Homer Alaska - Business

Story last updated at 3:50 PM on Wednesday, June 29, 2011

HEA pursues electronic billing



By Molly Dischner
Morris News Service - Alaska

Homer Electric Association could save trees and greenbacks if the Regulatory Commission of Alaska approves a tarriff change filed last week.

The association filed to provide an electronic billing program for members.

Instead of receiving paper bills, customers would receive an email telling them that their bill was available online. To view the bill, members would log on to the secure e-bill website.

Melissa Carlin, a communications specialist for the association, said the utility has been researching the change for a while.

"Over the years, many members have requested paperless billing," Carlin said in an email. "It's an added convenience which adds value to your membership as well as promoting a paperless green option to bill paying."

Although HEA supports it, the change is still up in the air. Public comment is due by July 22, and the regulatory commission is charged with making a decision by Aug. 20.

In its filing, the association said it will give customers the option to sign up for electronic billing when they join the cooperative, or by calling HEA customer service. Customers could opt-out at any time, but would be automatically removed from the program if their balance was 55 days past due. A notice would be mailed before that time, according to the RCA's summary of the filing.

The filing said the company could save $5.79 per member per year by not sending paper bills.

"It is definitely an opt-in and the savings will be directly related to the number of consumers participating," Carlin said. "The more members that do enroll, the more anticipated savings."

Right now, the association has email addresses for about 23 percent of its 29,124 members. If that 23 percent opts-in, the savings would be about $38,787, Carlin said.

Carlin said the system will allow customers to see their account at any hour of the day, save an 11:30 p.m. to midnight maintenance period each day.

An online payment system already exists that customers can use to pay their bills after seeing the online statement. That system will not change, Carlin said. That system can be accessed from the utility's website, although first-time users need a passcode from the association.

Molly Dischner is a reporter for the Peninsula Clarion.

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