​By Lisa Meiman

Desert Southwest employees worked diligently for nine years to remarket the Boulder Canyon Project hydropower from Hoover Dam, more than doubling the number of contractors participating in the project.

It’s a story that has been shared multiple times, such as in the December 2017 issue of Closed Circuit. A related story that has not yet been shared, however, is the 16-month, behind-the-scenes collaborative effort between DSW and Information Technology to accommodate these customers and schedule energy and capacity deliveries that were less than a single megawatt—the industry minimum.

“We had Native American tribes and small preference customers with less than 5-MW allocations and a couple with less than a megawatt,” said Supervisory Energy Management and Marketing Specialist John Paulsen. “Rounding became an issue. Say one of those customers with an allocation of 100 kilowatts wanted to schedule 1 MW. In order to round them up, who do you take capacity away from? On the other hand, if you round them down every hour, they would never get their allocation.”

The rounding issue became more complicated when schedulers factored in time-of-day rounding, as off-peak and on-peak prices and energy demand vary throughout the day. 

“Our system worked when we had 15 contractors,” said Supervisory Public Utilities Specialist Tina Ramsey. “It was phone-call and email heavy and it involved spreadsheets. It wasn’t practical to continue when we doubled our customers.”

Knowing they needed a more automated system capable of tracking multiple factors, Ramsey and Paulsen contacted IT for assistance.

“We had done something similar in SN to support the Central Valley Project customers,” said Supervisory IT Specialist Mark Phelps, who works in Sierra Nevada, “though there were considerable differences. We contracted with Argonne National Laboratory to help. They’re a bunch of math wizards.”

The result was a program capable of “integerization,” which is the process of making fractions into whole numbers through a set of complicated equations that track and adapt to system and scheduling changes.

“The program keeps track of who is rounding up and down and when, and it keeps a running total of deviations,” said Paulsen. “We also put in a value quotient to accommodate time-of-day pricing to make it more equitable for all customers.”

Of course, developing the math was only step one. Next, DSW and IT had to make a user-friendly application that was accessible to contractors and DSW employees before the new contracts took effect on Oct. 1, 2017.

Opening the portal

“IT Specialist Brian Ziegler and I went to Phoenix to gather requirements, learn their jobs and create a system to automate the job,” said Phelps. “Then a team of developers and other IT disciplines built the application.”

Over several months, the IT team provided new iterations of the application to DSW every two weeks, a method known as “scrumming.” The project owners would provide immediate feedback, ensuring the project didn’t go off track. However, having an immovable and impending deadline, such as the legislatively defined BCP allocations, can challenge the scrum method.

“There were a lot of late nights,” said Ramsey. “The way IT all worked together in different areas made it easier to work with them.”

The Hoover application was the top priority in the IT Roadmap for all staff members, regardless of their function or region. “Being the top priority gave us access to all IT teams,” said Phelps. “It became an IT-wide project.”

Ultimately, the team succeeded. The Hoover Energy Application officially came online for Hoover contractors on Sept. 29. The application now serves four functions for customers and DSW: forecasting, prescheduling, real-time scheduling and settlements.

“We have had mostly positive feedback from customers,” said Paulsen. “A lot of folks have worked on different pieces around WAPA. There has been a lot of really good teamwork.”

DSW and IT continue to work toward increased functionality for customers who wish to take more control over their scheduling.

“This application is probably the way of the future,” said Ramsey. “Easy to use, immediate access to information, automated and responsive to customer demands.”

Last modified on September 12th, 2023