Weekly Direct Debits by GoCardless are helping OLT tackle power poverty.
Payments as a power for good
OLT is on a mission to end power poverty, with a SaaS solution that allows power companies to slash their technology costs and pass those savings on to customers.
“The perception of power companies as uncaring isn’t usually fair,” said OLT’s Founder, Rob Johnson, who has 25 years of industry experience. “The trouble is that their computer systems cost hundreds of millions to implement, and hundreds of millions more to maintain. This limits change, keeps costs high and is a major barrier to entry for new players in the power market.”
“By contrast, OLT’s software leverages automation and AI to replace all of a typical power company’s systems with a single web-based platform that costs just $1.50 per bill. The solution takes care of customer management, billing and payments, market reconciliation, data science and reporting, peer to peer trading and sharing - it’s the equivalent of a company of about 500 people.”
Weekly billing from GoCardless keeps bills – and overheads – manageable
Rob and the team recognised early on that ending power poverty would require an empathetic and flexible approach to payments.
By integrating GoCardless within its platform, OLT enables customers to better tailor both payment options and billing cycles to their end consumers’ financial situations, explained Rob.
“Consumers in lower socio-economic groups are unlikely to have credit cards, so Direct Debit is a more accessible payment method,” said Rob. “And because GoCardless allows our customers to bill weekly – without increasing their overheads, because it’s all automated – it’s a key part of our fight against power poverty.”
That’s because weekly bills are lower, making them easier to manage for payers. If someone does start to fall into arrears, it’s also better to intervene – and less painful to resolve – after a few weeks rather than a few months. Early intervention also keeps customer retention high.
“This is especially important when many of these consumers rely on state benefits to pay their bills,” said Rob. “Billing weekly is also a great way to more quickly identify consumers that might need extra help”
One OLT customer who has used weekly billing with GoCardless to transform energy accessibility for disadvantaged consumers is Nau Mai Rā, a Māori community-owned power company and the first indigenous power company in New Zealand. One of Nau Mai Rā’s biggest initiatives is its Whanau Fund (Family Fund), through which customers contribute to paying the bills of those who need extra support. The fund was worth $400k in 2023 and Nau Mai Rā has received national acclaim for its work.
All automated, all online – and all compliant
OLT’s customers are now collecting 8,000 payments a week through GoCardless, which has contributed to stellar revenue growth of 17% month-on-month for OLT. Even better, the only churn customers experience is when consumers move house.
“Consumers can sign up with GoCardless in less than two minutes because everything is fully automated and online, there’s no forms and no calling the bank,” said Rob. “This keeps conversions high and, because bank accounts don’t expire – unlike cards – churn is kept under control.”
Compliance is another area that GoCardless helps OLT to keep customers’ costs down, unlocking yet more savings to pass on to consumers.
“GoCardless stores all of the sensitive banking data so we don’t have to, which de-risks a major part of our business,” said Rob.
Up and running in less than a day
International expansion has always been OLT’s goal and global presence was a key factor in the decision to work with GoCardless. As a start-up that was moving fast, simple set up was also important.
“GoCardless caught our eye because of its presence in all our target markets – New Zealand today, and the UK, Australia and Canada in the future,” said Rob. “But what really impressed us was how ridiculously simple GoCardless was to implement. We were collecting Direct Debits in less than 24 hours.”
The relationship has evolved into a close working partnership, with OLT and GoCardless each leaning into the other’s expertise.
“There’s mutual trust in the quality of each other’s software and neither one of us has ever had any major production failures,” said Rob. “It always feels like a group of like-minded people getting together and saying, ‘Right, how can we make this relationship work so that we grow together?’”
Only scratching the surface
Alongside international expansion, OLT is also focused on using AI to make electricity cheaper for consumers – even free for some.
“The AI in our platform allows people to share their excess power if they have solar panels, or to pass on any savings they make on their bills, to other customers,” said Rob. “A charity shop in Hamilton hasn’t had to pay for their power since June 2019, and another consumer gives the spare power from his solar panels to his daughter at university.”
“But, really, between more responsive payments and the better use of data and AI, we’re still only scratching the surface of what technology can do to end power poverty. We’re delighted to have partners like GoCardless by our side as we explore how to make power more accessible to more people than ever.”