EnergyConsultingCo, based in Australia consults large energy consumers with utility solutions. For the past 35 years, customers have leveraged their experience and insights to improve energy and carbon management. They budget and reduce utility invoice expenditure for customers too. This helps customers identify environment-friendly opportunities, enhance risk management and improve financial performance and to gain a competitive edge.
With such impacts on consumption and sustainability, EnergyConsulting had numerous other opportunities to influence. However, their dependency on archaic practices and manual efforts created roadblocks for advanced services. Here are the challenges they faced-
Untapped opportunities for Utility Procurement
UtilityConsultingCo faced challenges to help customers procure the best Utility. For 30 customers and 30 suppliers, each with 321 different tariffs, they had a golden opportunity to help customers procure the right supplier. They could analyze the customer’s utility usage, locations, needs, demands, portfolio size etc. and procure the best utility.
However, the absence of a unified system and manual efforts created challenges for them. They used macros, spreadsheets and excel sheets to compare utilities with each other. They spent a day for one customer i.e. 30 days for 30 customers. If they were to have a unified data source and automated system for supplier review, they could do this job within minutes. They would have an almost ready-to-go plan for each customer. They even had the potential to save hundreds of hours every month and provide better accuracy in their results.
No solution to provide customer with the most relevant tariffs
EnergyConsultingCo faced obstacles to provide their customers with the most suitable utility tariffs. A tariff review compares the rates and offerings from all major suppliers and chooses the most cost-effective plan in the market. The tariffs consist of peak, off-peak and shoulder periods. Consumers can manage their consumption better knowing the utility rate variances for such periods. With this, scheduling consumption according to peak (high prices), off peak (low prices), shoulder (mid-range prices) becomes easy. It proves to be cost advantageous especially for large consumers consisting of multiple sites of operations. EnergyConsultingCo lacked a robust infrastructure to review tariffs and templates.
No system to align customer account with invoices
EnergyConsultingCo faced challenges with aligning a customer to its utility supply point. This challenge resulted from the absence of a hierarchy system. They required consumer details such as the utility type, group, location and supply point etc. to manage millions of invoices at once. The utility tariff, GST rates (if applicable) and DLF & TLF values needed to be in place. The DLF (Distribution Line Factor) and TLF (Transmission Line Factor) are different for different lines. They help calculate the utility loss which takes place during the transmission and distribution of energy (electricity).
With such values already in place, EnergyConsultingCo could easily align each customer with their invoices. A data hierarchy would easily manage millions of invoices for multiple types of utilities at once.
No creation of estimated bills
EnergyConsultingCo experienced shortcomings to create virtual bills. These virtual bills are based on estimated values, which help to fill the gaps of missing invoices. If/when utilities failed to create invoices, EnergyConsultingCo created and managed them. Such estimated bills reached customers and ensured that the cash flow remained intact. With no disturbance to the monthly revenue cycles, estimated bills were a tremendous advantage for utilities. They were estimated by taking into consideration the historical meter data of an account, it’s a previous utility, utility rate applicable, and other rates such as GST & DLF+TLF amounts etc. While managing invoices, EnergyConsultingCo could smoothen the operation for Utilities and customers, but it faced.
Shortcomings of manual efforts
The manual intervention in creating user invoices based on their utility consumption had the possibility to create roadblocks. The manual errors could create discrepancies in invoice details such as the user details, consumption data or costs (GST rate/Tariff/ DLF & TLF amounts). This would have led to inaccurate invoices, shortage of revenue generated or a spike in customer complaints. Resolving customer complaints would take up excess capital and disrupt the harmony in organizational processes.
The Solution: Automated system to upload utility data and generate accurate invoices
The solution chosen for EnergyConsultingCo needed to provide more features while saving time. Hence, automating the existing system was the first step. It started with creating a hierarchy was for every customer. This automated the account numbers, user IDs, GST rates (also whether GST is to be applied or not), TLF & DLF amounts etc. mapping with the company. This feature was further enhanced with a web application. It was developed using Azure PaaS and made device and browser friendly. This solution helped system administrators at EnergyConsultingCo to upload meter data and manage invoices automatically. It eliminated manual intervention by a huge margin and its possibility of errors (false data entry, miscalculations, user to supply point mapping). Any duplications with regards to user, consumption data, invoice amount or its account, were validated, verified and acted upon. It increased the time, efficiency and performance of the entire process and ensured effective invoice management. This reduced any lags which were created by late invoice generation. Utilities were able to send invoices timely, collect amounts on time, generate revenue and avoid customer complaints. Due to the appropriate mapping of the company with its location, supply point, utility and time of utility mapping, tariff creation was made easy. Utilities could provide consumers with specific plans, based on their consumption patterns and amounts. This led to controlled energy usage and conservation. EnergyConsultingCo’s stepped one step closer with this automated solution.
Solution Architecture Diagram
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