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Off Peak

Fortnightly Magazine - September 1 1998

ELECTRIC UTILITIES THE WORLD OVER ARE BEGINNING to draw upon the power of Internet. But U.S. investor-owned utilities clearly are the most receptive to using the technology for a variety of applications when compared with their smaller domestic or international peers.

According to a Newton-Evans Research Co. poll of 79 sites around the world, more than half of all information systems officials at utilities planned to use or are using the Internet for customer communications. About 100 percent of U.S. investor-owned utilities were using the Internet for customer communications compared with only 71.4 percent of their smaller, public counterparts (see table 1).

More than 80 percent of U.S. IOU officials agreed that their utility will need advanced communications capabilities to sell new, non-energy services to customers; about 60 percent of smaller U.S. utilities agreed, as did 70 percent of international respondents. Three-quarters of U.S. IOUs said the Internet was the most important means of accomplishing this task. U.S. officials also cited automatic meter reading applications and customer premises monitoring (see table 2).

More than 34 percent of utilities surveyed said they planned to use the Internet as a front-end to productions systems in the future. Not one U.S. IOU official ruled out the eventual use of the Internet for information systems, compared with 25 percent of public and cooperative groups, and 12 percent of international respondents.

More than one-third of all respondents said they planned to use the Internet for billing applications. Yet almost one-half said they were uncertain about this role for the Internet in their utility; 11 respondents said they would not use the Internet for billing. Meanwhile, 63 percent of U.S. IOUs are already using the Internet for billing, compared with only 19 percent of smaller U.S. utilities and 40 percent of the international respondents.

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