In the past year, Mighty River Power has improved the functionality of its GLO-BUG prepay product and started extending the service beyond the company's traditional Auckland market.
The four-year-old product is a leader in the New Zealand market, has revolutionised the way 13,600 customers across Auckland manage their use of power and payment for it.
The product includes an in-home display, which also doubles as a kitchen clock. This unit glows green when there is more than $10 credit left and then turns orange when credit has dropped below $10, a signal that the power will be disconnected at midday the next day if a top up is not made. On the day of pending disconnection the display glows red.
The smart technology behind the system - a first for prepay power in New Zealand - means that GLO-BUG users can top up their accounts at more than 5,000 outlets throughout New Zealand. Remote reconnection means customers can have their power restored in minutes from topping up, and there are no disconnection or reconnection fees.
GLO-BUG customers are now able to access account information through a wider range of channels, including the internet, e-mail, smart phones, and text messages. They can view their account balance, daily usage and costs, top up their credit online, reconnect their power, and sign up to receive alert messages about their balance.
These features provide customers with more information about their energy consumption and cost than is available on the great majority of post-pay plans, Mighty River notes.
Not only are these features giving some of the company's most vulnerable customers greater control over their power use, they have also helped drive down the cost to serve for GLO-BUG customers.
The product has been so successful that Mighty River has begun expanding it into other networks, starting with Christchurch. Earlier this year Meridian Energy signed an agreement with Mighty River to transfer 7,000 of its Canterbury prepay customers onto the GLO-BUG system.
Mighty River says GLO-BUG is a crucially important product, not just for the company, but for the wider industry.
Being technology agnostic, GLO-BUG can be deployed over any type of smart meter capable of daily reads, remote disconnection and remote reconnection.
While the technology behind it is impressive, Mighty River says that the most important aspect of the product is its potential to stem the growth of debt and avoid disconnection amongst the industry's most vulnerable customers, by giving them the opportunity to take real-time control of their energy usage.
Account holders can pay for their energy in the increments they can afford, have their power reconnected without a fee, and use GLO-BUG to pay off historic debt interest free through an automatic deduction with each top-up.
Historic debts are no longer passed onto collection agencies, saving customers the costs associated with the debt collection process, and customers stay connected while they pay debt off.
Despite the tough economic conditions, GLO-BUG has helped Mighty River Power's largest retail brand, Mercury Energy, keep net debtors at similar levels for the past four years. It has also turned some accounts, traditionally regarded by the industry as the worst customers, into some of Mighty River's most-valued customers. And now it will be doing the same for another of the nation's major retailers, Meridian Energy.
The Innovation in Electricity Award category is sponsored by Gentrack.