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The EDI Solution: Help of Hindrance in Billing and Metering?

Fortnightly Magazine - October 1 1999

to comply with EDI standards by a specific date may ignore certain options within the standard in order to meet its deadline, he observes.

"So you end up with problems such that no transaction in the Illinois standard set where both supplier and deliverer account numbers appear in the same EDI message. The delivery companies don't want to ever have to know or care about what the supplier or account numbers are. By making sure they don't appear on any message, they don't have to worry about crossing the two. So they don't have to fix their customer information systems," he says.

The consequence is that the marketer or energy service provider has to keep track of the utility account number and any changes thereof, he says.

"The reality is that as long as we keep going down, the [ASC] X12 standard we will never get anywhere," he says.

He explains that EDI was designed back in the days of the teletypes to make sure data was not lost and procedures were done in a certain way. Later, the attempt was made to make EDI universal for every industry, but EDI is not utility-industry specific and crosses many industries.

Houseman says, "We have yet to get in four years to the point where we have a national model from UIG. It took the Gas Industry Standards Board seven to eight years to get a national model.

"There are a lot of standards out there that can get us to a common standard a hell of a lot quicker," he says. For example, Open Financial Exchange, or OFX, is a better standard than EDI, Houseman says.

OFX is a unified specification for the exchange of electronic financial data over the Internet. By eliminating connectivity as an issue, OFX enables financial services companies to make choices about the platforms, processors and systems they work with, according to press material on the OFX website ( www.ofx.net).

A spokesperson for financial software company Intuit says the creators of OFX did not envision it as a standard to replace EDI. Furthermore, OFX, developed by CheckFree, Intuit and Microsoft in close concert with financial services and technology companies, was created to streamline the process financial services companies use to connect to transactional websites, thin-client network computing systems and financial software, the OFX press material says.

New York, Standards and the Holy Grail

"No one is going to come up with a national [EDI] standard. It is like the Holy Grail; you never quite reach it," says John D'Aloia, power systems operations specialist at the New York Public Service Commission.

D'Aloia believes that EDI standards will vary from state to state, but similarities will be shared within regions.

"In New York, I expect the commission will rule for a general EDI implementation as the next step because the commission had never formally ordered its implementation. The implementation itself should take place around April of next year. EDI will not be fully phased in by the target, but we will be able to start initial enrollments with EDI by