine-person team based at our MSC. Led by a dedicated project manager, this team included a solutions architect and business analyst who worked collaboratively with the NewEnergy. Once a clear plan was established and validated, a user experience designer, a graphics designer, a quality assurance (QA) analyst and four applications developers were brought in in two-week cycles. Prior to each cycle, the companies collaborated to finalize the work effort required to meet deliverables to be completed by the end of the sprint.

Once development was complete, our team was on-site during the go-live stage to support NewEnergy. TEKsystems was able to quickly address minor adjustments that needed to be made in accordance with the run-time environment.

VirtuWatt enhancements were completed on time and presented to NewEnergy on schedule. The new application provided users with electricity use across energy markets, customized data views and automated notifications for price, usage and load response compliance. TEKsystems’ solution also allowed NewEnergy to provide the following benefits to its customers:

  • Functionality and Mobility: VirtuWatt’s dashboard and marketplace bidding platform gave customers access to real-time usage information and automated control capabilities in order to optimize their energy consumption. The screenshot below illustrates the breadth of historical information available online, as well as the ability to compare real-time data, such as grid load and temperature, with trending information.
  • Usability:VirtuWatt now offered end users an online dashboard to track current energy usage, monitor usage trends and evaluate current market values so they can pinpoint opportunities to shift operations during lower cost energy periods. The application also eliminated the manual processes historically associated with participating in grid-managed DR programs. The screenshot below illustrates the interactive functions of the application, allowing users to schedule events in advance of anticipated energy demand.
  • Savings: As a direct result of our improvements to VirtuWatt, NewEnergy’s customers have visibility into peak pricing periods. Customers can reduce consumption during peak times, shift operations to lower-cost energy periods and bid power usage reductions directly into the markets in exchange for compensation from grid operators.

Project Approach: NewEnergy and TEKsystems both agreed that an agile methodology was the ideal approach for the VirtuWatt project. The VirtuWatt application is a transformational tool and a competitive advantage for NewEnergy. Enhancing the Web application and building a mobile application required extreme attention to detail and a focus on the user experience. The agile process allowed for continual evaluation and improvement, ensuring the application met customer demands.

Project Initiation: Successful applications development stands and falls with the requirements gathering phase of the engagement. TEKsystems conducted multiple visits with NewEnergy, defining project scope and discussing the business needs before the project plan was initiated. This attention to the project objectives and user expectations ensured the project had a strong foundation.