Types of Data

Dashboards usually combine the following three types of data inputs:

Assumptions

Assumptions help define a set of scenarios that fall beyond the control of the decision-makers.

Examples of assumptions are: interest rates, exchange rates, general inflation rates, trend in prices for specific products (e.g. fuel, batteries)

The best approach is the use of lists, allowing users to chose between two or three different scenarios such as low, medium and high.

Assumptions and scenarios

Performance

Performance variables are based on the expected performance of the entity or project. They constitute variables that can be influenced through strategic planning and efficient management, but not decided.

Examples of performance variables are: future sales, number of customers, effective life of the equipment, trend in wages and salaries.

For performance the best approach continues being the use of lists to define thresholds and patterns. For example, a list could define thresholds in the expected trend in sales, with different percentages based on a low, medium and high performance.

Performance variables - trends

It could also define a pattern of how such sales are expected to evolve. In this regards Prodegee allows to define patters that do not expect sales to progress linearly or exponentially.

Performance variables - patterns

For example, the above pattern defines an initial increase in sales, which then attain a maximum level, start decreasing to then become stagnant. It could be a pattern reflecting an initial success, then an increase in competition that brings sales down, leaving only loyal customers, which leads to stagnation.

Performance values can also be entered as specific values in cells.

Strategic decisions

Strategic decisions are the ones to be set by the decision-makers. Prodegee is specifically designed to help optimise strategic decisions, based on a set of scenarios defined by the assumptions and the correct identification of those areas in which it is most important to attain the required levels of performance.

Typical strategic decisions are:

1. Design:

When analysing a single project, such as a mini-grid, such decisions involve the total capacity of the mini-grid, whether it should be a hybrid or only solar, whether it should use this type of batteries or this other one, etc.

When analysing the entire power sector of a country, such decisions are taking into account the type of technologies to be used, the level of renewable energy penetration, etc.

For the design it is usually better to use lists because each design will entail a set of values that correlate to that given design to be entered in different places.

For example, in Prodegee, a renewable energy penetration rate is not an input but the intermediate value obtained as a result of a set of future generation projects, if the investments went ahead. Therefore, it is better to define a target such as “50% renewable by 2025” and then, when the option is chosen from the list, activate all the power generation projects that could help attain such value by such time. Another performance target could be 30% by 2025, which then could activate less renewable energy generation projects, as see how this other performance value affects financial statements of the entire power sector and of each of its stakeholders.

2. Prices and Tariffs

It relates to any price that is paid by the customers of the service (e.g. Retail tariff) or paid to the suppliers of the service (e.g. Feed-in-tariff, power purchase agreements).

Values are generally entered as numbers in cells, thus allowing financial statements to be projected for each given value.

Projected Tariff

Levels of Complexity

Prodegee defines four levels of complexity:

  1. Programming it: It is the most complex level. To preserve the integrity of the model, I reserve access to the code. This is why instead of an open source licence I have opted for a Creative Commons one, which is more suited for a spreadsheet of this level of complexity.

  2. Populating it: It defines a second degree of complexity. It requires a certain level of understanding of how Prodegee works, which can be attained by someone with a minimum level of MS Excel experience and the understanding of basic accounting principles, who is willing to read and follow the manual. I can carry out this task if I am available and the project employs my services, but it is not essential.

  3. Modifying it:: Once populated, it is relatively easy to modify data in order to carry out financial statements. Doing so requires some level of familiarity with Prodegee in order to identify where the data points are located. It is recommended to use the manual as a reference tool when in doubt, without having to read it in detail.

  4. Using the Dashboard: It is by far the easiest. It does not require any experience in using Prodegee, but just a very basic knowledge of MS Excel in order to use the dashboard, with lists to select items from and cells to fill in with the desired values, all in one tab tailored to the needs of the user. A Dashboard can be prepared by those who learnt to modify values and it only requires very basic MS Excel programming skills.

I typically use Dashboards when presenting data to high profile officials, such as when having to show the secretary of a ministry or the power regulator the optimal tariff thresholds for each given scenario.