ERCOT summer forward curves have crested toward $160/MWh for July/August.

ERCOT summer forward curves have crested toward $160/MWh for July and August in the wake of an ERCOT ISO report that reserve margins could be below 10% ERCOT President and CEO Bill Magness said, “A growing economy and retirements of generating units will tighten reserves available on peak summer days.”

Historically, tight reserve margins indicate a power market where generators can earn scarcity rents far above their variable cost of generation. In the past, Texas heat waves resulted in sustained price spikes near the market ceiling price for several days. However, this traditional thinking does not account for the new dynamics of renewables, which have a relatively small capacity contribution compared to their expected contribution toward energy. Yes, the ERCOT ISO is right that the capacity contribution of renewables can be small under extreme meteorology’s, but the expected energy production of renewables make the odds of ERCOT generators realizing scarcity akin to previous regimes, where reserve margins dipped below 10% a statistically extreme event. While the summer may produce select hours with high prices, the odds of having these prices persist for a sustained period such as a heat wave become a statistically extreme event.

The implications of the market fundamentals suggest that the realized average spot energy prices will fall below the monthly summer forward marks of this late spring and early summer. At the same time, we expect the volatility in day-ahead and real-time prices to continue to increase as a greater portion of the energy supply is derived from intermittent renewables.

Hawaiian Electric Companies Release Power Supply Improvement Plan Update

Ascend Analytics has been working vigorously to help Hawaiian Electric Companies (HECO) update their energy plans, which outlines a plan charting the near-term actions that will lead to the use of renewable resources to meet 100% of Hawai’i’s power generation needs by 2045.

HECO’s 2016 Power Supply Improvement Plan (PSIP) Update outlines a detailed plan charting the specific actions for the years 2017 through 2021 to accelerate the achievement of Hawai’i’s 100% Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) by 2045.

The work that went into creating the PSIP incorporated Renewable Energy Planning Principles, which helped guide the creation and direction of the plan.

For details and more information, please see the links below!

Carlos Blanco joins Ascend!

Ascend Analytics is proud to announce the welcoming of Carlos Blanco! With over 150 publications and leadership at FEA as VP of risk solutions, Carlos is widely respected in the industry. His expertise is highly sought-after for risk management consulting and analytics. Carlos’s recent projects include simulation-based market & credit risk models, trading & risk policies, gas & power forward curve development, hedging strategy design, and asset optimization for energy portfolios in North America & Europe.

Carlos is also a faculty member at the Oxford Princeton Programme, where he has designed and delivered more than 100 workshops on market, counterparty, and enterprise risk management courses to leading financial institutions, energy producers, trading firms and utilities. Welcome to the team Carlos!



PowerSimm Editor 4.1

We are excited to announce the release of PowerSimm Editor 4.1. This new release of PowerSimm is a major upgrade from previous versions, involving significant improvements on the user interface functionality, menu contents and layouts, new validation rules for notifying users of errant inputs or configuration, and remediation of existing bugs. This new UI makes substantive strides to improve the software usability and error trapping of problematic data or configurations. PowerSimm 4.1 also incorporates, for the first time, a user interface for Credit Manager, our enhanced analysis tool for credit exposure.

A lot of valuable feedback from client users and our analysts went into the development of this new release. Our main goal was to provide users a more integrated and intuitive editing/execution environment. Diligent validation and QA testing were performed on this new release by experienced IT and Services analysts to ensure error-free functionality of various components.

Major highlights from the new version of PowerSimm™ are given below. More detailed lists of enhancements, new validation rules, and bug fixes are provided in Appendices 1 through 3 at the end.

Updated Look with a New Menu System – The main editor now features a leaner UI theme inspired by Windows 8 Metro where icons for the most commonly used editors are tiled in meaningful groupings. The menu system of PowerSimm™ has been significantly changed with this release. All previous menu functionality is still present, but has been organized in a more intuitive form.


Tabbed Windows – In a form similar to web browsers but placed at the bottom of the frame, the newly-featured windows tabs allow the user to focus on, organize, and close work windows with more ease.


Backstage Menu – Also new in this version is what is termed a “backstage” menu section, accessible by clicking on the gear icon in the upper left corner of the main editor. The backstage menu hosts the configuration and administrative functions of the main editor.


Completely Rebuilt Generation Editor – The generation editor was rebuilt to improve its usability by grouping the types of configuration data into several screens: Resource Variables, Scheduled Outages, and Historical Input. Additional features include an added end date filter, a more accessible flat view toggle, and additional validation rules, including new checks of heat rate, startup/shut down, and outage data.


Many New Validation Rules – PowerSimm™ Editor version 4.1 adds many new input data validation checks to help prevent configuration errors in new or updated data. New and updated validation rules for the Generation Editor, Instrument Editor, Forward Curve Editor, and many more, improve the reliability of configurations and data. This includes more checks on generator configuration, trade details, load and pricing data, to name a few. Also, the new Report Manager has improved capability of preventing data- and configuration-related run failures. Building on the input data error checking process in version 4.0, the “Check Data” link allows users to check if their changes (additions or updates) have any issues before submitting the changes to the database.


User Interface Integration for Credit Manager – PowerSimm™ now features a user interface for Credit Manager, a credit risk analysis tool for collateral, exposure, and simulated potential future exposure across multiple departments.

Upgrading to PowerSimm™ 4.1 – This new version of PowerSimm™ will be available for installation on ATLAS. For all features to work, a database update is required. Please meet with your Ascend project manager for creating an update plan to review the new editor and develop a deployment testing schedule.

Appendix 1 – Enhancements

  • Credit UI
  • Using ribbon menus with new menu layout
  • Updated icons
  • Tabbed MDI windows
  • Metro-style facelift to main form
  • Added speed-dial
  • Moved book indicator to status bar
  • Permissions for study creation/deletion added
  • Altered the report manager study list logic to exclude studies whose types do not have a showflag=1 condition
  • Removed hiding the variable editor if there is an issue getting the data. The variable editor will open and display an exception instead.
  • Made the following changes to the User Management screen –
    • User List filtered to show only OPS users
    • Ability to edit the user – role mapping
    • Replaced the OPS username by Windows friendly name in the User List in the UI
  • Ability to scroll and drag the tree nodes in Portfolio Editor
  • Replaced Portfoliomanagement trigger with procedure to avoid missing column errors
  • Added filter to Market price model, basis, wind, spot and Load editor to filter moduleprocess
  • Added default variable functionality to startpowersimmstudy
  • Added new sensitivity job tables and their trigger logic
  • Added logic to automatically update the calculation order in case of missing values
  • Jobidtable logging records application modifying the table
  • Log machine running cost in the jobrunnerspectable_log
  • Locations all default to 1 (world) in items
  • Added and updated validation rules for:
    • Generation Editor
    • Instrument Editor
    • Forward Curve Editor
    • Main Model Editor
    • Renewables Editor
    • Load Editor
    • Basis Editor
    • Gas Storage Editor
  • AscendHelp table updated and consolidated to POWERMAN
  • Report manager has new validation rule selection capability
  • Report Manager does not show CD studies in study lists
  • ScheduleStudyToRun updated to include OPS parameters
  • Spot Price Editor updated to be a “filter form” similar to load, wind, etc.
  • Default time step of 4 set in Report Manager
  • Job Error triggers consolidated and updated
  • Portfolio Links now copy with portfolios when copied
  • Study name duplicates prevented
  • Instrument dates adjusted for hour ending. Dates entered in as dates (no times) are given a 1 AM time.
  • Generation Editor rebuilt
  • Report Manager variable search is no longer case sensitive
  • Basis editor date filter logic update
  • Item name added to DSM dropdown in gen editor
  • Archived variables filtered from variable editor
  • Process flow drop-downs in various UIs filtered for context
  • Deleted forward prices indicated in model editor
  • Grids given export to excel function
  • Sensitivity refresh button added to Report Manager
  • Label changes in Generation Editor
  • Calculation Order auto-populated in a better way from the variable editor

Appendix 2 – New Validation Checks

  • Generation Editor
    • Unit Type not null
    • Non-negative times and costs
    • Non-negative Ramp-up/Ramp-down rate
    • Non-negative MMBTUs
    • Non-negative emissions
    • 0 <= Must Run
    • Min <= Max Gen
    • All three historical levels fields filled out (or none)
    • Heat rate Gen’s are monotonically increasing
    • Scheduled Outages: Start/End/% – all or none
    • Set of Fuel Types must equal set of fuel types in HR tab
    • Linked Res.: State must be filled if Unit is filled in
    • Fuel Cost Multiplier must be > 0
  • Instrument Editor
    • Commodity needs to be filled out
    • Instrument Type required
    • Peak Period needs to be filled out
    • one out of the 6 PRICE columns should be filled out for each record
    • Warn on missing Quantity and/or Quantity type
    • Transaction date cannot be null
  • Forward Curve Editor
    • Must have commodity filled out
    • Multiple Commodity/Peak Period (PP) pairs are not allowed within a given item
    • Use CD is checked, market name must be filled out
    • If Use Adjustments is checked, make sure there are adjustments!  (NOT USED!!! HIDE Adjustments tab and checkbox)
    • If one column is filled out, then they all need to be (less Update Date)
    • PP must match the parent
  • Main Model Editor
    • Description, Curve Type, Process Flow, Source & Weight Schema must all be filled out.
    • Description should be unique (database change)
    • Must be filled out: System Load, Gas %, Electric % (6 columns)
  • Renewables Editor
    • Expected Peak > Capacity –> Error
    • TimeIntervalInHours * ExpectedPeakGen < ExpectedEnergy –> Error
    • StartDate>EndDate –> Error
    • Gaps –> Warning
    • Overlaps –> Warning
  • Load Editor
    • Data type should be set (default to Energy)
    • Load needs a value
    • For a load, if forecasts are filled out, but no data, warn regarding setting the proper process flow.
    • Total installed Cap = Sum of other cap
    • Expected Peak Demand*[Hours in (End Date – Start Date)] > Expected Energy
    • Of use column checked then fill out other columns
    • Run orders exclusive
    • Check if more than one record per load => Run order filled out
  • Basis Editor
    • Check for overlapping date ranges in the scaling data
    • Check for date gaps in the scaling data
  • Gas Storage Editor
    • Check for overlap in Capacity date ranges
    • Check for Utilization Min < Max
  • Report Manager
    • Warn on previous study resubmission

Appendix 3 – Bug Fixes

  • Limited number of jobs shown in Study Viewer to 10,000 to prevent memory errors.
  • Load, Hydro, Wind, FC editors, ST price, Weather handle database errors upon save.
  • Fixed: Instrument Editor throws an error when there are zero instrument items
  • Modified Ascendhelp table entries to point to latest value
  • Modified AALOOKUPIDTABLE primary key from composite to single key, added foreign keys
  • Added unique key to counterpartyratings table
  • Fixed language errors in jobidtable triggers, made it schema independent and combined them into a single trigger
  • Modified basis editor to point to newly created view to show archived forwardcurve values correctly
  • Double-click of some item types (hydro, wind, FC, load) in portfolio editor opens form with item in focus
  • User Management error when closing fixed
  • Null active flags in instruments set to 0
  • “copy” concatenation added for long item names
  • Various credit database corrections (missing FKs and PKs)
  • Extra line after paste issue fixed
  • Credit date interval issue in Report Manager fixed

Ascend Helps NorthWestern Monetize Risk In S.D. Resource Plan

Ascend Analytics recently put its PowerSimm Planner software to great success for NorthWestern Energy in its formulation of a 10-year integrated resource plan (IRP) for South Dakota.

PowerSimm Planner helped NorthWestern realize value of adding highly flexible peaking resources to its generation fleet in the SPP and MISO market. Despite these markets having some of the lowest average energy costs in the country, Ascend uncovered a hidden opportunity to realize additional value through internal combustion units (ICU’s).

The ICU’s (Wartsila 50SG) attributes of no start-up costs and small heat rate penalty at minimum load provide substantial economic operating advantages over standard combustion turbines (GE 7FA).  These advantages are realized through capturing the more dynamic price signals of the 5 minute real-time energy market for energy and ancillary services.

“NorthWestern’s decision to enlist Ascend to provide the analytics for its South Dakota integrated resource planning (IRP) further solidifies our position as a leader in electric utility planning sing sophisticated modeling software to help power companies more cost-effectively predict and monetize unique opportunities,” Ascend Analytics President Gary Dorris said.

It marks the company’s second such collaboration with NorthWestern.  Last year, Ascend provided modeling support for NorthWesterns successful bid to acquire $870 million of hydroelectric generation in Montana.

NorthWestern also used PowerSimm to model supply portfolio, regional commodity prices, and energy resource characteristics in South Dakota.  The software introduced “meaningful uncertainty” into future simulations, capturing both the expected costs and risks of its portfolio there.

Traditional resource planning tools lack the sophistication of PowerSimm and fail to capture the extreme volatility and value of more flexible generating resources.  Other software planning models for IRPs fall short recognizing the value of flexible generating assets.

NorthWestern Energy concluded that current peaking options such as GE 7FA are not cost competitive with more flexible internal combustion engines (Wartsila 50 SG).  The additional value of a flexibility added an order of magnitude increase in profits.

Check out Ascend’s contribution to NorthWestern’s South Dakota resource plan via the utility’s website: Chapter 4 — Portfolio Modeling and Analysis

For more information, please contact Ascend Analytics at (303) 415-1400 at

Ascend’s New HyperDrive Flies At Warp Speed With Exceptional Accuracy

Ever suffered from too-much-data-too-little-time syndrome?  Can’t seem to find enough hours in the day to get everything processed?

Ascend Analytics has the perfect solution for what ails you.  And it doesn’t involve copious amounts of coffee and energy drinks or chronic insomnia to work.

Let Ascend’s new HyperDrive burn the midnight oil for you.  Our new offering provides unparalleled performance and accuracy, putting your generation, loads, and hedge instrument data through thousands of iterations without compromising hourly dispatch optimization details.

HyperDrive, uses advanced computational and empirical modeling techniques that can put a 200-unit generation portfolio through its mandatory 2,000 hourly simulations over five years in under two hours, based on current experience.  Like the Tesla S, the speed is “insane” compared to anything out there.

The service fits a series of structural state-space regression models that capture the underlying uncertainty in weather, load, renewables and market prices combined with detailed chronological dispatch of generation.

HyperDrive’s computation efficiency does not compromise model accuracy by realizing results within 1% of detailed hourly results — even for complex combined cycle units in the volatile ERCOT market.

Take HyperDrive for a spin.  For more information, please contact sales at Ascend Analytics at (303) 415-1400 or

Ascend Analytics Establishes New Approach for Determining QF Rates to Protect Ratepayers

Ascend Analytics delivers expert testimony on new approaches to develop Qualify Facility (QF) power contract rates that protected the ratepayers’ and utility’s interests.  The QF rates applied a novel new economic construct that followed FERC guidance under the Public Utilities Regulatory Act (PURPA).  During expert testimony, witness Dr. Gary Dorris, substantiated wind energy purchase rates through a Differential Revenue Requirement (DRR) approach using Ascend’s PowerSimm software.  The hourly avoided costs measured through DRR are the QF power contract rates.

The DRR approach differentiated between hours of power imports and exports to determine the hourly avoided cost to serve load.  Under import conditions, the model calculated avoided cost as a function of market price.  During export conditions, avoided costs were a function of the utilities own production cost from a lower cost power plant.  The result of utilizing market interactions to determine the avoided cost of production yielded the a more consistent and lower avoided cost over other approaches.

Recent Ascend Analytics “Best Practices” Course A Rousing Success

Have you ever wondered how good Ascend Analytics’ Best Practices In Risk-Based Resource Planning Course is?  The latest round of attendees in San Francisco, California, offered nothing but high praise for the course’s material and its instructor, Ascend CEO Gary Dorris.

“I will be a much smarter regulator because of this course,” said California Public Utilities Commission analyst Alexander Cole; and David Miller, a senior regulatory analyst at CPUC, summed it up as “succinct relevant material expertly delivered.

The course came at just the right time for Ken Wong and his employer, Hawaiian Electric Company, where he serves as senior corporate energy planning engineer.  “We are very pleased with the conference as the time was perfect.  For several years we wanted to move toward incorporating stochastic analysis in our planning work so we could assess the variability of uncertainties we face.  We just didn’t have the software tools,” Wong said.  “We are looking to you to help train us by doing a stochastic analysis of our recent planning effort using your software.”

Ascend Analytics achieves “Best Practices” through Evergreen Economics Report

Ascend Analytics is proud to announce that it has achieved “best practices” through an Evergreen Economics Report.  In January 2014, the State of Montana Public Service Commission engaged Evergreen Economics, a third party consulting firm, to assist Commission staff in reviewing analysis conducted by NorthWestern Energy (NWE) and Ascend Analytics in support of NWE’s $900 million bid to acquire 11 hydroelectric generation assets from PPL Montana.  Through a systematic and thorough evaluation of Ascend’s software models and analysis, Evergreen Economics recognized Ascend’s models’ consistency and completeness with industry “best practices.”  It is highly unusual for a third party to give high praise in an evaluation, therefore Ascend is pleased with the outcome of this assessment.  Evergreen’s report further solidifies Ascend as a leader in portfolio management and long-term resource planning.  Ascend continues to stand apart from the competition by offering industry recognized “best practice” models and analysis, which enable power producers to better evaluate their portfolios, assess their risks, and maximize their revenues.

Gary Dorris Called to Provide Expert Testimony on behalf of NorthWestern Energy to the Montana Public Service Commission

Gary Dorris to provide expert testimony on behalf of NorthWestern Energy to the Montana Public Service Commission


On July 9, 2014, Gary Dorris, the President of Ascend Analytics, delivered expert testimony on behalf of NorthWestern Energy during a hearing held by the Montana Public Service Commission regarding NorthWestern Energy’s bid to purchase $900 million of hydroelectric assets from PPL Montana.  Ascend’s team, and its PowerSimm software, consulted and modeled the acquisition and potential impacts to NorthWestern Energy’s ratepayers.  Ascend Analytics concluded that NorthWestern Energy’s proposed purchase of 11 hydroelectric dams will initially increase rates, but these rates will ultimately become more stable and reliable for consumers according to a longer-term forecast.  Dr. Dorris handled cross examination with great deftness, furthering the economic merit of the hydro asset acquisition.