Prepayment in Poland
The ability to purchase electricity via the Internet or at the cash desk in a supermarket; the ability to decide when to buy electricity; the efficient management of electricity consumption; and the fact that there is no longer any need to allow a meter reader access to consumers’ flats – these are the main reasons for the growing popularity of the Apator “LEWsystem” credit prepayment metering and billing system in Poland.
The first prepayment electricity meters in Poland were introduced at the same time as the first mobile phones, which did not then offer a pre-pay option. In 1996 a large number of single phase and single tariff electricity meters was installed for testing in the area served by Torun Utility Company – a public electricity distribution company in central Poland. Several hundred electronic prepayment meters manufactured by APATOR were installed in flats and houses in Torun. The company had many customers who did not pay for electricity, or who delayed their payments, and the electronic prepayment meters helped to solve these problems.
LEWsystem: PREPAYMENT METERING AND BILLING
Today several thousands of LEW11/32 type prepayment electricity meters are operating in the country, and it is estimated that in the near future every tenth consumer will use a prepayment meter.
The Polish market is considered to be a medium size European market (about 15.5 million consumers). Prepayment meters have been installed by almost all electricity distribution companies in Poland. The new LEW type electricity meters are multi tariff (up to 16 tariffs) and they come in three phase and single phase. At present APATOR also offers current transformer-operated electricity meters measuring both active and reactive energy. LEW 33 type prepayment electricity meters are designed for industrial consumers.
The positive reaction to prepayment electricity meters in Poland was partly because of the ‘fashion for prepayment’ created by mobile phone operators, and partly because some distributors decided to sell electricity at a lower price. (This was possible because it was no longer necessary to employ meter readers.) The main reason, however, was the introduction of convenient ways to buy electricity.
The “LEWsystem Apator” credit prepayment system of metering and billing is based on an encrypted 20 digit token, which is entered into the LEW meter by the consumer. There are many convenient ways for the consumer to buy electricity, since the following services and modules are available in “LEWsystem Apator:”
- LEW-Terminal. This module enables the purchase of a token at petrol stations, in supermarkets, at shops and other sites which have signed a vending contract with the distribution company. The shops and petrol stations are open 24 hours a day, to allow consumers access to the token at any time.
- LEW-Energomat allows special automated vending machines called “Energomat” to be used to purchase electricity. These machines are installed in freely available public places and therefore electricity can be bought at any time.
- LEW-Internet is the module that makes use of the authorised Internet web site. Payments are made by bank transfer from a consumer’s bank account, credit card or cash point card, and the code is displayed on a computer. Additionally, the code can be obtained by e-mail or SMS (text message) in a few seconds.
- LEW-Energofon allows electricity to be purchased by telephone. The consumer connects to the Energofon equipment, which uses IVR (interactive voice response) technology. Energofon asks the consumer questions, which are answered using the consumer’s telephone keypad. The consumer is then given the token number, which he enters into the meter.
- LEW-SMS allows the consumer to send a text (SMS) message in suitable format by mobile phone. After having received the order, the LEW-SMS module sends an SMS with the token number back to the LEW type meter at the consumer’s premises.