Utility industry survey identifies top concerns in 2017

The results are in from Utility Dive’s State of the Electric Utility Survey 2017
and the report is available to download. You are leaving WAPA.gov.

The top five issues utilities identified as their biggest challenges will no doubt sound familiar to WAPA customers, whether or not they participated in the survey:

  • Physical and cyber security
  • Distributed energy policy
  • Rate design reform
  • Aging grid infrastructure
  • Reliable integration of renewables and distributed energy resources (DERs)
72 percent of utility professionals said physical and cyber security is either "important" or "very important," making it the most pressing issue for the sector in 2017.

72 percent of utility professionals said physical and cyber security is either “important” or “very important,” making it the most pressing issue for the sector in 2017.

The results of the survey, disclosed in late March, found that 72 percent of respondents see physical and cyber security as either “important” or “very important” today, making it the industry’s most pressing issue in 2017. A total of 65 percent considered distributed resource policy either important or very important. Rate design reform ranked as important for 31 percent and very important for 32 percent of respondents. As for aging grid infrastructure, 34 percent of survey respondents see it as important today, while another 28 percent say it is very important. The reliable integration of renewables and DERs finished in the top five with 60 percent identifying it as an important or very important concern.

State regulatory model reform, the aging utility workforce, changing consumer preferences, compliance with state power mandates and stagnant load growth rounded out the top ten issue responses.

Two years ago, physical and cyber security ranked as sixth, behind aging infrastructure, aging workforce, current regulatory models, stagnant load growth and federal emissions standards.

More than 600 electric utility employees from the U.S. and Canada took online questionnaire, offered to Utility Dive readers in January. Investor-owned utilities represented 54 percent of the survey respondents, followed by municipal or public power utilities (32 percent) and electric cooperatives (14 percent).

Among other key takeaways in the 2017 report, the survey found that utilities are most confident in the growth of utility-scale solar, distributed energy resources, wind energy and natural gas generation over the next 10 years. They also expect coal generation to decline significantly, while nuclear generation will stagnate or retire, depending on the region. Utilities consider uncertainty over future energy policies and market conditions to be the most significant challenge associated with the changing power mix, according to the survey.

Region played a role in how utilities viewed challenges. The majority of respondents across the country identified physical and cyber security, DER policy and renewable energy and DER integration as serious issues. However, that concern was markedly stronger in the West Coast, Great Plains, Rocky Mountain and New England regions. Utility Dive noted that those regions feature states with both robust DER growth and utility reform dockets to reshape power sector business models for DER deployment.

Rate design reform and aging infrastructure were of greater concern on the West Coast, while utilities in the Southwest and South Central states were the least worried about those issues.

You can download the report for free and see how your responses stack up to those of your colleagues. Then, share your thoughts on these issues with Energy Services, let us know how you are handling them and how you would like us to help you address them.

Source: Public Power Daily, You are leaving WAPA.gov. 4/10/17

Weigh in on state of our industry

Utility Dive You are leaving WAPA.gov. is looking for input from electric utility professionals for its annual State of the Electric Utility Industry Survey. You are leaving WAPA.gov.

With major policy upheaval at the state and federal level, the results this year could be more important than ever. The online industry news magazine needs the opinion of its readers on where the industry is headed in 2017 and beyond. Offer your perspective in UD’s fourth annual survey and encourage your coworkers to do the same.

The best way to see the results of the survey is to take it. It takes 10 to 15 minutes to complete and could provide you with powerful insights into the electricity industry’s future. Also, you can download the results of last year’s survey for a look at how trends played out in 2016.

Source: Utility Dive, 2/1/17

Requested: Your ideas for UEF Pre-Forum Workshop topics

Deadline extended to Feb. 15, 2017!

The 37th annual Utility Energy Forum You are leaving WAPA.gov. is just around the corner, and with it, the Pre-Forum Workshop for utility and government attendees. This exclusive session is a candid roundtable discussion about pressing issues facing power providers and the government agencies that support them. The program committee is inviting attendees from those sectors to share their greatest concerns in an online survey You are leaving WAPA.gov. by Feb. 8. The topics that get the most votes will be included on the workshop agenda.

This year’s theme, “Change is the Only Constant – Customers, Policy and Technology,” sums up the challenges of doing business in today’s electricity industry. The main agenda offers many perspectives on what customers want, what utilities can do to meet those expectations and what policy makers can do to help.

The workshop, however, is the place to really get into the weeds on how change is reshaping everything from daily operations to long-term planning. If you are worrying about depreciating assets or new net-zero developments in your territory, this is the place to talk about it. If you wonder what kind of skills your employees will need to manage the new environment, suggest that topic. If you are trying to figure out how to work with customers who want to install energy storage batteries on their homes or businesses, the workshop offers the chance to learn from others. And that only scratches the surface.

You don’t have to be attending the Utility Energy Forum, May 3-5, to vote in the survey. All utility professionals and government representatives can contribute their valuable and much-needed perspective. For those who miss the event, Energy Services Bulletin will be reporting on the big stories, and speaker presentations will be posted on the website.

But there is nothing like a face-to-face conversation with your colleagues to get the wheels turning. We hope you will join us at the Hilton Sonoma in Santa Rosa, California, to share ideas, discuss solutions and think about where you—and our industry—are going.

Learn more about WAPA from these resources

Our mission in Energy Services is to keep WAPA customers informed about tools and technologies that help you with resource planning. Now, for those who would like to know more about how WAPA works and why, we offer two online resources: The Source and The Customer Circuit.

The theme for the Customer Circuit Spring 2016 was working with Washington D.C.

The theme for the Customer Circuit Spring 2016 was working with Washington D.C.

Launched in spring of this year, The Source is a one-stop online shop for operational data and financial information about WAPA. Western Administrator and CEO Mark A. Gabriel explained, “We recognize people’s desire to have information at their fingertips. With that in mind, we created this site for stakeholders and the public to quickly find the information they need. When our customers have requests, we are well positioned to deliver.”

Nearly all the information is already available throughout Western’s primary website. The Source, however, provides one convenient location for visitors to find WAPA’s annual reports, budget allocation, presentations and speeches, regional rates and a searchable index of WAPA’s power systems called “By the Numbers.”

The Customer Circuit is a quarterly newsletter that provides customers with information about WAPA’s operations, programs, budget and initiatives. Each issue explores a specific theme; the most recent issue includes a story about how WAPA’s Washington, D.C., Liaison Office works with other federal agencies. The winter issue covered the state of WAPA’s assets including regional offices, hydrology conditions, transmission, security and cyber assets. Customers and other visitors can download the Customer Circuit, including past issues, on The Source.

The Source and Customer Circuit, like WAPA’s website redesign project, are all part of the same effort to enhance and expand transparency and to improve our website functionality. We encourage customers to visit the WAPA website and take the redesign survey. If you would like to have more input in how WAPA shares information with its customers, contact Public Affairs at 720-962-7050, to volunteer for remote user testing.

Chief Public Affairs Officer Teresa Waugh said, “Our goal is to present relevant and timely information in the clearest, most efficient way possible.”

What JD Power results really say about business customers

Western customers were among the eight utilities recognized in J.D. Power’s 2016 Electric Utility Business Customer Satisfaction Study. A recent article in Intelligent Utility You are leaving Western's site. digs deeper into the survey to find out what is behind an upward trend in customer satisfaction with power providers.

The key turns out to be better communication. Commercial and industrial customers want to understand how and why their bill changes from month to month, and they want to know about utility products and services that can help them manage their energy costs.

Read more about strategies that could land your utility in a top survey slot next year.

Source: Intelligent Utility, 3/1/16

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

City of Palo Alto Utilities scores top marks for customer satisfaction

E Source Announces Top Utilities in Large Business Customer Satisfaction

In a recent nationwide survey conducted by E Source  You are leaving WAPA.gov. utility energy efficiency research group, utility large business customers gave top marks to the City of Palo Alto Utilities  You are leaving WAPA.gov. (CPAU) for customer satisfaction.CPAUthumbsUp

Among small and midsize utilities, the Western customer ranked number three for utility satisfaction, thanks to superior marks for its account management team. This is the first time in the study’s six-year history that E Source separated utilities into two categories based on size.

For the fourth year in a row, CPAU has earned a top three ranking for customer satisfaction with a utility. CPAU’s large business customers were particularly pleased with their account representatives’ effective communication skills and customer service.

Now in its sixth year, the annual benchmark survey polls utility customers throughout the nation to gauge general satisfaction for communication, affordable rates, reliability and safety. Participants are asked to identify the top priorities for outstanding customer service among utility key accounts and measure how close their utilities come to meeting those expectations. The results are based on survey responses from more than 1,000 large business customers of 25 North American utilities.

This year’s survey respondents identified reliability as the attribute they considered most important for utilities. E Source Market Research Manager Rachel Cooper observed that customers consistently rate reliable energy, low prices and emergency communications as the most important utility services. “Having a utility that’s trustworthy is also extremely important for these customers, particularly when it comes to supplying energy-efficiency advice,” she added. “Large business customers most commonly chose their utility when asked to indicate who they most trust to provide this type of advice.”

Western congratulates CPAU on its strong showing in the survey. The Northern California municipal utility frequently earns recognition for its energy-efficiency and renewable energy programs, but the greatest honor is hearing your own customers say you are the best.

Have your say: Suggest topics for Pre-forum Workshop at Utility Energy Forum

May 13-15, 2015
Tahoe City, Calif.

The 35th annual Utility Energy Forum Redirecting to a non-government site is just around the corner and there is still time to shape the agenda.uef

What’s on your mind?
The program planning committee is accepting topic suggestions for the Pre-Forum Workshop for utility and government employees. The session is a roundtable discussion where power providers and government representatives can talk candidly about the issues that concern them most.

Community solar, distributed generation, net metering, new utility business models, partnering to stay in the game and microgrids are just few of the subjects that might be on attendees’ radar. But don’t stop there—this is your chance to learn from colleagues who wrestle with the same demons, and to take home new solutions, and possibly, new partners.

Paul Reid of Azusa Light and Power Redirecting to a non-government site and Ron Horstman, Western’s Energy Services Manager, are co-chairing the workshop. No topic is off limits, no idea too “out there,” for these UEF veterans, so expect a no-holds-barred session that will rock a few boats.

Use this online survey Redirecting to a non-government site to share what is keeping you up at night. Remember, participation in the Pre-Forum Workshop is limited to utility and government employees. Speak your mind, and complete the survey by Feb. 5.

And that ain’t all…
Of course, the Pre-Forum Workshop is only the appetizer for the information banquet that is the Utility Energy Forum. Utility managers and marketers, energy manager and program developers and customer service professional return to the forum year after year to stay current on the latest trends in the energy utility industry.UEFbot

This year’s theme, Transformation is NOW, will weave through sessions that challenge traditional thinking and encourage participants to find innovative ways to cope with the rapidly changing energy utility industry. If you have never attended the UEF, this is a good year to start, and if you are planning to attend, register today. Early bird discounts end March 14.

As if outstanding professional development and networking opportunities were not enough reason to attend, Lake Tahoe is beautiful in May and registration includes all (terrific) meals, as well as lodging at Granlibakken Resort Redirecting to a non-government site.

Share your concerns today, and then join other utility and government employees to brainstorm the answers May 13-15. See you in Granlibakken.

Take part in SEPA’s annual utility solar survey

Deadline: February 4, 2015sepalogo

Solar Electric Power Association Redirecting to a non-government site (SEPA) is conducting the eighth annual survey Redirecting to a non-government site to provide data for its 2014 Utility Solar Market Snapshot, to be released in April 2015, and its new Utility Solar Market Report, scheduled for a June 2015 release.

The annual survey collects utility data on solar electricity installations in the United States, both photovoltaic and concentrating solar power on the customer and utility side of the meter. Past reports have garnered significant media attention from outlets such as the Wall Street Journal, Renewable Energy World, Transmission & Distribution World, and Reuters.

Municipal and cooperative utilities are making an impact in solar development especially in terms of watts per customer. Kauai Island Electric Cooperative and Imperial Irrigation District Redirecting to a non-government site are two that made the 2013 Top 10 list for Annual Watts per customer. Each year, SEPA also announces the top ten annual and cumulative solar MW [megawatts] and Watts per Customer awards at its Utility Solar Conference.

Other Western customer utilities that saw significant solar activity in 2013 include Los Angeles Department of Water and Power Redirecting to a non-government site, and Salt River Project Redirecting to a non-government site in Arizona, ranking 15th and 21st respectively.  Overall, 142 MW of solar was integrated by municipal utilities in 2013, including 12 that integrated 1 MW or more each. Cooperative utilities integrated 28 MW of solar in total, including eight that integrated 1 MW or more.

Please send your response by Feb. 4, 2015.  Early submissions are appreciated, and those submitting by the deadline will receive complimentary summary reports. For more information, contact Miriam Makhyoun at 202-379-1615.

Source: Solar Electric Power Association, 12/10/14

Tension exists between good customer service, maintaining customer loyalty

The latest EcoPinion Consumer Survey from consulting firm DEFGRedirecting to a non-government site  points to a conflicted consumer landscape in terms of customer expectations. The Conflicted Consumer Landscape in the Utility Sector surveyed more 1,000 consumers to examine perceptions of customer service and the need for more options, including budget management tools, payment and pricing choices and new communications channels.

The findings indicate that the majority of customers feel that their utility is providing enough choices and the right amount of information. However, a subset of consumers strongly feel that they would choose a different energy provider if they could. There may be a disconnect between customer service and the overall customer experience or perception of the utility resulting in low or weak customer loyalty.

DEFG believes that utilities must address the majority of consumers as part of an overall customer strategy that results in deeper engagement, and specifically address the needs and concerns of the consumer subset to increase overall customer satisfaction. Read more.

You must register to download the report. Once you join DEFG’s mailing list, you will receive email updates on the company’s EcoPinion surveys, white papers and annual consumer choice scorecards.

DEFG, a management consulting firm specializing in energy, works with clients to increase residential and commercial customer engagement in a commodity marketplace.