SRP customers enjoy a temporary rate decrease

There is nothing like passing the fruits of good management on to customers to build a strong relationship, and Salt River Project You are leaving WAPA.gov. (SRP) is doing just that by reducing electricity prices by an average of 1.6 percent for the next 10 months.

Starting with the January 2017 billing cycle, typical residential customers will see a reduction of just under a dollar per month during the winter billing season. The savings will increase to $2.50 to $3.50 per month when the summer billing season begins in May. Prices will return to original winter season prices approved in 2015 with the November 2017 billing cycle.

This is the second time in less than a year that the SRP board has lowered electricity prices for the utility’s 1-million-plus customers. SRP previously instituted a temporary reduction of 3.7 percent for the 2016 July and August billing cycles.

The temporary decreases reflect SRP’s success in identifying market opportunities and cutting costs, said SRP General Manager and Chief Executive Officer Mark Bonsall. “Utility customers are generally more used to seeing price increases than decreases, so we are very happy to be able to lower our prices,” he stated.

Controlling costs
SRP has been able to temporarily lower rates because of reduced expenses in two components of its electric prices: the Environmental Programs Cost Adjustment Factor (EPCAF) and the Fuel and Purchased Power Adjustment Mechanism (FPPAM).

EPCAF tracks costs and revenues related to the renewable energy and energy-efficiency programs SRP adopted to comply with its sustainable portfolio standard. The temporary reduction reflects SRP’s ability to meet its sustainable goals at a lower cost to customers.

Arizona Falls generates up to 750 kilowatts of clean, renewable electricity, which can power up to 150 homes. The roof of the new turbine building and the adjacent shade structure will house solar panels to power ceiling fans on the public deck.

Arizona Falls generates up to 750 kilowatts of clean, renewable electricity, which can power up to 150 homes. This clean resource helps the utility meet its sustainability goals, while keeping rates affordable. (Photo by SRP)

FPPAM allows SRP to recover fuel costs incurred to generate electricity and supplemental power purchases to serve customer needs. Savings in this area are primarily because natural gas costs have been lower than anticipated in the utility’s budget.

SRP passes the costs of these two components directly to customers without any markup. The latest temporary reduction will decrease EPCAF and FPPAM revenue collection by about $40 million.

Succeeding at sustainability
SRP has set a goal to meet 20 percent of its retail electricity requirements through sustainable resources by the year 2020. Solar, wind and geothermal energy, hydropower and energy-efficiency programs currently provide 746 megawatts (MW) of capacity. This diverse mix of clean resources represents more than 14 percent of retail energy needs, putting SRP ahead of schedule to achieve its goal.

Bonsall attributes that success to constantly monitoring the market to find the most reliable, affordable and environmentally responsible resource mix. For example, the 45-MW Sandstone solar power plant puts electricity onto the SRP grid that is both clean and affordable. The cost SRP pays per kilowatt-hour (kWh) from the facility is very close to the utility’s average on-peak market price for electricity.

Energy efficiency programs also play an important role in meeting SRP’s sustainability goals. Last year alone, SRP’s business and residential efficiency programs saved customers 526 million kWh, and they continue to have the most potential of all resources for cost-effective growth.

Communicating is critical
As a not-for-profit public power provider, SRP puts the needs of its consumers first, and that means keeping them up to date on utility activities. Customers learned about the temporary rate decrease through a variety of channels, including customer newsletters, social media, traditional media outlets and through customer service representatives. And customers are giving feedback: “We are hearing from them that they are pleased about the recent announcement,” said SRP Spokesperson Patty Garcia-Likens.

Keeping the lines of communication open, offering customers energy- and money saving programs and providing affordable, reliable electricity has paid off for the utility in customer satisfaction. SRP has ranked highest for residential electric service in the western United States among large electric utilities for the last 15 years, according to annual studies conducted by J.D. PowerYou are leaving WAPA.gov.

Business customers rate SRP first in customer service

WAPA customer Salt River Project (SRP) You are leaving WAPA.gov. once again earned a top spot on the J.D. Power 2016 Calendar-Year Electric Utility Business Customer Satisfaction Study, You are leaving WAPA.gov. released Jan. 11. This is the fourth consecutive year and the seventh time in the last eight years SRP ranked highest in customer satisfaction for business electric service among large electricity providers in the West Region. The region covers Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.

(Art by JD Power)

SRP’s overall customer satisfaction index was 797 out of a possible 1,000 points in the annual study – a 50-point performance increase from last year. The study examines overall satisfaction across six factors (in order of importance): power quality and reliability; corporate citizenship; price; billing and payment; communications and customer service. SRP scored highest in its category in power quality and reliability, corporate citizenship, billing and payment and communications.

More communication
According to the study, utilities are becoming more aware of the importance of engaging with their business customers, which is reflected in increasing communication. The study found that 52 percent of business customers recall at least one communication from their utility in the past six months, up from 49 percent last year.

“It is remarkable how utilities have improved as an industry in understanding the importance of being customer-focused,” said John Hazen, J.D. Power director in the utility and infrastructure practice. “In doing so, they hope to not only improve their financial performance, but also to be viewed more favorably by regulators.”

He added that business customers also tend to be more supportive of the investment plans utilities have in such projects as updating or developing their infrastructure.

Other findings
The study noted three more important trends in 2016:

  • Power outages – While the number of brief and lengthy power interruptions has not changed in the past six months, the average duration of the longest outage increased to 13.7 minutes from 11.9 minutes. Thunderstorms are the most common cause of the longest outages (26 percent), followed by snow and ice (12 percent).
  • Alerts – Since the previous study, the number of customers nationally signing up for electronic alerts increased more than 50 percent for outage alerts and 66 percent for monthly bill alerts.
  • Corporate citizenship efforts – Utility providers continue to ramp up their efforts to be good corporate citizens. For example, 70 percent of business customers say their electric utility provider supports economic development in the local community; 30 percent have seen utility employees volunteering or working in their community; and 43 percent are aware of their utility’s efforts to improve its effect on the environment.

The rankings from the J.D. Power study are based on interviews with representatives of more than 20,500 U.S. businesses that spend an average of $200 or more a month on electricity.

Source: Public Power Daily, 1/17/17

Tribal solar farm breaks new ground for Navajo Nation

The Navajo Nation, WAPA’s largest tribal customer, is about to join the ranks of utility-scale renewable energy producers with the construction of a 27.5-megawatt (MW) solar farm at Kayenta, Arizona.

Residents of surrounding communities, tribal leaders and officials from the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority attended the groundbreaking ceremony for the Kayenta Solar Farm near WAPA's Kayenta Substation in Arizona.

Residents of surrounding communities, tribal leaders and officials from the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority attended the groundbreaking ceremony for the Kayenta Solar Farm near WAPA’s Kayenta Substation in Arizona. (Photo by Travis Weger, WAPA Public Affairs specialist)

WAPA Administrator and CEO Mark A. Gabriel and Chief Public Affairs Officer Teresa Plant attended the groundbreaking ceremony on the Navajo Nation, April 23. Also joining the ceremony were residents of surrounding communities, tribal leaders and officials from the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority, You are leaving WAPA.gov. the primary power provider for the tribe.

The new facility, the largest Native-owned renewable project in the country, is expected to be operational by spring 2017. “We are excited to show that the Navajo Nation can develop an energy project on this scale,” said Deenise Becenti, NTUA spokesperson.

Many reasons to build
In addition to valuable experience, the solar farm will also provide power to a northern section of the Navajo Nation at some of the “lowest consumer electric rates in the region,” according to an NTUA press release. This is significant because of all the Native households in the U.S. that do not have electric power, 75 percent are in the Navajo Nation.

Other benefits of the project include promoting grid modernization and economic development. Construction will require about 100 workers, and there are expected to be five permanent jobs managing the facility. “It may not sound like much,” Becenti acknowledged, “but on the average, each employed tribe member helps to support eight others.”

She added that some people who have left the area to find jobs will be able to return home.

Partnering to reach goals
NTUA has taken the lead on developing the $64 million project, working out an agreement with Salt River Project You are leaving WAPA.gov. for the energy credits. SRP’s purchase of two years’ worth of energy and environmental attributes from the Kayenta Solar Farm is helping to fund its construction. The project is also receiving tax credits and loans, mainly from the Cooperative Finance Corporation, You are leaving WAPA.gov. a finance cooperative run by a network of electric cooperatives.

The purchase of the attributes will help SRP meet its goal of getting 20 percent of its retail energy requirements from sustainable resources by 2020. The Arizona-based public power provider contracted in 2012 to buy renewable energy certificates from solar arrays NTUA rents to low-income customers who do not have access to electricity. NTUA also sells SRP the credits from small solar installations on some utility facilities.

Bringing a large-scale renewable energy project to the Navajo Nation has been a long-time goal of the tribal utility, said NTUA General Manager Walter Hasse in a recent interview. “It is an important next step in the development of a green economy for the Navajo Nation,” he stated.

WAPA pitches in
The solar farm will be connecting to the larger grid through WAPA’s Kayenta Substation. WAPA has a long-standing relationship with NTUA, and has cooperated with the 55-year-old tribal utility on past projects.

At the groundbreaking ceremony, Gabriel said, “We hope to continue building this kind of mutually beneficial partnership well into the future, especially with our Native American customers. Changes in the electric industry are occurring rapidly and WAPA stands ready to continue providing technical assistance in power marketing, resource management and transmission services for the Navajo Nation.”

Source: WAPA Closed Circuit, June 2016

Western customers play role in latest green power rankings

The latest Green Power Partnership update on renewable energy use by businesses, government facilities and educational institutions shows the importance of partners in meeting clean power goals. Western customers—and Western itself—figure prominently on the quarterly list released April 25. gpp_logo

There are now 764 Green Power Partners using renewable energy to meet 100 percent of their U.S. organizationwide electricity use. That is a lot of green kilowatt-hours (kWh)—16 billion annually—to keep the lights on and the equipment humming. The list of power providers needed to supply all that clean electricity is a long one and there are several familiar names on it.

Large, small partnerships
Apple alone purchases renewable energy from more than 30 providers, including Salt River Project, You are leaving WAPA.gov. Sacramento Municipal Utility District, You are leaving WAPA.gov. Silicon Valley PowerYou are leaving WAPA.gov.  City of Palo Alto Utilities You are leaving WAPA.gov. (CPAU) and Omaha Public Power District You are leaving WAPA.gov. (OPPD). Alpine Bank relies on Holy Cross EnergyYou are leaving WAPA.gov. San Miguel Power AssociationYou are leaving WAPA.gov. Yampa Valley Electric AssociationYou are leaving WAPA.gov. Delta-Montrose Electric Association You are leaving WAPA.gov. and La Plata Electric Association You are leaving WAPA.gov. (LPEA) among others to power its 38 branches across Colorado. Fort Collins Utilities You are leaving WAPA.gov. is among several providers that supply green power to outdoor equipment retailer REI.

On the other end of the spectrum, Silicon Valley Power meets all the electricity needs of industrial goods manufacturer Roos Instruments. Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association You are leaving WAPA.gov. is the sole green power provider to Wolf Creek Ski Area.

DIY spreading
As equipment and installation costs drop, many organizations are adding renewable energy systems on their own facilities. Omaha, Nebraska-based Morrissey Engineering supplements its green power purchase from OPPD with on-site generation. The city of Durango, Colorado, has partnered with LPEA on community solar gardens.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory generates 20 percent of its electricity on-site with solar panels. The remaining 80 percent comes from Western and private renewable energy companies.

Other notable achievements
Western customers appeared in the ranking not just as providers but as partners. The University of Utah You are leaving WAPA.gov. came in at number 86 in the overall Top 100 Green Power Partners, and was number 14 in the Top 30 colleges and universities.

Los Angeles World Airports, served by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, ranked 23rd among local government green power users. Sustainability pioneer CPAU was number 28 on that list.

Long-term power contracts, for five years or longer, play an important role in growing the renewable energy market. BD, a global medical technology company, signed a 20-year purchase power agreement with Nebraska Public Power District for more than 120,000,000 kWh of wind power.

Western customers go above and beyond to provide their consumers with the products and services they need, including cleaner, greener electricity. We look forward to seeing their names become a growing presence on future Green Power Partnership lists.

Source: EPA Green Power Partnership via Green Power News, 5/2/16

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

SRP surpasses energy-efficiency goals, heads for sustainability

Salt River Project You are leaving WAPA.gov. exceeded its annual goal of helping residential and commercial customers save energy and money through the Phoenix, Arizona-based utility’s energy-efficiency programs and initiatives.

Last year, SRP’s energy-efficiency programs for both residential and commercial customers provided annual energy savings equal to 2.3 percent of SRP’s retail energy sales. The Fiscal Year 2014 program goal was 1.5 percent of retail sales, so saving 640 million kilowatt-hours—the equivalent annual energy use of 35,000 homes—is quite an accomplishment.

“The energy-efficiency goal is part of our longer term Sustainable Portfolio Objective,” explained Dan Dreiling, SRP director of Market Research and Customer Programs. “SRP established an objective to meet 20 percent of our expected retail energy requirements with sustainable resources by 2020. Sustainable resources include energy efficiency, hydroelectric generation and other renewable generation.”

Energy efficiency is proving to be not only the most cost-effective way for SRP to help customers save energy and money, but also the sustainable resource with the most potential. The largest savings came from the Retail Lighting Program, which offered customers discounted prices on LED and CFL light bulbs. Reduced prices, which SRP provides to several big box retailers and home center stores, drove annual customer purchases to more than 2 million lamps.

Retail lighting programs, both commercial and residential, provided SRP with its biggest energy savings. (Photo by Salt River Project)

Retail lighting programs, both commercial and residential, provided SRP with its biggest energy savings. (Photo by Salt River Project)

Dreiling attributes the program’s considerable success to partnering with large, recognizable retailers, offering a diverse product mix and providing meaningful discounts on popular products. An effective multi-channel marketing campaign helped to spread the word to a relatively young energy-efficiency marketplace.

Cooling and more
Other high-performing programs that contributed to the goal include appliance recycling, Energy Star New Homes and rebates for Energy Star-certified, variable-speed pool pumps and, of course, efficient air conditioners. SRP offers substantial rebates for air conditioners and heat pumps with a seasonal energy efficiency ratio, or SEER, of 15 or higher.

The air conditioner rebate was so attractive that one energy-savvy SRP customer couldn’t resist. “Since I work in Energy Services, I am very aware of our home energy use,” said Western Public Utilities Specialist Patricia Weeks. “For the last several years, we have been watching our utility bills increase, and I suspected that our two 20-year-old, heating-and-cooling units were to blame.”

Weeks purchased two energy-efficient systems that qualified for the SRP rebate last winter. “Our home is more comfortable and our utility bill is averaging $24 less per month compared to last year,” she stated.

Residential customers also increased their comfort and savings with comprehensive home assessments and rebates for services and products such as home duct repair and window shade screens. “In terms of motivation,” Dreiling observed, “we have learned that increasing comfort and convenience is just as important to customers as saving money on their utility bill.”

For ‘bottom liners’
Lighting was the source of most of SRP’s commercial energy savings. Enhanced lighting rebates through Standard Business Solutions, large commercial and industry energy-efficiency projects through Custom Business Solutions and lighting retrofit projects under the Small Business Solutions program collectively saved nearly 179,000 MWhs of energy.

Fry’s Food Stores, You are leaving WAPA.gov. a Phoenix supermarket chain, participated in the SRP Business Solutions rebate programs to implement 50 projects in 30 metropolitan stores. So far, the grocery retailer has realized about 1.2 million kWh per year in energy savings. “SRP rebate programs help Fry’s continue to reduce our carbon footprint, which is good for the environment as well as our bottom line,” said Ben Tan, energy manager of Fry’s Food Stores Facilities Engineering.

Dreiling acknowledged that reaching commercial customers with efficiency programs is a challenge for SRP, as it is for so many utilities. “But we are seeing more and more customers moving in this direction,” he noted. “It comes down to demonstrating that efficiency is a value proposition, not only for the organization, but its customers, as well.”

The best advertisement for business efficiency programs is a success story like Fry’s Food Stores, he added.

Up next
Perhaps the biggest challenge an energy-efficiency program faces after a successful year is how to build on that success.

While the popular lighting program will continue, SRP plans to put more emphasis on its residential whole-house program in the coming year. Comprehensive solutions for the entire home have a higher price tag than energy-efficient light bulbs, but produce deeper energy savings for the homeowner. “We will continue to offer specific air conditioner-related savings measures, as well,” said Dreiling. “In Arizona, air conditioning is a primary energy consumer so managing that load is key to deferring future resource needs.”

Thanks to commitment and savvy energy planning, SRP seems well prepared for the future. The timetable for meeting its goal of 20 percent sustainable resources by 2020 is already ahead of schedule. Almost 13 percent of its retail energy needs currently come from wind, geothermal, solar, landfill gas, biomass and hydropower, as well as energy-efficiency programs. In balancing reliability, affordability and environmental stewardship, SRP is proving that energy efficiency tips the scale toward success.

SRP recognized for excelling at customer service

Congratulations to Western customer Salt River Project You are leaving WAPA.gov. (SRP) for landing a spot on JD Power’s 2014 list of customer champions. You are leaving WAPA.gov.

J.D. Power selected the 2014 Customer Champions based on an independent and unbiased evaluation of customer feedback, opinions and perceptions gathered from J.D. Power studies conducted in the United States in 2013. The companies performed the highest among more than 600 evaluated brands across nine industries, based on the J.D. Power 5 Ps: People, Presentation, Price, Process and Product.

SRP’s accomplishment is even more impressive, given the industry’s current reputation for indifference—at best—to customer needs. The secret to the Arizona utility’s success, according to a story on the industry news site Intelligent Utility, You are leaving WAPA.gov. is making a priority of providing value to the consumer.

In the interview, SRP Chief Communications Executive Gena Trimble explained that customer service was SRP’s culture, and pointed to a menu of large and small programs that illustrate her point. Programs such as a prepayment service, time-of-use rates and collaborating with other utilities on energy-saving concepts keep the focus on customer needs. Every day, SRP employees share both negative and positive stories from inside and outside the company and industry. These “customer service minutes” give everyone a better understanding of customer issues and challenges.

Other factors that are key to supporting a customer service culture include hiring and cultivating employees who share that value, doing research to find out what customers want and investing in technology that improves operations. SRP Associate General Manager Mike Lowe also advises really listening to customers—easy to suggest, but not so easy to implement. Listening may involve monitoring channels, taking in feedback and making the effort to ask and follow up. These are time-consuming steps that ultimately pay off in loyal customers who are more likely to work with their utility through changing times. Source: Intelligent Utility, 9/16/14

Nonprofits invited to apply to receive a solar energy system

SRP EarthWise Energy is inviting all eligible nonprofit organizations in Salt River Project’s (SRP) service territory to apply for the chance to receive one of three complimentary photovoltaic (PV) systems valued at approximately $100,000 each. These PV systems will allow nonprofits to offset a portion of their energy use while educating the community about the benefits of solar power.

SRP EarthWise Energy is a voluntary program that customers of the Phoenix, Ariz.-based power provider can participate in for as little as $3 per month. All funds the program collects support the donation of solar PV systems to nonprofit organizations in the Salt River Valley. Since 2007, the voluntary fees paid by SRP EarthWise Energy customers have funded six solar PV projects for community-based programs in the greater Phoenix area, with several more in the pipeline.

SRP will evaluate the applications and approve the agencies that meet program criteria. Beginning in February, all EarthWise Energy customers will have the chance to vote for their favorite qualifying agency. The three agencies with the most votes will receive the systems.

To be considered for this program, nonprofits must submit an application by 5 p.m., Dec. 23, 2010. The three organizations selected to receive the solar electric systems will be announced on Earth Day, April 22, 2011. E-mail questions about this promotion, or call 602-236-2302 to get more information.