How Accurate is Your Utility Rate Information?
If your company makes strategic business decisions based upon the price of electricity or natural gas, you know the value of accuracy. For utility rate data to be actionable, it must be accurate. You can’t trust data that’s incorrect or imprecise. You literally cannot afford to make decisions based upon suspect utility rate information.
If you are facing challenges today because of faulty data, you need to understand the primary causes of inaccurate utility rate data, how human error factors into poor-quality data, and how to improve your accuracy.
The Primary Causes of Inaccurate Utility Rate Data
The first thing to know about utility rate data is that you should always be working from a trustworthy source document. That source should be the public regulatory agency for your state. Each state in the US has a public utility commission that regulates and publishes utility rates. The rates that they publish, by definition, are accurate.
When we talk about inaccurate utility rate data, we are not talking about this data that’s published by these authoritative sources. Instead, we are talking about original data that’s been degraded somewhere during the process of manipulating and analyzing the data. Here are the top causes.
State public regulatory websites and utilities use different terms to describe the same thing. They give fields for the same data different labels. Because they don’t follow a common naming convention, they cause confusion for inexperienced users who compare data across multiple state regulators or utilities.
For example, Utility A calls it a “Short-Term Nonresidential Customer” while Utility B calls it a “Temporary Nonresidential Customer,” and Utility C calls it a “Nonresidential Customer: Transitory.” Employees who don’t notice this distinction are more likely to introduce errors into their reports and spreadsheets. Accurate data quickly becomes inaccurate when users don’t account for naming inconsistencies between data sources.
Sometimes your greatest enemy is a comma, a decimal point or a single digit. When users manually pull accurate data from state regulatory websites but enter it incorrectly into their spreadsheets or back-office systems for manipulation and analysis, they immediately render the accurate information inaccurate.
Sometimes users pull the wrong rate from a source document. Or they pull the right rate but enter it into the wrong field in their reporting software. They mis-key a number, or add a numeral by mistake. Copying and pasting prevents these manual errors, but only when users copy from the correct field in the source document and paste into the correct field in their document.
Errors with timeliness
Another cause of inaccurate utility rate data creeps in over time. A worker performs some analysis on a set of data in January, for example, then works on some analysis in March, not realizing that the rates they are working with are three months old. Utility rates are always changing. State regulators and utilities are constantly updating their rates. But users who fail to keep track of the timeliness of the data they are working from introduce inaccuracies into their work.
Utility rate data can be both accurate and out of date at the same time. Workers who forget this make decisions that aren’t backed by the latest evidence. They act upon unactionable data. And that is costly. A utility rate that’s out of date by only one-one-hundredth of a penny per kWh in today’s forecast will you cost you plenty tomorrow.
How to Improve the Accuracy of Your Utility Rate Data
The cure for inaccuracies in your utility rate data that are caused by human error is to address the human side of utility rate data entry, manipulation and analysis. Here’s how:
- Expertise: Employ staff who have a high level of expertise with analyzing and making sense of utility rate data. Train your staff to understand the nuances and differences in the ways that state regulators and utilities publish utility rates.
- QA: Implement robust quality assurance protocols and procedures so that you catch data-entry mistakes, keying errors and other typos before conducting any analysis.
- Timeliness: Put checks and balances in place that prevent your staff from working with out-of-date information. Implement a policy that all staff check for newer versions of rates before downloading any data or working with any rates.
How Utility Rate Databases Improve Accuracy
One cure for inaccurate utility rate data is utility rate databases. These are created and managed by private companies (as opposed to state regulators or utilities) to provide on-demand nationwide electric and natural gas rate data. They help you make decisions without the hours of labor usually required to find and interpret information.
The best utility rate databases put a premium on accuracy. At RateAcuity, for example, we run a data accuracy program that we share publicly for complete transparency. In any six-month period, our rate schedule accuracy hovers around 99.999%. With our database, you can trust that utility rate data you work with is always accurate and always up to date.
Our data also helps you maintain accuracy because it is exportable. You either export it from our Web Portal or bring it over automatically with our API, rate for rate. No copying or pasting. No re-keying of data. No errors.
Maintaining accurate utility rate data requires a mix of technology and talent. You need technology to ensure that your utility rate data is always accurate, up to date and easy to find. And you need talented staff to manipulate and analyze that data to your advantage.
Fortunately, RateAcuity helps you with both. Our utility rate database saves you hundreds of dollars and hours of employee time each month that would otherwise be spent finding the right data for your needs. Our database for utility rate reporting puts this information at your employees’ fingertips with a few clicks.