Smart Grid

November 26, 2012

Utility Ratepayers to Be Regaled by Engagement Systems as Smart Grid Expands

As the smart grid grows, so too will the market for customer engagement, information, and billing solutions—from websites that help gauge residential power usage, to real-time updates on outages, to Time of Use (ToU) billing alerts.

 In fact, the demand for electric utility customer engagement platforms—including billing and customer information system (CIS) software and services—will nearly double within the next five years, increasing from $2.3 billion in 2011 to $4 billion by 2017, based on projections just released by Boulder, Colorado-based Pike Research (News - Alert).

“Large U.S. investor-owned utilities looking to develop new revenue streams, European energy retailers working in a deregulated market, and utilities in the developing world seeking to improve revenue collection and energy auditing are all taking a new look at their requirements for billing and CIS,” explained Pike Research Director Eric Woods.  “This shift requires utilities to master product development, marketing, and customer relationship skills, to ensure competitive success. In turn, the billing and CIS systems underpinning these business processes will have to step up to the challenge.”

Distributed energy, smart meters, deregulation, social media, analytics, and growing customer technology sophistication and expectations are transforming the focus of traditional billing and CIS to a more customer-centric approach throughout the entire customer lifecycle. In particular, the deployment of advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) is driving a revolution in utility customer relationship management (CRM). In addition to the tidal wave of usage data that smart meter deployments will generate for basic meter-to-cash processes, AMI is enabling utilities to develop new products and services—including demand response (DR), electric vehicle (EV) charging platforms, prepaid metering, and home energy management (HEM). In turn, the billing and CIS systems underpinning these business processes will have to step up to the challenge.

Consumers are forming ever-higher expectations of their product and service providers for better communication, more flexible offerings and choices, better service, and a higher quality of consumer experience overall. These will fully impact the utility industry in the latter part of Pike Research’s forecast period (2015-2017), especially when retail electricity becomes more prevalent and regulated utilities accelerate their conservation efforts with customers.

Many legacy billing and CIS are technically unsuited for the emerging smart grid requirements.  Another significant factor driving billing and CIS change will be customer and business process analytics. This technology will play an important role in guiding utilities in product development and market execution for the targeted offerings and bundles that will enable competitive differentiation, according to the report. Today, confusion still exists in the market about how and where to apply analytics to improve business outcomes, but the market will mature rapidly as a result of growing commercial pressures.

From the Vendors’ Vantage Point (News - Alert)

The billing and CIS market landscape is populated with a diversity of suppliers. Billing and CIS software and services market leadership is provided by Oracle, SAP (News - Alert), Accenture, and IBM; but other software and services vendors (most with their own approach and market strengths) also are important participants, including Infosys, Hansen, Convergys, PWC, SAIC, Itron, Aclara, SAS, and others.

ERP software companies like Oracle and SAP offer integrated software suites. Top consulting and systems integrators like Accenture (News - Alert), IBM, or Infosys can provide solutions and help with business and IT transformation.

Smaller utilities may seek utility-oriented billing and CIS utility industry specialists such as Harris, Hansen, or Ferranti. MDM suppliers Itron and eMeter are also providing some elements of billing and CIS centered around meter data.

Telco billing and electric utility billing and customer information systems, such as Convergys, also have utility industry offerings, which leverage their experience of handling complex billing and customer service requirements.

One size does not fit all, and the diversity of utility types, goals, and the characteristics of their end customer types requires customized approaches utilizing standard components. In many instances, vendors should expect to lead their customers to the right path.

The report, “Electric Utility Billing and Customer Information Systems”, analyzes the global market opportunity for utility billing and CIS software and services.  The report also includes a view of the growth of billing and CIS systems in regulated and deregulated environments.  Key industry players are profiled in depth and market forecasts for worldwide electric utility billing and CIS software and services revenue, segmented by region, are provided through 2017.

Want to learn more about the latest in communications and technology? Then be sure to attend ITEXPO Miami 2013, Jan 29- Feb. 1 in Miami, Florida.  Stay in touch with everything happening at ITEXPO (News - Alert). Follow us on Twitter.

Edited by Brooke Neuman