Technology advisory of the year: Accenture

Energy Risk Awards 2022: Advisory’s energy transition work expands beyond core ETRM software to entire digital strategy

Nickolas Underwood, Accenture

The Covid-19 pandemic and resulting economic turmoil continued to pose significant challenges to the energy sector last year, from supply-chain disruptions to commodity price volatility and major swings in demand. Additionally, firms in the sector must now address the energy transition and the likely impact on their business models and the wider markets.

As a result, according to Nickolas Underwood, the global head of Accenture’s trading and commercial practice, companies are “reassessing priorities, reinventing their business models and investing in data-led technology transformations”.

A range of energy companies have called upon Accenture to help them navigate these challenges. The firm’s expertise in machine learning and natural language processing combined with core ETRM software experience and cloud capability, has resulted in its clients receiving cutting edge, scalable solutions to their challenges this year, and to Accenture winning Energy Risk’s Technology advisory of the year award.

Accenture has collaborated with multiple global energy and utilities clients to help them manage risk and optimise energy transition-related investments and assets over the past year. This has involved researching and developing clean energy use-cases for transformational applications and technologies including renewable generation, battery storage, environmental commodities, hydrogen, carbon capture and sequestration and industrial clusters. Accenture has also integrated the design and delivery of such projects with traditional energy trading and risk management (ETRM) capabilities to provide clients with additional business insights.

The technology advisory firm’s core offering is to assist clients with global ETRM implementations across multiple commodities including electricity, natural gas, refined products and environmental products such as renewable energy credits. This work involves system assessments, vendor selections, deployments and upgrades. In the current environment, however, the firm’s 10 US Innovation Hubs have played a key role in enhancing the development of leading technologies and digital applications for clients around the world.

Underpinning the automation and data is machine learning and natural language processing components. These increase value by reducing errors and providing additional insights into the data consumed throughout an organisation

Nickolas Underwood, Accenture

For example, Accenture has developed robotic process automation technology, as well as automated data handling and management practices. Integrating these solutions into cloud-hosted platforms enables the kind of scalability that today’s energy sector clients are looking for, according to Underwood. “Underpinning the automation and data is machine learning and natural language processing components,” he continues. “These increase value by reducing errors and providing additional insights into the data consumed throughout an organisation.”

Companies that have used the hubs to modernise their trading and risk management functions have seen double-digit efficiency improvements, according to Underwood. “Clients have realised value through increased gross margin capture, reduced man hours and increased focus on more value-added tasks, process scalability and better job satisfaction among employees,” he says.

The firm has also supported the launch of trading operations for several clients over the past year. These companies wanted to expand their capabilities to maximise revenue opportunities and manage risk by optimising renewable energy-based asset portfolios.

With the application of leading-edge technology becoming an increasingly important element of success across the energy complex, Accenture has also worked with several clients to launch digital strategy initiatives over the past year. Such projects enable these companies “to build an enterprise-wide foundation to support increasingly complex business use-cases to retain their industry-leading positions”, Underwood says.

Further, he believes Accenture’s energy transition work is “supercharged” by the advisory firm’s established relationships with software vendors and other organisations offering commodity management, risk analytics, bid-to-bill platforms, data aggregation, analytics and other key solutions. This has enabled the firm to develop innovative projects in analytics, cloud migrations and managed services.

“The energy transition is a highly complex problem to solve,” Underwood says. “And Accenture’s position as a partner to leading global businesses provides us both an extraordinary opportunity and a tremendous responsibility to make a difference.”

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