Diebold Inc. and CIC Systems Inc. of Nashville are developing stored-value card system for prepayment of electricity bills.

The client is Salt River Project, the electric and water utility in Phoenix.

The vendors said their approach to electricity payments is entirely new and would reduce costs by eliminating conventional bill payment.

CIC Systems markets an energy control monitor called PowerStat. Card readers would be attached to these monitors.

Salt River Project customers who enrolled in the program would be issued cards on which value could be loaded-using cash, check, or other means-at Diebold PayStation terminals. At home, customers could prepay for electricity by swiping cards through the readers.

"As utilities move toward deregulation, customers are going to be able to choose their energy providers," said Thomas J. McBride, director of worldwide product marketing at Diebold. "Utility companies offering new and innovative services will be successful in attracting and keeping customers."

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