The Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability has released a report entitled “Bridging the Gaps on Prepaid Utility Service” that examines utilities’ and consumers’ experiences with prepay which is an alternative payment option in which consumers buy a dollar amount of electricity, and utilities deduct energy usage from that balance as it is used. Strong growth of prepay is being driven by key technology and consumer shifts, including the rollout of advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) and other smart grid technologies, the emergence of the empowered consumer, rising consumer interest in energy conservation, and the increased use of prepay options for other services.  

To jump start the modernization of our nation’s aging energy infrastructure, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act invested $4.5 billion in the electric sector — matched by private funding to reach a total of about $9.5 billion — so that Americans could start experiencing the benefits of the future grid sooner. Of the $4.5 billion, $3.4 billion was used to help industry accelerate the deployment of advanced technologies that are now keeping the lights on more reliably and efficiently and reducing costs. The large-scale deployment of smart meters and supporting technology through these projects is now enabling utilities to explore new consumer-facing programs and service offerings.

Some of the projects examined in the “Bridging the Gaps on Prepaid Utility Service” report were part of the Recovery Act-funded Smart Grid Investment Grant (SGIG) program. Under the SGIG program, DOE and the electricity industry jointly invested $8 billion in 99 cost-shared projects involving more than 200 electric utilities and other organizations. These projects modernized the electric grid, strengthened cybersecurity, improved interoperability, and collected an unprecedented level of performance data on smart grid operations and benefits.

The complete report is now available for downloading.