Manila Electric Company has urged the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) to allow the use of SMS, instead of an in-home display (IHD), for consumer monitoring of electricity under the prepaid retail electricity service (PRES). This will allow consumers to track electricity use by doing SMS commands such as balance inquiry, get meter status, and receive low balance warning messages on their cellphones.
PRES was introduced by the ERC to give consumers the power to manage their electricity bills. However according to PRES rules, applying for such service requires installation of IHD to view electricity consumption data in real time. Installation of IHD incurs more costs for Meralco and its customers.
Meralco suggests using SMS for sending notification of electricity consumption to consumers. This would be more convenient and practical as it doesn’t require additional modification to the system.
In the prepaid electricity scheme, all prepaid meters are physically connected to a data concentrator using a power line carrier . The data concentrator connects to the back-end servers wirelessly using a dedicated GSM voice channel. These aspects make it very difficult to decode data transmissions, unlike GPRS which is based on bits and bytes and uses a shared wireless channel. All data regarding electricity consumption and billing are calculated in the back-end servers.
Aside from electricity monitoring, the SMS can also be used for registration, loading of prepaid electricity credits, receive advice of disconnection/reconnection, and remote disconnection/reconnection.
Meralco plans to start its technical pilot project for the prepaid retail electricity scheme by November 2012.