DALLAS, May 17, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Recent advances in hardware and software for the utility industry have made it possible for electric service providers to receive payments before electricity is consumed. Such prepaid accounts provide many benefits to the utility and its consumers, and, because they can be integrated seamlessly with existing systems, are relatively easy to implement.
Midstate Electric Cooperative, based in La Pine, Oregon, began implementing its prepaid program in November 2010 and is already reaping the benefits. The cooperative is so pleased with its new program that David Schneider, financial accounting manager for Midstate Electric, will speak about it at the upcoming CS Week Conference for professionals in utility, cooperative and municipal management.
Mr. Schneider's presentation, "Increasing Customer Satisfaction with Prepayment Options and Flexibility," will focus on Midstate Electric's decision to offer prepaid accounts to its members. The prepaid model offers consumers a pay-as-you-go option rather than a traditional monthly bill.
The use of prepaid accounts obviates the need for deposits because it reduces the financial risk for the utility service provider. Consumers who opt into the prepaid system have access to detailed information about their energy consumption and can choose to pay smaller amounts more frequently, which provides greater flexibility in budgeting.
Midstate Electric partnered with Dallas, Texas-based Exceleron Software, using the Prepaid Account Management System (PAMS) to implement its prepaid program in November 2010. The PAMS software was integrated seamlessly with Midstate's advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) Smart Grid solution, Elster's EnergyAxis, as well as the utility's CIS database.
"We're very pleased to hear about Midstate Electric's experience, which confirms that utilities and the end-users are benefiting from PAMS in many ways," said Jeff Severs, COO of Exceleron Software. "When that information is shared at CS Week and similar events, it encourages other utilities to extend prepayment options to their members and customers, too."
David Green, executive vice president of customers and markets, North America, Elster, noted, "This combined project by Midstate Electric, Exceleron Software and Elster exemplifies the tremendous value that the Smart Grid can bring to utility customers. Elster's EnergyAxis works seamlessly with a utility's existing IT infrastructure, including new applications like Exceleron's prepaid platform, to deliver Smart Grid benefits in the form of customer services and energy savings."
Midstate Electric, which delivers electric service to more than 18,000 meters in Central Oregon, has observed greater customer satisfaction due to the flexibility of prepayment options. Managers have noted that the prepaid program can be a lifesaver for cash-strapped consumers who struggle to pay their electricity bills.
"These are difficult economic times in Central Oregon, and many of our members have lost their jobs and are struggling to pay their bills," says Mr. Schneider. "We're really pleased to be able to use PAMS with Elster's EnergyAxis solution to offer prepaid accounts as an alternative to requesting larger deposits under our traditional billing system."
CS Week is the premier educational event for professionals involved in the customer service and customer information technology aspects of utility, cooperative and municipal management. This year's event will give them an opportunity to learn more about prepaid programs and how they can improve customer service and satisfaction. CS Week will be held May 23-26 at the Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center in Orlando, Florida. Mr. Schneider's presentation will be made at 9:15 on Wednesday, May 25.
Elster is one of the world's largest electricity, gas and water measurement and control providers. Its offerings include distribution monitoring and control, advanced smart metering, demand response, networking and software solutions, and numerous related communications and services - key components for enabling consumer choice, operational efficiency and conservation. Elster's products and solutions are widely used by utilities in the traditional and emerging Smart Grid markets.
Elster has one of the most extensive installed revenue measurement bases in the world, with more than 200 million metering modules deployed over the course of the last 10 years. It sells its products and services in more than 130 countries across electricity, gas, water and multi-utility applications for residential, commercial and industrial, and transmission and distribution applications.
For more information about Elster, please visit www.elster.com.
About Exceleron Software
Exceleron Software is a leading software developer in the prepaid industry. It originally developed solutions for telecommunications providers and now focuses on electric service providers. Its flagship product, the Prepaid Account Management System, has been implemented by utilities across the United States, proving that prepaid programs are superior to traditional billing systems. To learn more about Exceleron and its patent-pending prepaid solution, please call (972) 852-2711 or visit www.exceleron.com.
About Midstate Electric Cooperative
Headquartered in La Pine, Oregon, Midstate Electric is a not-for-profit electric cooperative owned by its members/consumers. Serving over 18,000 consumers in four Central Oregon counties, the cooperative has provided power to residential, commercial, industrial and agricultural consumers for more than 55 years. For more information, visit www.midstateelectric.coop.