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Designing a human-centered payment system (vs a utility-centered one) yields multiple benefits, including higher customer satisfaction, fewer defaults, lower stress and significantly lower usage and bills.

A well designed customer experience has many benefits: Lower usage and bills, fewer complaints, fewer defaults, less stress on customers. Salt River Projects M-Power program has been running since 1980 in the Phoenix area. The pay as you go program enjoys a 95% customer satisfaction rating and leads to a conservation effect of 12%. By making the payment system user friendly, customers can pay their bills when it's convenient for them not on a schedule determined by the utility. Customers on M-Power pay multiple times a month, sometimes as many as 7. Stronger engagement with their energy usage leads to greater awareness and drives behavior change to cut back on waste. Originally aimed at low income customers, it now serves many more.

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This program is inspiring because it has proven over the past 30+ years to work very effectively and has acheived significant energy savings, simply by adapting the payment system to better fit peoples real lives. Traditional utilities ask customers to conform to their financial reporting and collection programs, designed by accountants for the ease of the company. M-Power has created a system that uses smart grid technology, to custom fit the service experience to allow people to pay in ways that are easiest for them. The results speak for themselves and perhaps most inspiring is that a financial innovation leads directly to energy (and cost) savings. It relies on staying very true to ideals. There are no costly fees or penalties for paying more often, unlike some other copycat programs. While the rate is slightly higher than a standard rate to cover costs, the benefits clearly outweigh the downsides for the many people who are voluntarily signed up. 
How can we overcome the organizational inertia to make changes like this in how energy is paid for?
More details below:
The program site.
A detailed EPRI report.
 

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Photo of Alper Yaglioglu

Hey Andrew! I think you're onto something here which could translate well into a new concept for our Ideas phase. You've got till Jan 15 to summon the creative energy to post an idea. Here are some tips: https://openideo.com/blog/rr-welcome-to-ideas and we hope you'll find some time to get your innovation game on!

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