Western customers score high in customer satisfaction on annual study

When J.D. Power released its 2016 Electric Utility Business Customer Satisfaction Study You are leaving Western's site., the list of eight U.S. electric utilities included Western customers.

(Art by JD Power)

(Art by JD Power)

The 17th annual study ranked utilities based on customer satisfaction by size and region. Omaha Public Power District You are leaving Western's site. (OPPD) rated highest in the Midwest Midsize category. Salt River Project You are leaving Western's site. (SRP) in Arizona outperformed other utilities in the Large West category and Sacramento Municipal Utility District You are leaving Western's site. (SMUD) excelled in the West Midsize category. OPPD and SRP also ranked highest in last year’s study, the only two among the eight power providers to repeat their appearance on the list.

The other five electric utilities with highly satisfied business customers are:

  • Con Edison (East Large)
  • Met-Ed (East Midsize)
  • Ameren Missouri (Midwest Large)
  • Entergy Arkansas (South Large)
  • JEA (South Midsize)

Except for JEA, based in Jacksonville, Florida, these are all investor-owned utilities. “The public power utilities that have won the J.D. Power honors all exemplify this excellence in customer service,” said Sue Kelly, president and CEO of the American Public Power Association You are leaving Western's site. (APPA).

Focused on sustainability
OPPD works with more than 45,000 commercial and industrial (C&I) customers to help them improve energy efficiency and develop new renewable energy sources, such as wind, solar and biomass. In an interview with APPA for Public Power Daily, Jim Krist, OPPD manager of key account sales and service, pointed to a heightened interest among business customers in sustainability and driving their own energy choices. “The customer continues to change the way we think, operate and serve,” he said.

OPPD has 10 account executives dedicated to servicing the utility’s largest C&I customers. These customers receive annual energy reviews and work with the utility on economic development issues. OPPD account executives and electric service designers consult with business customers on demand-side management programs to help them reduce energy demand and receive rebates.

Communicating proactively
Even a brief power outage can cost a business thousands of dollars—or worse—so providing timely, accurate information about outages and quickly restoring electric service strongly affects a utility’s rating.

SRP has introduced online and mobile-friendly apps to provide detailed power outage information to businesses, and to send power outage notifications and weather alerts to customers via email and text. Every business customer who contacts SRP to report an outage receives a follow-up call by the next business day. The utility uses the opportunity to educate them on how to use online outage map and reporting tools.

This aggressive approach has paid off in significant increases in the satisfaction scores. “And our customers are telling us how much they appreciate this proactive outreach,” Jennie King, the utility’s director of strategic energy management, told APPA.

SRP’s robust portfolio of 20 energy-efficiency programs is another reason the utility has ranked first in the West by J.D. Power for three consecutive years. Program offerings range from low- to no-cost options for limited-income residential customers to comprehensive programs for industrial clients.

Expanding customer engagement
Taking the proactive approach for keeping in touch with business customers figures heavily in SMUD’s business customer service strategy, too. Account representatives serve as trusted energy advisors to their assigned business customers, matching various utility programs with the specific needs of their clients.   The Sacramento utility has 67,000 contract accounts representing the 32,000 businesses in its service territory. Last year, the utility decided to ramp up its outreach by putting a C&I customer strategic plan in place. A staff training program aimed at engaging more business customers was a key part of the plan.

Rob Lechner, manager of SMUD’s commercial and industrial account solutions team, said the five-person team now averages 150 face-to-face meetings per week. Team members spend much of their time in the field, visiting the customers and getting to know them. The customer representatives bring a list of questions to in-depth sit-down meetings that might last more than an hour, Lechner explained. “We want customers to be our partners,” he said, and the first step is to understand those customers.

Study benchmarks
J.D. Power, a marketing information services firm, annually measures satisfaction among business customers of 102 targeted U.S. electric utilities that serve more than 25,000 business customers. The survey rates for overall satisfaction, calculated on a 1,000-point scale across six factors (in order of importance): power quality and reliability; corporate citizenship; price; billing and payment; communications; and customer service.

The 2016 results show overall satisfaction among electric utility business customers to be at its highest level in eight years, driven mainly by communications, corporate citizenship and price. John Hazen, director of energy practice at J.D. Power, observed that communication and corporate citizenship are important to businesses. “Business customers like to see their provider giving back, whether it’s through charities and civic organizations or through economic development such as buying locally and creating jobs,” he said.

Western congratulates Omaha Public Power District, Sacramento Municipal Utility District and Salt River Project for recognizing what their business customers want and delivering it.

Source: APPA Public Power Daily, 2/9/16

Collaborative seeks data for new industrial efficiency initiative

ACEEEdataRequest
Large industrial energy consumers have a chance to join a collaborative effort to create a new type of energy-efficiency program that would ultimately provide them with incentives to purchase more efficient industrial equipment. The Extended Motor Product Label Initiative (EMPLI) would also give utility efficiency program managers prescribed savings values for the energy performance of industrial motor-driven products.

The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) is working with the Hydraulic Institute (HI), Air Movement and Control Association International, Compressed Air and Gas Institute, Fluid Sealing Association, National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) and a dozen utilities and energy-efficiency programs to launch this initiative. Central to the program are voluntary performance labels that show the comparative efficiency of an “extended product” comprised of a driven component (e.g., fan, pump, or compressor), a motor and associated controls.

Donate data to science
EMPLI has reached the point where the working groups need product category-specific application and operational data to determine the average potential savings. The collaborative is starting with collecting water pumping system operating hours and loads. This information will be used in program proposals to state public service commissions to document that labeled products save energy.

HI and NEMA Business Information Services (NEMA Biz) have contracted with the collaborative to collect, anonymize and aggregate the data. Organizations interested in participating can download a data collection sheet on the HI website, fill it out and submit it electronically to NEMA Biz for analysis. The submission deadline is Sept. 30, 2015. All individual company data will remain secure and will not be shared with anyone.

The EMPLI pump working group is requesting general data, such as hours of operation, percentage loading, product performance and markets served. NEMA Biz will anonymize and aggregate the data and return it to the working group in a format that state public utility commissions will be able to use for program justification and evaluation. Participating organizations will also receive a copy of the aggregated data.

This information will provide insights into the marketplace and enable participants to position their products for new utility-sector funding opportunities. The better the data, the more complete the report will be for all involved.

Building better programs
Collecting operational data is necessary for the success of the EMPL Initiative. The goal of the collaborative effort is to develop product performance labels that companies and public institutions can use as purchasing specifications. The labels will also provide the basis for an entirely new type of prescriptive rebate energy-efficiency program that attributes or “deems” an average energy savings to a qualifying product.

EMPLI has the potential to help industrial consumers and their power providers to move beyond individual equipment upgrades to increase the efficiency of entire systems. ACEEE is urging utilities to share this request with their commercial and industrial customers, and to participate in the survey themselves if it is appropriate for the utility.

Source: The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, 7/17/15

New energy-efficient food packaging process subject of E3T webinar

The next webinar from the Emerging Technologies Showcase highlights Microwave Assisted Thermal Sterilization,  Redirecting to a non-government site  Jan. 21, at 11:00 AM Mountain Time.

Microwave Assisted Thermal Sterilization™ (MATS™) is an improved food preservation technology for processing high-moisture, low-acid perishable products in containers. Packaged foods treated with this process is shelf stable for prolonged periods at ambient temperatures. Improvements include dramatically reduced excess process heating time, resulting in superior product quality and nutritional attributes. Currently, energy engineers are working with food scientists to compare the energy intensities of MATS™ with conventional process technologies.

A question and answer session follows the presentation.

Western cosponsors this free monthly webinar series with the Bonneville Power Administration. All webinars are recorded and available on the E3T website, Redirecting to a non-government site  and Conduit. Redirecting to a non-government site