Manager's Message: Prepaid electricity adds value
by Tom Manting, Chief Information Officer
At HomeWorks, we try to blend old-fashioned service with new technology to add greater value. Some recent examples are our automated metering program, combined with SmartHub™, the app and online service that gives members control of their energy information.
There’s also been our online outage map, and a variety of bill payment options that take advantage of technology.
Obviously, these don’t work the same way for every member, and not every member makes use of them. But for some, these are great solutions, offering convenience and saving time or money.
We’re now looking at a service that’s been around a while, and not only in the electric industry. You may already use a prepaid cell phone or a prepaid credit card. These programs are like paying for gas as you put it in your car’s tank, or for food at the grocery store - you “pay as you go” rather than waiting for one bill each month.
Oklahoma Electric Cooperative, as just one example, started its prepaid electric program in 2006 and now has about 4,500 of its 52,500 members participating. In recent surveys, 88% said they would recommend prepaid service to others, and 86% feel they are more aware and/or more conservative of their electric use with prepaid.
How can our members benefit? Individual members will:
- have better control of their energy budget
- be able to make smaller, more frequent payments
- choose their own payment schedule, when it’s convenient for them
- be able to take energy efficiency measures and see the results right away
- have a low start-up cost, and
- in some cases, could save money on late fees, collection charges, etc.
All members will benefit from lower costs through the cooperative prepaid service because it:
- reduces unpaid account write-offs
- cuts time and money spent on collection efforts
- saves the co-op over $6 per member per year by eliminating a paper bill (plus it’s good for the environment), and
- provides a new billing option we can offer
Our plan is to get a pilot program started by mid-2015. Please watch Country Lines for updates later in the year.
We have a lot to learn about how prepaid metering can work here, but we think it’s a great opportunity to provide a useful new service that adds value for many of our members.