Rappahannock Electric Cooperative (REC) recently filed with the Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC) an application to become the first electric utility in Virginia to offer prepaid electric service. This payment option allows members to pay what they want and when they want. Other than a minimal, one-time fee to initiate the service, customers using the prepaid option pay the same for electricity as those using traditional billing, while avoiding many of the costs associated with traditional billing, such as potentially having to pay a large deposit, late payment fees, or reconnection charges. Prepaid electric service is a cost-effective option for managing personal budgets and electricity use.
Matthew Faulconer, manager of government and regulatory affairs for REC says, “We developed our pre-pay program based on a law passed by the General Assembly last year that created the opportunity for electric cooperatives to offer this type of flexible payment option. We are hopeful that the SCC approval will be received in time to make prepaid service available to members by mid-2012. This is an exciting voluntary program for our members who are seeking options for electric bill payment.”
REC’s prepaid program uses advanced meter technology to calculate energy usage daily and works well for people who want to take control of their electric accounts. By monitoring daily usage, members become aware of their energy usage patterns and can quickly take action to reduce their consumption, ultimately saving money.
“The prepaid program is similar to the concept of putting gas in your car,” Faulconer explains. “You pay for it before you use it, choose how much to buy at once, and simply go buy more when you run low. Prepaid electricity works the same way, and is a great option for people who want to manage both their budgets and their energy costs. Prepaying for electricity ensures that you don’t use more than you can afford, and it will help our members avoid having to establish credit or pay a deposit.”
If approved by the SCC, REC members will be able to establish a prepaid balance by paying for electricity before using it. Instead of paying a bill for a full month of electricity all at once, payments can be made in any incremental amount. As a part of this service, the Cooperative will monitor a participant’s daily balance and as the total decreases will notify them either by phone, email or text message until the balance expires. Members themselves can monitor their account balance through REC’s automated phone system or online through Web Self-Service, and can add to their balance by paying online, by phone, or in person at one of REC’s offices.
Sterling Schoonover, manager of member services said, “We analyze member feedback regularly to ensure we are providing the good value our members expect. Flexible and convenient payment options have been requested, and after investigating these programs at other cooperatives, we have developed one that we hope will benefit our members.”