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Though the overall adoption of prepaid electric metering is expected to increase thanks to increased acceptance by utilities and customers alike, the trend is playing out differently depending on the market and geography. In markets like southern Africa and some countries in Asia Pacific, the use and deployment of conventional prepaid metering systems is well-established and growing, whereas in North America and most of Europe, penetration is less-established and is expected to move ahead at a slower, yet steady, pace. According to a recent report from Navigant Research, the worldwide installed base of prepaid meters is expected to total more than 85 million from 2014 to 2024.
“Utilities see prepaid metering as a way to avoid bad debt and increase cash flow,” says Neil Strother, principal research analyst with Navigant Research. “Advanced smart meters and utility back-office processes can remotely enable customers to pay for electricity ahead of usage without having to install a prepay-only meter and, in addition, some customers are finding prepay programs to be helpful in managing their budgets and becoming more energy efficient.”
While prepay programs are expected to expand during the forecast period, they are also expected to face resistance from reluctant regulators, customers unaccustomed to paying for electricity in this way, and a lingering stigma that prepay is for the financially challenged, according to the report. For prepay to flourish, Navigant Research believes there would need to be a major shift among regulators and a strong push by larger utilities to move the needle.