Consumer engagement software and payments company PayGo was named a Smart Grid Company to Watch in 2015 and we are still watching with great interest as consumers become more interested in prepaid electric services, and as utilities are increasingly looking to add these types of services for the decreases in operational costs and reductions in right offs they can achieve.
One of those utilities is Consumers Energy, who chose PayGo for the fact that “they offer a total package that includes billing, payment, and customer notifications — and the solution is flexible enough to meet changing customer needs,” according to Consumers Energy project manager Carrie Harkness, who calls PayGo “a forward-thinking company that is looking at future solutions that meet constantly-changing and dynamic customer expectations.”
Way back in the early 2000s, Ronald Sewell, a successful entrepreneur in the utility space and a former utility executive, saw a need for a comprehensive payments solution, including Pre-Pay, for the utility sector. PayGo went live in 2006 and the rest, as they say, is history.
In delivering billing solutions for the competitive energy market across the United States, Sewell, now president of PayGo, envisioned an integrated world where the smart grid would enable consumers to leverage information to make choices that were analogous to consumer experiences and choices in industries like banking. He felt customers should be able to buy energy when, where, and how they wanted to in real time.
And his vision has come to life. Today, the PayGo approach to prepayment and payment solutions has been chosen by the largest U.S. utilities participating in Pre-Pay and has reached nearly 15 million premises — close to 19 percent of the investor-owned utility marketplace.
On the horizon are a series of patents pending that enable Real Time Pre-Pay, which will prove valuable in time-of-use rates; “soft arm,” which enables consumers to “push the button” to reconnect their power; and “threshold logic,” which delivers “real time” balance status where PayGo code is downloaded to the smart meter — almost like a smartphone app.
Smart Grid News likes PayGo for the way it delivers these innovations in a vendor-agnostic way that integrates legacy utility services and solutions to serve each utility’s unique needs across a variety of metering and network platforms.
PayGo’s leadership team is a veritable who’s who of the energy industry. CEO Jeffrey Weiser was previously CEO of smart grid intelligent device manufacturer Nighthawk; served as president of the third largest competitive energy retailer in Texas, First Choice Power; and co-led energy deregulation for TXU Energy, heading up its $2B business-to-business segments.
Founder Ronald Sewell, who created the vision of an integrated payments and billing solution, previously founded UtiliRead Software, which he sold to Ista Group, and has run engineering groups and managed utilities in Lexington, Kentucky.
Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer David Elve has served as the inaugural President of the Smart Meter Manufacturers Association of America and was recognized as one of the 15 Most Influential People in Energy by FierceEnergy for his leadership across a host of industry initiatives.
Over the near term, the company has a series of critical releases planned, which will add functionality to existing deployments. For example, with the rollout of “CheckOut by PayGo” cash payment solution, consumers can simply swipe their phone or the barcode on a paper bill to pay their energy bill immediately — along with paying for groceries or other purchases at the checkout counter — without having to wait in a long line.
“We hope to reach more than 30 percent of contracted IOU customers in the next 12 months based on the existing sales pipeline,” Elve told Smart Grid News.
The company is also working on several international deployments. While U.S. adoption for Pre-Pay is projected to be 15-20 percent of consumers, overseas adoption rates are forecasted to be as high as 80 percent.
“Our current plan sees roughly as many international PayGo users in less than five years as in the U.S.,” Elve said. “Our roadmap includes a series of payment and consumer-based information opportunities that drive customer satisfaction higher for our utility customers.”
In both the domestic and international markets, the idea of Pre-Pay — and PayGo — is taking hold. People often describe the smart meter-based Pre-Pay energy market as the “PayGo” market and has become one of the “go to” applications for the next wave of benefits for smart grid investments.