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August 8, 2023
In 2023, a pivotal update to the EU Energy Efficiency Directive (2012/27/EU) has been enacted, mandating a stringent energy savings target of 11.7% by 2030. Notably, this update holds significant implications for the Heat Network (Metering and Billing) Regulations 2014/15 within the UK, as they have been strategically tailored to align with the Directive’s objectives.
These regulations, aimed at bolstering energy efficiency and curbing carbon emissions from heating systems, emphasise the significance of metering devices and consumption-based billing. By embracing the measures outlined, energy usage can be curtailed, leading to reduced consumer bills and a corresponding decrease in carbon emissions. Additionally, metering fosters equitable and transparent billing practices for heat network customers.
These factors collectively underscore the compelling reasons for municipalities, building proprietors, and housing associations to embrace a comprehensive meter reading and billing approach that accounts for the intricacies of the contemporary UK communal and district heating landscape. Key considerations include the number of heat networks, further reading on heat meter installation, methodologies for data collection, diverse billing methods, and payment alternatives.
So, in this article, we’ll explore the characteristics that define a modern meter reading and billing solution tailored for communal heating and district heat networks. Simultaneously, we’ll address a pivotal question for heat suppliers: to manage operations in-house or opt for outsourcing? So, without further ado, take a look.
Key Elements of Modern Communal Heating and Heat Network Meter Reading and Billing Solution
When it comes to a modern communal heating and heat network meter reading and billing solution, it’s crucial to consider a comprehensive set of functionalities. This functionality checklist serves as a guide for ensuring that the system required is not only efficient but also aligns seamlessly with the intricacies of communal heating and heat network management:
- Meter Reading Management: An ideal built-in modern billing product should encompass robust capabilities for efficient meter reading data management. Asynchronous and scalable systems are essential for achieving optimal performance throughput.
- Meter Equipment Support: Ensure support for both standard and smart meters, including various register configurations, meter hierarchy, and totalised and related meters.
- Product Compatibility: Align with industry best practices by accommodating energy and water reading flows in a seamless manner.
- Meter Read Collection: Implement a multi-layered approach for meter read collection, including options for storing readings, integrating with order management processes, facilitating real-time processing, and enabling bulk transfers.
- Readings Validation: Integrate a comprehensive validation system that encompasses format validation, consistency checks with service points and meters, as well as industry-recommended validation checks like history checks, tolerance checks, reading type validation, and unit validation.
- Reading Amendment: Offer provisions for updating reading data through both APIs and a user-friendly GUI. Ensure the system initiates appropriate actions for re-processing reads based on the nature of updates, such as re-validation, annulment of billed consumption, or generation of new consumption records.
- Readings Assessment: Enabling the re-processing of readings is crucial in scenarios involving historical changes due to amendment requests or late entries. Incorporate mechanisms that allow for automatic actions, including read annulment and re-validation.
- Estimated Reads: Create algorithms that generate accurate estimations for missing readings or implausible consumption. Align estimation practices with industry standards, calculating averages only between real readings and utilising usage profiles for accurate estimation.
- Billing Functionalities: Incorporate a range of calculation functionalities, including the ability to skip specific accounts from regular billing, consistency checks for gas consumption, bill cycle management, and reading window definitions for precise billing periods.
- Troubleshooting and Logging: Ensure a robust logging system that generates detailed logs during the billing process, providing a clear record of processing details for each reading.
- Customer Consumption Generation: The system should generate consumption records based on readings, considering factors such as register unit measurements, recurring settings, and meter-to-price plan unit conversions.
- Grouping of Consumption: Implement consumption grouping into invoice details based on various parameters, including bill period changes, package changes, price changes, real readings, and resource usage (registers/meters) during different time periods.
- Master Data Synchronization: Incorporate processes for synchronizing reading data, service points, meters, and customer information with the billing system.
- Reading Management: Provide readily available reading access APIs, system-wide reading management operations, and robust traceability and logging mechanisms.
- Debt Management: Establish diverse workflows for debt management that cater to customers on payment plans, addressing potential default scenarios. Through business workflows, it is possible to accommodate situations where customers simultaneously settle current bills while progressively paying off outstanding debts according to agreed-upon plans.
This comprehensive approach not only ensures fair and transparent billing practices but also addresses prevalent issues like debt management, which holds significant relevance for heat suppliers. By embracing these ‘must-have recommendations’, communal heating and district heat networks can be equipped with an advanced billing solution tailored to the requirements of current energy efficiency regulations and directives.
The choice dilemma for heat networks: outsourcing vs in-house billing services
Heat networks, property owners, and private utility operators are often faced with a critical decision: should billing processes be managed in-house or outsourced to a third-party provider? This choice holds significant implications for efficiency, quality of service, costs, and the overall customer experience. Let’s now explore the pros and cons of each type and the key considerations that should guide this decision-making process:
In-House Utility Billing Services:
- Direct Financial Oversight: Opting for in-house billing means absolute control and streamlined supervision of financial operations. This empowers swift adaptations and fosters a culture of accountability and transparency.
- Tailored Flexibility: Internal billing services grant the liberty to craft and execute billing procedures aligned with an organisation’s unique processes. When implementing the right meter reading and billing software, heat suppliers can easily adapt to evolving business needs. They can get scalable solutions that can accommodate growth, changes in billing models, and technological advancements.
- Safeguarding Confidentiality: Certain industries that deal with customers’ sensitive data demand stringent confidentiality. By wielding in-house billing, meticulous control over customer accounts can be effectively maintained, ensuring privacy is upheld.
- Lack of Experience: Opting to manage billing processes in-house requires an adept team with the requisite experience in billing operations, regulatory compliance, and customer service. Overcoming the learning curve and staying updated with industry trends can be time-consuming and resource-intensive.
- Capacity: Successfully handling billing in-house demands a robust infrastructure, software, and personnel. Adequate capacity must be available to manage fluctuations in billing volumes, customer queries, and potential disputes.
- Cost: While managing billing internally might appear cost-effective at first glance, it’s essential to consider the comprehensive expenses. These include personnel salaries, software investments, training costs, and potential expenses arising from billing errors or customer disputes.
Outsourced Utility Billing Services:
- Quality of Service: Outsourcing to a reputable third-party provider grants access to specialised expertise and proven billing systems. These providers are equipped to ensure accuracy, compliance with regulations, and efficient operations, leading to improved overall service quality.
- Options for Recourse: Reputable third-party providers offer avenues for recourse in case of billing errors or disputes. This alleviates the burden on tenants, building owners, and service providers, as the provider assumes responsibility for resolution.
- Cost: Outsourcing can provide cost predictability through structured billing arrangements, often based on transaction volume or a flat fee. It eliminates the need for substantial upfront investments in software and infrastructure, translating to potential cost savings over the long term.
- Customer Service: Outsourcing enables service providers to focus on core activities while entrusting billing-related customer inquiries to professionals. This enhances overall customer satisfaction and ensures that customer interactions are handled efficiently.
- Limited Command Over Billing Operations: Outsourcing requires the presence of a business representative to monitor and ensure contractual obligations are met. However, it doesn’t grant direct oversight of billing procedures.
- The challenge for Small Enterprises to Secure an Outsourcing Partner: For small businesses, engaging third-party billing companies can pose challenges. These providers often impose a percentage-based fee on total collections and require a minimum claims threshold for contract consideration.
- Curtailed Influence on Customer Accounts: Outsourcing curbs immediate access to customer accounts for businesses. Consequently, promptly addressing billing-related inquiries becomes challenging, possibly leading to customer discontentment.
Ultimately, while both in-house and outsourcing utility billing services have their merits, the challenges of managing billing processes internally are easily addressed with a modern built-in meter reading and billing system. The internal workforce receives specialized expertise and scalable solutions and becomes capable of delivering enhanced customer service. Therefore, service providers allocate resources strategically, improve operational efficiency, and provide a seamless billing experience for tenants and customers alike.
Are you ready to enhance your billing approach? Explore the functionalities of MaxBill modern billing solution designed for communal heating and heat networks. Uncover how our system optimises meter reading management and billing in general. addresses outstanding bills, and streamlines debt recovery, offering benefits for both service providers and consumers.
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