Energy eInvoice and Simplerinvoicing join forces on standard for e-invoicing

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Dutch energy companies have recently been working together to define a standard electronic invoice. The idea was to come up with a standard aligned as closely as possible with other initiatives in the field. The consortium therefore decided on an XML-based exchange format for compatibility with Simplerinvoicing’s UBL standard. Alignment makes electronic processing of energy bills much easier for business users. The new standard also ensures that every energy e-invoice includes all the information that businesses need.

Why has the Energy eInvoice been developed?
The Energy eInvoice is intended primarily for energy suppliers, network operators and metering companies that supply to business customers, and for business consumers that want to receive invoices electronically. What distinguishes the Energy eInvoice from other e-invoicing standards is that it’s tailored specially to energy-related products and services. That makes it possible to include items specific to the energy industry, such as meter readings. The more universal elements, including the invoice number and invoice date, are based on the existing Simplerinvoicing standard.

Standard invoice with sector-specific features
Where the general invoice components are concerned (the ‘core invoice’), the Energy eInvoice UBL is identical to the Si UBL. However, the Energy eInvoice builds on the core invoice to provide various pieces of information that may be important to recipients for processing the invoice. The additional items include information required by governmental consumers, but equally useful to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) interested in invoice specification.

Because the Energy eInvoice uses the Simplerinvoicing network, any energy company that adopts the new standard can immediately start sending invoices via the tried and tested Simplerinvoicing system. The universal core invoice data can be imported and processed automatically by any e-invoicing service provider, ERP package or bookkeeping software connected to the network.

Important step in migration to e-invoicing
Using the Si UBL means that the core data on an Energy eInvoice are processable by many popular ERP packages. For non-core items specific to the energy industry, the Energy eInvoice uses an extension to the Si UBL. The extension is a protocol for including additional fields in an invoice message.

Adoption of the Si UBL benefits both Energy eInvoice and Simplerinvoicing. It means that the core elements of the energy industry’s new invoice are instantly supported by many systems, while full scope for the inclusion of sector-specific information is retained. Meanwhile, the Simplerinvoicing system gains a large number of potential users.

“This is an important step and an example of how sector-specific requirements can be accommodated without devising another new standard,” says Jaap Jan Nienhuis, Simplerinvoicing Manager. “There are real advantages for end users too – in other words, for the senders and recipients of e-invoices. The Energy eInvoice is the first sector-specific invoice based on the Simplerinvoicing UBL. And I don’t imagine for a moment that it’ll be the last.”

About Energy eInvoice
The Energy eInvoice is an open standard for the exchange of electronic invoices tailored to the energy sector. The Energy eInvoice standard has been developed for and by the energy industry. It is the brainchild of the three industry associations (Energie-Nederland, Netbeheer Nederland and Vereniging Meetbedrijven Nederland) and numerous other energy sector stakeholders have been involved in its development and management.

The standard defines the various items of information that may be included on an electronic energy bill, stipulating what is mandatory and what is optional, how the message must be formatted and all the other parameters relevant to the electronic exchange of invoice data. What distinguishes the Energy eInvoice from other e-invoicing standards is that it’s tailored specially to energy-related products and services. That makes it possible to include items specific to the energy industry, such as meter readings. The more universal elements, including the invoice number and invoice date, are based on the existing Simplerinvoicing standard.

About Simplerinvoicing
Simplerinvoicing is an initiative by the Dutch government, which brings together accounting software providers and other organisations involved in e-invoicing. Simplerinvoicing provides a standard for the direct exchange of e-invoices between ERP software packages and e-invoicing services.

Simplerinvoicing has negotiated various agreements that extend the reach of the system and ensure compatibility with the many different technical solutions used in the field of e-invoicing. Simplerinvoicing is based on a four-party model. What that means in practice is that the sender (party 1) can issue an e-invoice, without knowing anything about the technical capabilities of the recipient (party 4). Conversion layers are realised and technical hurdles overcome on the basis of agreements made by suppliers affiliated to the Simplerinvoicing network: by the software package or by one or more intermediary service providers (parties 3 and 4). Numerous Dutch and non-Dutch stakeholders are involved in the Simplerinvoicing initiative, including accounting software suppliers and e-invoicing service providers. Simplerinvoicing builds on the existing European Open PEPPOL infrastructure, meaning that companies from other member states can easily join the network or already belong to it. Simplerinvoicing is supported by the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs.