Ambit Energy, First Choice Power to launch prepaid electric programs (Dallas)

April 13, 2010

A pair of Dallas electricity retailers are on the verge of rolling out a new way for consumers to buy electricity.

Dallas-based Ambit Energy and Irving’s First Choice Power are working on the technological equivalent of putting a coin slot on new electric smart meters.

From their perspective, making electric meters function like parking meters will expand the potential customer base and combat unpaid bills. Additionally, pay-ahead power could even make consumers more conscientious about how they use electricity, the vendors argue.

“We’re able to monitor usage and provide feedback to customers in ways we’ve never done before,” said Jere Thompson Jr., CEO of Ambit Energy.

Traditionally, low-credit customers have had to put down two months’ worth of electricity payments before getting service activated. Since deregulation, those customers have typically paid a higher rate for each kilowatt-hour because the risk of bad debt is built into that rate.

Ambit’s new plan, set to be launched April 14, will cost 20% to 40% less than current prepaid electricity costs.

“It’s all coming down because the risk is coming out of the equation,” Thompson said.

Prepaid electricity customers would fill up their accounts by making a payment at a payday lender or money transfer office. The retailers equate the process to filling up the gas tank on your car. You can put a little in or fill up the tank for a full month.

Read the full story in the Dallas Business Journal.