Industry Insights

Utility Prepayment Trends and Consumer Engagement

Utility Prepayment Trends and Consumer Engagement

In some parts of North America, the utility market is becoming increasingly competitive when it comes to the delivery of electricity, gas, water or any combination of the three. Deregulation is one of the main drivers of this, but so are renewable energy sources. In deregulated states, as many as 25% of consumers leave their incumbent utility, switching to competitors for a number of reasons. There is also a movement underway where municipalities negotiate to offer alternative energy choices based on renewable energy sources through Community Choice Aggregation (CCAs).

Faced with these competitive headwinds, consumer engagement is more critical than ever for all utilities. Utility branding, being able to anticipate consumer’s needs and keeping them engaged fosters lasting relationships and loyalty. In addition, Advanced Meter Infrastructure (AMI) coupled with prepayment offers utility consumers flexibility and is one of the most direct customer engagement opportunities available to utilities.

Utilizing prepayment as an additional payment option allows direct consumer engagement for several segments and is a viable option for rental properties, college dorms and vacation homes. Prepayment also provides a way for consumers to address outstanding accounts without the out-of-pocket funding of large deposits, while still having access to affordable energy. Itron’s prepayment solution includes smartphone apps and web portals that offer flexible ways to pay for energy use and provide easy to understand energy usage information, creating happier, more satisfied customers. We are also able to leverage new prepayment capabilities through distributed intelligence applications at the meter. These applications can make the traditional North American AMI prepay solution much more effective and efficient.

Millennials and other environmentally conscience consumers are looking for more options to pay their bills and manage their energy. Making smartphone apps and web portals available allows a utility to provide meaningful energy consumption data that can help the utility’s customers learn about their energy usage and react accordingly, promoting energy efficiency and potentially improving their carbon footprint.

At Itron, we’ve been in the global prepayment market for more than 25 years and in 25 countries. As the newly dedicated North America prepay product manager, I recently spoke at the Prepay Energy Working Group (PEWG) meeting hosted by DEFG about Itron’s solution, with a focus on North America. Contact me at Chris.Germano@itron.com for more information.