Attorneys: Prepay ready for prime-time if regulators will wise up



By Jesse Berst


It's hard to go a week without a cry for U.S. electric power regulators to upgrade their policies and procedures to better address this century's conditions. The latest example challenges regulators to rethink their traditional bias against prepay.


Two attorneys writing in behalf of the Prepay Energy Working Group have released position papers advocating prepay as a legitimate part of a utility's programs. One paper explains challenges and best practices for marrying prepay with low-income assistance programs. The other proposes policy changes to properly accommodate prepay, remote disconnect and other new capabilities made possible by the smart grid.


"We strongly believe that prepay represents the cutting edge for ANY enhanced transaction application," says Jamie Wimberly, CEO of DEFG EcoAlign, the consulting firm that leads the Working Group. That group includes utilities, vendors, marketers and representatives from roughly 15 or so state commissions. Wimberly stresses "the need for a fundamental transformation of the regulatory paradigm. Prepay and other enhanced transactions are forcing the issue of bringing regulatory rules and practices into the 21st century."