There comes a time at every utility company where the corporation assesses both its metering programme and its revenue protection efforts. In the past few issues of Smart Energy International I’ve highlighted the issues regarding the training of employees to identify sources of theft; the challenges created by the implementation of AMR systems for the RP departments; and the behaviour patterns of some customers, mostly in the residential market. However, many utilities have developed proactive inspections of the commercial market too.
It is shortsighted of any utility to assume that commercial customers aren’t tampering. Several utilities I’m aware of have recovered millions of dollars in unbilled or underbilled revenues. As energy costs rise, large corporations can save millions of dollars through creative wiring of the switchgear, tampering with bypasses and test switches, and simple theft.
Most large companies have electricians in their employ, and can achieve significant reductions in their energy bills through improper wiring. It is up to each utility to ensure it has a trained staff, knowledgeable about transformer rated metering and switchgear associated with this type of installation. Utilities must perform surprise inspections of their commercial customers to ensure the integrity of their metering installation.
Each utility should ensure its RP department is equipped with the proper tools to thoroughly check and test everything associated with the metering installation. We share information and lessons learned through networking with fellow IURPA members and members of our regional associations.
We’ve instituted data mining as a normal investigative tool, based upon information gleaned from other utilities. I recently ran some parameters through our customer information system, and identified the following:
- 159 accounts where there are multiple meters on different rates at the same location. At each location, there is the possibility of load switching between metering installations to gain financial benefit during peak times and to avoid demand charges.
- 900 accounts that may be on the wrong rates due to regulatory mandates. Utilities in some jurisdictions are mandated to place a commercial customer on a favourable rate based upon heavy usage, but what happens if their usage drops below the required level?
These customers are receiving a preferable rate structure when they no longer qualify. This situation will need to be reviewed with the regulatory agencies. Revenue protection takes on many forms, and to stay ahead of the curve it is important to learn from other RP departments. This is best done through the efforts of IURPA and our regional counterparts.