Rate calculator


With its rate calculator, E-Control provides all Austrian electricity and gas consumers with a tool to find the cheapest electricity and gas rates for them anywhere and at all times. It compares offers from all providers on the market.

The rate calculator is our most important interface with our consumers. DCCS’s specialists have created a pioneering and easy-to-use interface for our customers. Thanks to the excellent partnership with DCCS, we have developed the application into a modern, flexible one.

Matthias Görtler, E-Control

The path to a tailored rate calculatorDer Weg zum maßgeschneiderten Tarifkalkulator

As an independent regulatory body, E-Control is responsible for drawing up and complying with regulations on the free energy market. Its task is to strengthen competition and ensure that competition is possible while taking security of supply and sustainability into account. An important tool for all consumers, but also for energy suppliers and intermediaries, is the online rate calculator, which offers a comprehensive comparison of rates and further information. The rate calculator is aimed at two target groups: Firstly, at all the approximately five million households and small businesses in Austria that are connected to the grid and to the 1.3 million private and commercial gas customers. In addition, a “commercial rate calculator” is available on the Internet to the approximately 500,000 small and medium-sized businesses. On average, the rate calculator records 500,000 to 750,000 visits per year. “The application was no longer up to date from a technical point of view and had to be completely overhauled. In addition, the energy market has changed drastically, and many new suppliers and products have to be taken into account,” says Technical Project Manager Matthias Görtler, IT&TK Energie-Control Austria, describing the task.

The requirements:
The following requirements were to be implemented in the new rate calculator:

  • Best possible performance
  • High reliability and failure safety
  • Modern, upgradeable and future-proof technology
  • Large range of functions: Smart Meter products, excess electricity feed
  • Savings requests
  • User-friendly back-end for energy providers to maintain products and rates
  • High usability
  • Modern user interface
  • Use on mobile devices

Modernised from the ground up, future-proof and powerful
Several demands were to be realised in the new rate calculator. For one, its performance and reliability were to be improved. Secondly, the existing system had to be replaced by a modern, upgradeable and future-proof technology. Furthermore, the prerequisites for the integration of new functions such as Smart Meter products or the integration of excess electricity feed from solar panels were to be created. But the team not only had to redesign the consumer application, but also the back-end used by providers to maintain their products and rates. “Our goal was to improve usability for all users, boost performance and functionality, give the app a more modern appearance and, of course, to prepare it for being displayed on mobile devices,” says Matthias Görtler about the requirements. The following tender procedure that lasted eight months and involved the suppliers, resulted in five finalists. “In the end, DCCS was able to convince us. Their IT specialists not only offered the most appealing technical concept but also the best value for money,” Görtler reports.

Micro-services beat legacy systems
Talking about the concept: It was actually scrapped during the first joint workshop. For when analysing the requirements in more detail, it emerged that the initially conceptualised portal solution was insufficient for mapping a powerful system and its desired logic. As a solution, DCCS proposed a scalable micro-services architecture with a back-end server, allowing the entire solution to be built flexibly on individual, powerful modules and guaranteeing good load distribution on the server. For its implementation itself, DCCS relied on the ReactJS JavaScript framework and the agile Scrum method, split into fifteen sprints of four weeks each. At the same time, DCCS experts worked out the technical demands towards the solution in some 20 workshops with the people in charge at E-Control, including details about the energy market and providers, rate calculation models and domains. Successfully completed development steps were followed by internal trials, after which the solution was presented to the electricity and gas providers. “In the workshops, explaining our requirements in a comprehensible fashion was a challenge. Defining our requirements was the basis of the project’s success. In the end, the entire technical specifications comprised about 1,000 pages,” reports Sabina Eichberger who was responsible for content in the rate calculator team. In the end, after just 22 months, the new rate calculator was able to begin trial operation at some 380 internal and external users at approx. 200 suppliers – in parallel with the existing system.

Challenging implementation
One of the biggest challenges in implementation was developing a common understanding. “First, DCCS had to explain the agile development approach to us and we had to explain the rate calculator's complex calculation models to them. Adding our expert knowledge to its development proved more challenging than we had initially anticipated,” Eichberger recalls. “But we found a common language relatively quickly.” After that, DCCS was able to implement the rate calculator's business logic that takes into account various types of energy prices, discounts, taxes, meter types, providers and customer locations into the redevelopment. “When users request a price comparison using the rate calculator, the portal is required to process a large amount of dynamic data and show the user the result after no more than three seconds. This proved the central technical challenge the DCCS developers had to overcome, but they managed this task admirably,” says Eichberger. Another elaborate undertaking was migrating several million sets of data to the new database and structure. The latter differed from the previous structure which is why the existing database's developer was involved in the migration process.

Faster processes and improved transparency for customers
The micro-services concept and the portal's new data structure proved to be the right step. While information on providers, products, prices and discounts had been scattered across various tiers before, the new system clearly attributes data to a product and stores it in chronologically rated versions. “This makes the structure much more transparent than previously. This allows the system to retrieve past rates and return a result more quickly when a consumer requests a comparison. Furthermore, suppliers can make changes such as adding new products, price scheme and discounts more easily and quickly than before. During training courses, users confirm that the system is self-explanatory,” reports Eichberger. E-Control itself benefits from an accelerated approval process: Changes made by suppliers, such as new products being added, are now more clearly visible and can be compared with older data more easily. This allows them to be released more quickly on the rate calculator. The new structure also allowed the team to optimise the database's size. “Another benefit is the fact that the modular architecture is flexible and can be expanded at any time. This allows us to integrate future changes such as smart meter rates or excess electricity feeds from solar power systems,” says Eichberger.

Optimal customer journey: Responsive design and usability
The new rate calculator is not only more modern, powerful and failure-safe, it is also faster and easier to use by consumers, while offering more functions. For instance, consumers can now save requests and have the system notify them when prices change or the energy contract reaches the end of its one-year period. “This allows the portal to adapt very well to the customers’ individual requirements,” reports Hantigk, E-Control's Usability Expert, adding: “Many customers filter their results by parameters such as price guarantees, electricity from Austria or discounts such as service or non-cash perks. One can now even enter one's excess electricity feed from one’s own solar power system.” Another new feature is the possibility to compare rates across two or three years to take into account savings such as new customer rebates across longer periods. Thanks to responsive web design, the solution now also offers all of its services on mobile devices. “The rate calculator is our most important interface with our consumers. DCCS’s specialists have created a pioneering and easy-to-use interface for our customers. Thanks to the excellent partnership with DCCS, we have developed the application into a modern, flexible one,” Matthias Görtler summarises.

We invite you to check your electricity rates now: E-Control rate calculator

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