Utiliflex's system is a Linux-based platform written completely in-house that can manage every aspect of a modern utility, including prepaid and postpaid electrical service, although the company works almost exclusively with prepaid. Their system provides detail or summary data to large accounting systems, performs complex tariff calculations for large customers, generates government tax I.D numbers, and manages multiple payment gateway channels.
The company's first installation was in Guyana, where the World Bank was footing the bill for a prepaid system that was capable of running the entire country's electric utilities. Now, four years later, Harrison is returning to Guyana at the end of the month to upgrade system hardware and software.
"It the U.S. mentality, prepaid is only for the poor," says Harrison. "In reality, I think prepaid is for the smart."
One advantage is environmental. He says statistics show prepaid customers use 15-20 percent less power than others because they are not using more electricity than they can afford. Prepaid electricity is also cheaper for people living paycheck to paycheck, who may pay high fees to reconnect power that has been shut off for nonpayment. For someone on a prepaid system, he says, "Your lights go out, you just go buy juice, no penalty."
"I think it's coming in the U.S. as utilities slowly upgrade archaic legacy systems," he says. "EPB is at the bleeding edge, but a lot are farther behind and still trying to figure some of it out. Overseas, people are building their second and third systems and looking for upgrades and new feature sets."