Energy Microbilling

The other day I blogged about how my electricity supplier completely failed to bill me for quite a few years. From some of the responses I have received since, it sounds like I am not alone. But if energy suppliers find it hard to bill now, they might their problems are going to get much worse in the near future, thanks to the surge in interest in finding environmentally friendly ways to power our lifestyles. Take this story about Californian utilities buying back energy stored on the batteries of electric cars or this story about buying back energy from domestic microgeneration in the UK. They are both great ideas, but there are two challenges. The obvious one is the technical challenges of making the storage and generation of domestic energy more efficient and affordable. The one easily ignored is the back office challenge of correctly paying back customers for the energy they supply to the grid. With domestic generation the solution should be simpler, but there still needs to be an adequate mechanism to meter and pay out to customers who generate more than they consume. Estimating meter readings is going to tend to be even more inaccurate when customers generate unpredictable amounts of energy from wind or sun. Then there are also the tax implications. Governments may want the tax, but creating an administrative hassle will only disincentivise the few people prepared to make the initial financial outlay to install solar panels and wind turbines. In the Californian electric car proposition, billing gets even more complicated. It will be necessary to correctly match the car to the customer’s account, even when plugged into the grid away from home. Imaginative fraudsters will already be dreaming up ways to trick the system into paying them for other people’s energy. So perhaps if revenue assurance in telcos gets a little boring, especially if everything becomes flat rate, then that may be compensated for by the interesting new problems in the energy sector. At the very least, revenue assurance in energy will no longer be synonymous the job of sending someone to read the meter.

Eric Priezkalns
Eric Priezkalns
Eric is a recognized expert on communications risk and assurance. He was Director of Risk Management for Qatar Telecom and has worked with Cable & Wireless, T‑Mobile, Sky, Worldcom and others.

Eric was lead author of Revenue Assurance: Expert Opinions for Communications Providers, published by CRC Press. He was a member of Qatar's National Committee for Internet Safety and the first leader of the TM Forum's Enterprise Risk Management team. Eric currently sits on the committee of the Risk & Assurance Group. He is a qualified chartered accountant, with degrees in information systems, and in mathematics and philosophy.

Commsrisk is edited by Eric. Look here for more about Eric's history as editor.