December 11, 2012

Tangible Benefits of MDM for Utilities and Consumers

Significant Impact on Day-to-Day Operations through Cost Savings and Customer Satisfaction

From engineers tracking distribution anomalies to loss prevention officers pinpointing energy theft, and from CSRs to consumers, MDM is proving to be a valuable tool for reducing losses, improving understanding on the consumer’s part, and saving money – for both the utility and the consumer.

CSRs Provide More Detailed Usage Information

When it’s cutoff day, a ringing phone doesn’t always bring a cheerful voice on the other end, and when the customer is angry about being cut off, a well-informed CSR can quickly diffuse a tense situation. MDM’s Get Usage button, prominently displayed on the Account History screen, gives UPN users one click access to intuitive graphs that provide visual information on usage and weather trends. According to Cindy Barton, a Customer Service Representative at United REMC in Markle, Indiana, having instant access to detailed usage information is exactly what she needs to help customers understand why they’re being disconnected. “This summer was the hottest we’ve ever had. We didn’t disconnect for that until two months down the road when we’re having mild weather and everybody has weather amnesia. Then they call in saying, €˜My bill could not have been that high!’ So I go in and put the weather right over the usage, and the temperature goes exactly with their usage. They can’t really argue with that.”

Shari Bracht, a fellow CSR at United REMC, agrees with Barton when it comes to using MDM’s graphs. “It gives us another tool in our toolbox to help the member. Now I can just pull up that graph and right away I can see the usage each day and see how it fluctuates.”

Both Barton and Bracht regularly encourage members to visit the utility’s website, where account holders can log in and view their own actual usage graphs, complete with weather overlays. “It’s very useful to them,” says Bracht. “People think it’s a great idea because they want to watch their usage. They want to conserve. Maybe this will help them pinpoint their usage better.” Barton agrees. “It’s such a great tool to have,” she asserts. “It’s just amazing how much you can tell by the day or the time of day your usage goes up. People can usually figure it out when they’re looking at that information.”

Identify Theft Early and Stop Losing Money

In Georgia, Flint Energies has seen a dramatic reduction in losses due to energy theft and meter tampering since the utility implemented SEDC’s MDM system. With no reliable reporting or investigative tools, losses due to energy theft were common and hard to track down. Meters marked as inactive could actually be active in the field for months at a time, often only being discovered when a technician was sent out to connect a new consumer. According to Flint’s Energy Theft Investigator, Pam Knight, MDM changed all of that. “We went from having up to a thousand kilowatts per meter being stolen down to catching them when there’s only been about 20 kilowatts used,” Knight states. “I haven’t had any lately that have registered over 50 kilowatts used because I’m typically able to get there within a 12- to 24-hour period.”

Knight begins each day by reviewing an MDM report that shows any inactive meters with positive usage. Because she works the report on a daily basis, the number of problem meters is kept to a minimum. Researching those meters and resolving any issues can be done quickly, preventing excessive loss. “There’s usually a couple of meters that show up each day,” according to Knight. “Sometimes it’s a glitch in the meter communicating with the office, but the rest are usually where someone cut the seal, took the meter out, and hooked it back up themselves. It alerts me in the system that I need to go out and check that location.”

A Valuable Tool For Every Utility

At both utilities, MDM has become an invaluable tool. “Our theft is actually down, and we’ve really saved a lot, I believe, by using that system,” Knight maintains. Barton also sees MDM’s benefit to every utility. “I would tell any utility, you really don’t realize how great it is until you see how it can really work for you and how specific you can be, nailing things down to the hour even,” she explains. “Before we had it, it was hard to imagine how helpful it would be. Now, I never want to not have it!”

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