A pre-paid meter allows the consumption of gas fuel only if the consumer has enough credit pre-purchased from the gas supplier. Consumption control is enabled in pre-paid gas meters with remotely operated gas supply valves. A pre-paid gas meter works on the same principle as a traditional counterpart. The only difference is that the pre-paid gas meter turns off the gas supply to the consumer when the pre-paid credit is spent. A pre-paid gas meter has protective features which prevent the opening of the gas supply valve if there is a leak from the downstream gas supply piping or a gas load.
In Poland, pre-paid electricity meters have been in use for over ten years. Pre-paid gas meters have not yet been used on the domestic market. Gas meters with remote gas supply isolation (also known as “debt collection gas meters”) have only been installed for those consumers who have a poor history of payment for the gas supply. Now, with the latest developments of IoT (Internet of Things) technologies (including many years of battery-powered operation of gas meters), a widespread implementation of pre-paid meters in the B2C gas distribution system is possible – and it can include those who pay their bills on time.
A pre-paid gas meter can have many benefits: it helps pay the bills on time, control the consumption of gas and run a tight home budget for natural gas usage. A pre-paid gas meter reduces the number of meter-reading rounds and limits field servicing visits to emergency calls only and the mandatory annual inspections of the meter’s measuring system. A pre-paid gas metering system also helps plan the consumer’s expenses in advance to help avoid extra charges for consumption or “unreasonable” overheads in consumption forecast-based gas billing systems. A prepaid gas meter credit can be replenished with several small payments a month to improve the liquidity of the home budget.
These advantages are certainly attractive to landlords who want to minimise the risk of debt to the gas supplier generated by dishonest tenants.
Operation of pre-paid gas meters could be challenging to the gas consumers and the gas suppliers. The consumers of natural gas and the NG distribution network operator need to routinely inspect the technical condition of pre-paid gas meters to prevent unexpected interruptions of supply to the consumers. Technical condition monitoring should be managed with suitable IT systems, capable of warning the gas consumers of low pre-paid credit and providing “pre-paid debit” for weekends and holidays, especially in the winter, if pre-paid gas meters fuel space heating systems.
Installation of a pre-paid gas meter might require several hundred PLN more than a regular gas meter; if closed, the gas supply valve of the gas meter can only be opened in witness of a qualified technician of the gas supplier/distributor.
Still, pre-paid gas meters have more pros than cons. If you are considering a pre-paid gas meter, you need to consider its pros and cons to decide if you really need it.