With nearly one-fifth of the world’s population spread disparately between large urban centers and rural areas, providing electricity to every corner of India continues to be a tremendous challenge. Indian distribution companies (discoms) plan to solve many of their challenges by converting 250 million conventional meters to prepaid smart meters as part of an effort to “electrify the economy”. Globally, prepaid solutions have long proven beneficial in many industries, like mobile, broadband and credit card services, and there are now many successful prepaid electricity programs in other countries which can be leveraged in India.
Challenges faced by Indian discoms
Discoms are confronted by significant challenges which negatively impact the entire power sector. The UjjwalDiscom Assurance Yojana (UDAY) scheme launched by the central government in November 2015 for the financial turnaround of discoms identified the following challenges:
- Discoms have mounting debts to power generation firms with a 48 per cent increase year-on-year as of October 2019.
- Discoms suffer one of the world’s highest rates of technical loss, mostly due to energy theft and inadequate metering. Saurabh Kumar, managing director, Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL), recently stated that 17 per cent of all electricity delivered, estimated at Rs 1 trillion, is not billed.
- Electricity that is properly billed is often billed at a rate lower than true procurement costs due to socioeconomic and political reasons. This has led to an escalating cycle of debt.
- Due to these poor financial conditions, discoms may lack resources to run day-to-day activities.
- With the increased negative pressure associated with Covid-19 and the subsequent lockdowns, discoms are projected to owe lenders Rs 4.5 trillion by the end of 2020-21 (roughly 3 per cent of the entire Indian GDP last year).
India is now moving forward with a country wide push to install prepaid smart meters which will help alleviate these challenges by the discoms.
Helping discoms overcome challenges
Founded in 1999, Exceleron is a global leader in utility prepaid and payment services. In 2004, Exceleron launched MyUsage, the world’s first cloud-based prepaid application supporting prepaid utilities, debt assistance, payments, and usage monitoring. In 2009, Exceleron released the first North American prepaid utility mobile app (iOS/Android) and then expanded into India in 2012 with the opening of its main office in Bengaluru. With more cloud-based prepaid deployment experience than any other company, Exceleron helps utilities improve financial performance, increase customer engagement, and increase customer satisfaction.
Numerous benefits to utilities
- Most importantly, Exceleron helps utilities solve their financial challenges. MyUsage helps utilities stop theft and eliminate bad debt (over 70 per cent decrease) and aged accounts receivables (over 90 per cent decrease) as customers pay for their usage ahead of time and can pay-off their past-due debt over time. A portion of each customer’s payment can be applied towards their past due debt, while the rest goes to their current prepaid balance and customers can make smaller, more frequent payments in a manner that helps them avoid large bill surprises. As customers pay ahead for their usage which leads to a faster meter-to-cash process that significantly improves utility financials, there is no need to require security deposits. Many of Exceleron’s utilities have experienced a pay-back period of one year or less and continue to reap a high multiple return on investment (RoI) on MyUsage.
- The consumer-centric design of MyUsage helps increase customer satisfaction and promote better customer engagement for discoms. The easy-to-use mobile application brings daily information to the users’ fingertips, wherever and whenever they want. About 95 per cent of users currently access their Exceleron prepaid accounts from their mobile phones. This increased daily engagement brings increased energy awareness as 86 per cent of Exceleron prepaid users have indicated they are more aware of their energy usage. Furthermore, 88 per cent of users would recommend it to others as it provides them greater control and transparency. With customer satisfaction ratings of over 90% per cent, Exceleron’sMyUsage is a tremendously valuable tool for improving customer satisfaction while also improving discoms’ financials.
Performance considerations for prepaid solutions
Scalability and security
Securing the solution and providing high availability are the preconditions for any successful prepaid deployment. Exceleron performs third-party audits annually to ensure strict compliance as a SOC2 Type 2 Security Control Organization and PCI DSS Level 1 payment processing provider, two of the highest levels of security compliance awarded cloud service providers. Exceleron leverages these controls across the system infrastructure to provide our utilities with 99.99 per cent uptime performance and the ability to support many millions of prepaid customers per discom.
Efficient and seamless deployment
Exceleron’sMyUsage is already integrated with the leading global solutions for utility customer information system (CIS)/billing (over 25 systems) and advanced metering infrastructure/ smart meter head-ends (over ten systems). These pre-integrations coupled with Exceleron’s decades of prepaid integration experience at numerous utilities help ensure a rapid and seamless deployment within the discoms existing infrastructure. Exceleron also employs many automated processes and rigorous test procedures to accelerate deployments at utilities in the US. Similar approaches can be leveraged by Indian discoms to reap the benefits of MyUsage sooner.
Measures of success: prepaid program KPIs
No company has more experience than Exceleron at establishing and tracking key performance indicators (KPIs) to quantifiably measure the overall performance of a prepaid solution. Through built-in reports and alerts, Exceleron provides a multitude of KPIs related to RoI, programme growth, financial health, customer engagement, system usage, payment performance and customer satisfaction.
“Quality is never an accident; it is always the result of intelligent effort.”
– John Ruskin.
Meeting each discom’s unique needs
As the Indian power sector engages in its great transformation towards an “electrified economy” with discoms preparing to undertake the largest and most ambitious prepaid smart metering initiative in the world, Exceleron understands that no two discoms are exactly alike. Since 2004, utilities have helped Exceleron enhance MyUsage to create the most configurable and scalable prepaid suite of applications to best meet and exceed each individual discom’s needs. As a trusted utility advisor for all things prepaid, we look forward to helping discoms solve their financial challenges, improve their customer engagement and customer satisfaction, and usher in a new era of sustained fiscal prosperity.
Head India Operations,
Exceleron Software – www.exceleron.com,
M: +91 9480996200