[Dirk Briese][June, 7 2007]The liberalised metering market in Germany remains in the early stages of its development. The essential influencing factors in metering and the meter reading market today are unbundling, the Measuring Instruments Directive (MID) and the work of the regulatory authority.

At the moment, competition in the services market takes place primarily at a local and regional level between different metering service providers like power suppliers or technical companies. Meter manufacturers are acting at both national and international levels, and consolidation within this industry sector is already far advanced. However, Eastern European manufacturers are also trying to enter the German market by offering meters at low prices; if their products match the customers’ quality standard, they will probably be successful.

In the medium term, billing service providers will also position themselves in the metering space. Cooperative companies too will enter the competition more forcefully, for example as metering competence centres for acquisition, as billing service providers or as metering service providers. Because of the potential target groups, several possibilities arise for service providers to establish metering and metering services as separate products. In the market presence of network operators beyond their own networks, there are several activities like logistics or meter reading on site (e.g. by installers) that can be undertaken.

In the future, metering services will probably be connected to provision services and be promoted by standardised marketing actions. As a result, the meter as a product will be the focus of more attention than it is at present.

One possible trend: Outsourcing of the billing process

In the course of liberalisation, the pressure on power suppliers is increased – not least in the area of a utility’s billing process. External factors like unbundling, regulation concerning networks, liberalisation in metering or the rising number of bad debts influence the overall profitability of the organisation, and as a result also intensify the pressure on the billing process. It is therefore necessary to adopt the business processes demanded by the Federal Network Agency for Electricity, Gas, Telecommunications, Post and Railways as soon as possible, in order to achieve a higher standard in billing IT.

Because of the various challenges, the power suppliers start by dealing with the strategic and operational issues related to billing, in order to enable the company to implement the necessary change management and introduce the new processes. In today’s business environment these companies are accustomed to aligning their strategic goals with the new processes and technologies needed to achieve success. For example, one aspect that will be considered when evaluating the billing process is outsourcing, which offers real possibilities to tighten processes and minimise costs.