Business / Finance / Regulation

News and analysis concerning energy sector regulatory changes, bills, laws, utility compliance issues and shifts in government structure and policy. Project finance, energy sector surveys and reports on energy market trends, business risks and opportunities, together with information on cross border transmission and distribution is included.

Powerful prize from NIE

Powerful prize from NIE Northern Ireland Electricity recently handed over a new energy efficient fridge-freezer to its 100,000th keypad customer. NIE’s pay-as-you-go way of buying electricity is based on a keypad, which is installed in a convenient position within the home. An NIE electrician installs the keypad – about the size of a person’s hand – free of charge in a convenient location, shows the customer how the scheme works and hands over a help guide. NIE keypad customers receive a 2½% discount on their electricity costs.

To buy electricity credit, customers go to a local agent such as a garage or shop – there are over 80 locations in West Belfast alone. They are given a receipt with a numeric ‘powercode’ for the amount of electricity they buy, in any amount from £2 to £175, in multiples of £1. At home they enter their powercode number into the keypad, and receive credit for the amount of electricity they bought. Customers can also use a debit card to buy electricity from their home by ringing a keypad helpline. Easily-read displays on the keypad include information such as how much electricity was used yesterday, last week and last month, and also show customers how many days’ credit are left.

An added advantage is that if a customer runs out of credit after 4.00 p.m., the electricity supply will automatically stay connected until 8.00 am the next day – or until 8.00 am on Monday morning if credit runs out after 4.00 p.m. on a Friday.

Acquisition will increase sales

Brooks Meter Devices Co., part of Brooks Utility Products Group, has announced the acquisition of the meter disconnect sleeve assets (IAN Boots) from Electrical Sales Engineering Inc. The acquisition is a complementary addition to the Group’s portfolio of meter service disconnect devices, and will help Brooks Meter Devices to meet its goal of becoming the market share leader in this product area. 

Call for agents

Meterteq Limited was established in 2002 to create an independent business that can focus on the ongoing development of value-added, electronic systems that provide solutions to utility revenue management problems worldwide. Its core products are prepayment water meters and their associated software applications.

Meterteq Limited formed Meterteq Africa (Pty) Limited in a joint venture arrangement with Pan African Energy (Pty) Limited in 2002, to create a majority black South African-owned business to service the southern African development community. Group manufacturing is co-ordinated through Meterteq Africa in Johannesburg. Meterteq has successfully installed its products throughout South Africa, Lesotho and Namibia, and is currently implementing projects in Malaysia and Saudi Arabia.

As part of its international marketing strategy, Meterteq is seeking to appoint agents and would like to hear from interested parties in any territory. The product range is an ideal value-added addition to a business already providing mechanical meters, but it would also be of interest to those seeking to break into the utility sector with a new product concept.

Sudan’s pre-payment project success

Conference: Metering, Billing/CRM Middle East 2006
Location: Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt
Presenter: Balla Mohamed Ahmed
Abstract: Presented by Balla Mohamed Ahmed at Metering, Billing/CRM Middle East 2006.

Middle East and North African utilities: An overview of the business...

Conference: Metering, Billing/CRM Middle East 2006
Location: Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt
Presenter: Dr Mounir Yehia
Abstract: Presented by Dr Mounir Yehia at Metering, Billing/CRM Middle East 2006.

Scada system role in a deregulated environment

Conference: Metering, Billing/CRM Middle East 2006
Location: Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt
Presenter: Welson Jacometti
Abstract: Presented by Galal S. Ahmed, Tarek A Emara, Nader A. Abdelghani, Amira Taha at Metering, Billing/CRM Middle East 2006.


Ofwat sets out its future approach to regulation

Philip FletcherLondon, U.K. --- (METERING.COM) --- November 2, 2006 – U.K. water regulator Ofwat has set the scene for its future approach to water regulation in a briefing to City investors and financial institutions. Chairman Philip Fletcher and new Chief Executive Regina Finn, who took up her post last month and was attending her first City briefing, jointly presented it.

Franchisee scheme helps to reduce revenue losses

India Flag 2Silchar, India --- (METERING.COM) --- November 2, 2006 – Earlier this year India’s Assam State Electricity Board introduced a franchisee scheme in an effort to halt revenue losses caused by power theft – and monthly revenue in some areas has increased by up to 50 per cent.
The scheme appointed agents who were placed in charge of transmitters and authorized to collect amounts owed for electricity by both commercial and residential consumers in their areas of jurisdiction. Success was particularly evident in the rural areas, where monthly receipts have shown dramatic increases.
There are about 900 transformers in the south Assam districts, each fitted with a master meter to calculate the consumption of power in a particular area. The utility intends to continue with and probably expand this program, given that it had been experiencing losses of up to 40 per cent caused by illegal connections before the agents were introduced.

Measuring up

This may sound slightly arrogant, but I think that the GBA is rather good at providing benchmarking for its members. Mind you, I do have to admit that we designed it backwards rather than forwards, which is never good. However, we now have it right, and have produced our Top Ten Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that, we believe, truly provide a relevant and useful picture of where an organisation ‘sits’ when compared to peers and competitors.

At least we do in the telecoms industry. I am sure that about six of our Top Ten KPIs are relevant to an energy company, or a water company – how many days from billing cut-off to distribution of invoices, for example, or number of bills adjusted per thousand, or percentage of queries that relate to billing, to name just three of our ten.

The numbers differ, of course, based on numbers of customers and so on, but a telecoms company with a couple of million customers will want to get its bills out within four days, the number of bill adjustments per thousand should be less than one (0.1%) and the number of calls relating to billing is such a topic of discussion in itself – calls that mention the bill might actually about something else, etc. – that this particular KPI is an article or a seminar in itself.

Talking of which, we hosted a seminar on benchmarking a couple of months ago, and there were many excellent tips that came from it. There is not enough room here to describe them in detail, but a couple that stay in mind are – the process of benchmarking is almost as useful as the information you get out of it; and (and I like this one) if you want to streamline a process, find the laziest person to work out how to do it – they will make sure that the least effort is expended.

Perhaps the most important tip was this one: treat with care a KPI in isolation, try and get a holistic view of a process, and always try to link it to the customer experience. For instance, the lowest cost of billing does not mean the highest quality of billing, and that may be a more important objective. Another example – setting time targets of closing calls in the customer service operation may be self-defeating. If time is not taken to solve the customer’s problem, and he is dismissed without a satisfactory outcome, then that customer may well go elsewhere.

We have a wealth of information on benchmarking available to those of you who are members, and by the time I next write, I hope to have the Top Ten for Utilities confirmed.

Secure e-mail billing

Striata, an application software developer focused on secure electronic communication, has partnered with PeerConnect to ensure regulatory compliance for its secure e-mail billing product.

Striata secure e-mail bills can now include a US Postal Service Electronic Postmark (USPS EPM). The Striata ePostmark combines the digital signature of the sender with a unique official digital signature and timestamp issued by the USPS. The ePostmark is embedded cryptographically inside a USPS branded graphical postmark certificate within the message. It provides a variety of mechanisms aimed at verification – the customer can choose to ‘forward to verify’ or ‘click to verify’ the message.

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