Project profits withs disconnect systems
As deregulation and competition become part of everyday life for electricity utilities, managing customers is an increasingly critical task. The simple amortisation of delinquent accounts into the rates paid by the remaining customer base will weigh heavily on a utility’s ability to be competitive. The lost revenue associated with these bad accounts represents revenue that comes directly off the bottom line.
The most effective deterrent available to utilities is disconnection of the service. However, this solution is not without its own drawbacks, which often cause a delay in implementation. This simply allows the problem to grow in severity.
Sending a service person to a remote location to perform a service disconnect can cost the utility $80 or more – and this amount should be added to the time and money already spent by the collections group in attempting to resolve the problem. This cost is, of course, repeated when the utility comes to reconnect the services. From the perspective of the customer, however, the cost of reconnection can sometimes be prohibitively high, and he may simply choose to stay disconnected and refuse to pay the arrears.
The utility has thus lost the customer, the cost of disconnection and the arrears.
This problem is further compounded by multiple family locations, where utility personnel are prohibited from gaining access to the problem location and the service can not be cut at the pole, since the other accounts are in good standing. A situation like this can continue for a very long time, costing the utility a tremendous amount in terms of both money and resources.
An associated problem is the safety risk associated with some disconnects. In some instances service personnel may be exposed to physical harm in the attempt to perform a service disconnect.
A new solution to this problem comes by courtesy of the emerging smart metering systems. It is now possible for the utility to address the problem customer by either limiting or disconnecting the gas, electricity or water that is supplied, easily and effectively.
BLP Power & Utilities produces a range of utility disconnect devices, including its Series 36 200 Amp PowerpulseTM ‘whole house’ switch, which was developed for the US market. When connected to a suitable communication system, it is not just a remote disconnect device; it can also be used to limit the current made available to the customer or control the period of time that the service is present. This places the utility provider in a much stronger position, since the supply can now be controlled via a signal across the airwaves or down a phone line, drastically reducing the time and cost involved.
The 200 Amp Powerpulse offers utilities and AMR providers a significant reduction in size and cost over other available solutions. It creates a viable opportunity for large-scale deployments of a ‘whole house’ disconnect facility, allowing the significant financial benefits available through this method of debt control to be realised.
Powerpulse operates as a stand-alone system, and in addition can easily be integrated into new and existing AMR systems. Installation is made particularly simple with the addition of a specially designed UL listed meter adapter. The adapter houses the Powerpulse switch and the communications and current monitoring circuits, allowing a simple plug-in upgrade to an existing installation.
BLP’s approach to the development of disconnect devices ensures that the new deregulated industry can control bad debt by employing a wide range of debt control strategies whilst maintaining a socially responsible position.
No utility wants to put a family in a potentially dangerous situation by disconnecting the service. In many US states there are regulatory restrictions which limit the periods when the power can be cut. During the periods when the power cannot be turned off, utilities continue to be exposed to further losses. Disconnection is therefore not always an option that utilities can – or indeed want to – employ for every delinquent account.
BLP’s Powerpulse is not just a ‘cut off’ device. It will allow a utility to manage the level of debt being accumulated, without completely shutting off the supply to the customer. Permanent manual disconnection of a customer from a utility is no longer necessary.
The ability to use short term disconnects or supply limiting is now available and cost effective. This will prove a powerful revenue management tool for those who won’t pay, and will encourage customers who are habitual late payers to settle their accounts in a more timely manner.