Data management house of the year: ZE Power Group

Energy Risk Awards 2021: Data firm’s technology investment and increased Europe focus reap rewards

Aiman El-Ramly
Aiman El-Ramly, ZE Power Group

Last year’s Covid-19 lockdowns caused an array of data management and analytics challenges for energy and commodity firms as they grappled to gain better insight into supply, demand and pricing outlooks while attempting to shore up business resiliency.

ZE PowerGroup, the winner of Energy Risk’s 2021 Data management house of the year award, undertook several initiatives in order to meet its clients’ changing and increasing needs. One of the first was to ensure energy firms had the data they needed around the huge change in electricity demand patterns caused by the pandemic and remote working.

“Covid was a major change, because the traditional load shape in the day is not the same any more,” says chief executive Aiman El-Ramly. “As commuting patterns changed completely, so too did the pattern of electricity usage. “ZE helps firms to understand these changes, and enhances their analysis and transaction capability,” he adds. 

In order to meets its clients’ increased need for data, ZE ramped up the performance and speed of its offering by investing in new flash memory storage technology. It also built out its cloud offering and now offers a range of solutions from on-premise delivery of data and analytics to managed services and a fully hosted private cloud solution, known as ZE Cloud.     

The firm maintains coverage of over 1,100 data providers in varying industries amounting to over 10,000 individual data interfaces that are collecting information in numerous formats from various sources. Data sources are geographically broad and constantly growing. The firm adds on average two to three new data sources per week.

ZE’s speedy response to last year’s events enabled it to gain 17 new clients since the onset of the pandemic. Notably, one is a mining company, representing the firm’s first move into that sector. One of its new clients, a US utility in the northwest, estimates it has received a 200% return on investment from onboarding with ZE.

The gains came from eliminating manual and non-standardised processes in its data and analytics function, reducing human error and achieving greater data security.

Another significant achievement last year was ZE’s further penetration into the liquefied natural gas (LNG) markets, including licensing its Zema platform to another of the world’s largest LNG companies.  

El-Ramly says he is equally pleased by the expansion of services the firm has provided to its existing client base over the past 12 months. ZE has seen growth in much of its customer base, with continued migrations to ZE Cloud and further automation of critical trade and risk functions.

In March 2021, ZE completed the implementations of two European data centres, which helped win new German utility clients and positions the firm to expand its European business further, according to El-Ramly.

“Our new European data centres are co-hosted in Germany and the Netherlands, and I am super happy that we have the German utilities as new clients for this facility,” he says. “These are big German utility firms that we won as clients because of a strategic decision to invest in the EU.”

The catalyst for investing in a European data centre was the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation, which came into force in 2018. According to El-Ramly, ZE’s existing Canadian data centres are fully GDPR-compliant and are capable of serving European clients.  But he says the data regulation is complex and governance of its clients can be most easily met via an EU-domiciled platform. This has the added advantage of enabling the firm to on-board European clients quicker and more effectively than from outside the trading bloc.

Another area of huge focus for ZE is the move to the low-carbon economy, which requires massive amounts of data, especially for firms operating in power markets amid increasing use of intermittent renewables. The energy transition also gives greater prominence to LNG, which is needed as a back-up fuel to deal with the intermittency of renewables, as well as a means of replacing oil and coal. 

As producers increase their investment in LNG, they are setting up trading and risk desks to better understand these markets. They are turning to Zema for insight and analysis on the markets and also to automate business processes, says El-Ramly. As a result, ZE’s automated data platform for LNG markets is gaining increased traction and is well-placed to serve clients who are tilting their business more and more towards gas.

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