More than 400 Port Hedland residents and businesses have commenced Horizon Power’s Power Ahead research pilot this week.
The pilot, which is a first in Australia, will allow participants to work collaboratively with Horizon Power to develop a new way of charging for electricity, with elements similar to a mobile phone plan that the utility hopes may be offered to all customers in the future.
Horizon Power managing director Frank Tudor said customer research had been carried out recently by the organisation to gain a better understanding of electricity usage patterns and the changes customers would like to see.
“Over 90 per cent of participants believed it would be helpful having access to their electricity usage data in near real time to help them take more control over their electricity use,” Mr Tudor said.
When asked how helpful it would be to know a large proportion of their annual electricity bill in advance and have it spread evenly across the year, over 70 per cent of participants favoured this approach.
“Our research has shown our customers support changes which will empower them to have more control over their electricity bills and through this pilot we aim to develop a model that enables them to take this control,” Mr Tudor said.
In the long term, Horizon Power hopes to offer this pricing model in the form of ‘Power Plans’ to all customers.
Similar to mobile phone plans, these plans provide a peak allowance limit with a cost per week plus a cheaper per unit cost for electricity use.
The idea behind the Power Plans is that customers will be rewarded with discounts for staying on plan.
“Customers will not be paying different rates during on peak or off peak, instead they will be able to choose an electricity plan just like they choose a mobile plan to meet their peak usage requirements,” Mr Tudor said.
“This will give our customers much more control and management of their power bills as they will know how much they pay each month through the plan.”
In the pilot, participants have individual electricity allowances set by Horizon Power that they must stay within during the peak period (between 1pm and 8pm each day) in order to earn financial incentives.
The research pilot commenced with a practice month in December where participants could learn to use the app and not lose any financial incentive before going live on January 4, 2017.