Prepayment Gets A Boost In Britain

Independent energy supplier Utilita is to offer Itron’s managed prepayment solution.
Published: Tue 18 Nov 2014

Utilita, a leading supplier of prepayment gas and electricity in the UK, has signed a contract with Itron for a full suite of services in support of its customers using key prepayment electricity meters. The deal marks the first of this kind as Itron expands its offering to include managed services for small energy suppliers.

Managed services

Under the agreement, Itron supports the back-end operations of Utilita’s key prepayment offering, which will enable consumers to buy energy using two national vending service providers and allow for tariffs and levels of credit and debt repayment to be managed remotely. The full suite of services also includes data management, transaction management, meter asset management, report creation and technical support via a business to business contact centre.

The solution should enable Utilita to provide consistently higher levels of service to its customers and serve newly acquired key metered supplies in a more structured and stable manner. 

“At Utilita, we pride ourselves on providing a better service to customers from day one of their switch,” comments Jim Garrett, director of operations. “As we are seeing exceptional growth in our domestic energy supply base, Itron’s knowledge and experience greatly enhances our ability to give the best possible impression to new customers without the worries of complex data issues – leaving us to get on with the things we do best.”

Utilita currently supplies electricity and gas in most of England and Wales, except the eastern Midlands, southwest of England and southern Wales.

Prepayment innovations

Likely to make prepayment more attractive to many customers, Itron has introduced a new currency-based smart payment solution, including the Centian prepayment meter and associated prepayment software. Instead of displaying a remaining balance in kilowatt-hours, the meter displays the balance in currency. In addition, the meter can be reloaded with cash using a contactless (Near Field Communications, NFC) smart card held close to the meter. 

This development should make it easier for electricity customers to fully understand and engage with their consumption, simplifying efforts to save energy and money. In addition, the introduction of currency enables utilities to implement time-of-use-based tariffs as credit and consumption is reconciled at the meter.

The Itron Centian meter is being launched in several countries across the world, including Thailand, Bangladesh, Sub-Saharan Africa and Eastern Europe, where prepayment is becoming an essential way for consumers to access electricity. The meter is available in a number of bottom connected variants for single and three phase supplies.

Prepayment in Great Britain

Approximately 16% of energy customers in Great Britain – around 10.8 million people – are currently using prepayment meters for energy.

However, this number can be expected to increase with the arrival of smart meters. A new survey from Smart Energy GB, the national consumer smart meter engagement body, has found that almost half of people would like to use prepay for their electricity and gas use. In particular 60% of young people (between 18-34-years), would be interested. People in the north are also the most interested, with 50% or more expressing interest in the three northern regions

Among people currently using prepayment meters, there is particularly strong interest with over three-quarters wanting to use smart pay-as-you-go.

Smart pay-as-you-go customers will be able to pay via phone, online, or a smart phone app, overcoming current issues with the prepayment system, such as limited top-up options and the use of cards or payment keys that can be lost or stolen.