BC Hydro calls on LODESTAR Corporation to automate billing for largest customers

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BillingExpert™ Unlocks Customer Data From Utility’s Commercial & Industrial Customers PEABODY, MA – April, 10, 2000 – BC Hydro, one of the largest utilities in Canada, has installed LODESTAR’S BillingExpert™ to automate billing for the utility’s largest customers. The move replaced a labor-intensive manual process with a streamlined, integrated business process. BC Hydro, headquartered in Vancouver, provides electricity to 1.5 million customers, or 94 percent of the population in British Columbia. Bills for the utility's 131 largest accounts, known as transmission customers, were being produced largely by hand using spreadsheet and word processing programs. The customers account for a large percentage of BC Hydro’s annual gross revenue. David De Yagher, manager of transmission customer billing, says the old system required a great deal of manual intervention. He says that changing rates presented significant hurdles. The group had to rely on programmers to make adjustments, a tedious process that could take weeks. “We wanted something significantly more flexible than what we had,” he says. “It really wasn’t scalable to handle a large customer population. With the old system, it was all we could do to get 131 customers billed.” The manual system also stranded vital customer data that was needed by several departments, including load forecasting, sales and marketing, and accounting. Revenue and consumption data were keyed in to another system for this purpose, but the data entry often took a couple of weeks. Tension over timeliness and accuracy of the data was becoming a sobering problem at the utility. The data was losing credibility with the utility’s internal stakeholders, according to De Yagher. “Since we were maintaining our database manually, the integrity of the data within that database was naturally under scrutiny,” he says. The installation of BillingExpert has unlocked this vital data, making it available across the company within days instead of weeks. “Once you approve an invoice, all the information is stored in the tables.” De Yagher’s group sends the tables over to one of the financial groups. “They are building a customer data warehouse. We’re going to be sending that information via the tables out to all of the different stakeholders.” The product also allows bill analysts to modify rates and riders on the fly without the use of programmers. In addition, the group is developing an industrial time-of-use rate, a job that would have taken three weeks under the old process. With BillingExpert, De Yagher estimates, “It will probably take us, I’m guessing, a week. So we’re seeing a definite increase in productivity.” The billing team also has taken on billing for customers in a pilot program testing time-of-use rates for commercial accounts. To bill the 500 pilot customers, the group has added only the equivalent of one-half of a full-time employee. De Yagher says, “We couldn’t have done this in the past.” LODESTAR is a leading global provider of enterprise application software to energy providers. The LODESTAR Customer Choice Suite™ provides the world’s most flexible, scalable and reliable web-enabled software to competitive Retail Companies, regulated Distribution Companies and Independent System Operators to enable Customer Choice! The LODESTAR Customer Choice Suite includes: LodeStar®, a flexible client/server-based load research system; RateExpert™, software for pricing and profitability analysis; BillingExpert™, a powerful and easy-to-use billing engine; LodeMap™, an end user application for viewing customer energy usage and costs; and LODESTAR Profile & Settlement System™, a cost-effective system for load profiling, reconciliation and settlement. LODESTAR Corporation is located at 8 Essex Center Drive in Peabody, Massachusetts 01960-2911. For more information on LODESTAR Customer Choice Suite, visit www.lodestarcorp.com, or call (888) 225-1293.
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