Salt River Project tops utility survey

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Cape Town, South Africa — (METERING.COM) — July 28, 2006 – Salt River Project in Arizona has been ranked by customers first among the 76 largest electrical utilities in the USA, with 765 points out of 1,000, according to the JD Powers and Associates 2006 Electric Utility Residential Customer Satisfaction Study.

The study, which was based on more than 26,600 telephonic interviews with residential electric customers across the US, measures customer satisfaction based on performance in six factors: power quality and reliability, company image, price and value, communications, billing and payment, and customer service.

Salt River was also ranked first nationally in five of these six factors, as well as first, for the seventh time in eight years since the study’s inception, in the Western region, followed by Sacramento Municipal Utility District (734 points) and San Diego Gas & Electric (710).

In the Eastern region the top ranking utilities were Allegheny Power and PPL Electric Utilities (each 712) – Allegheny for the first time but PPL for the seventh time. In third place in this region was Exelon PECO (707).

Also ranking highest in its region for the seventh time was E.ON U.S. (formerly LG&E Energy, 725), which ranked top in the Midwestern region. E.ON U.S. also outperformed the other utilities in the region in four of the six factors of satisfaction. Also performing well were MidAmerican Energy (713) and Indianapolis Power & Light (702).

In the Southern region, Southern Company (723) ranked highest for the third time in eight years, followed by Progress Energy (717), Duke Energy (716) and CPS Energy (711).

Finally in the medium-size utilities category (serving between 160,000 and 400,000 customers), the highest ranking utility was Omaha Public Power District (750) for a fifth consecutive year. In second place was Pedernales Electric Cooperative (747), followed by Colorado Springs Utilities (735) and Seattle City Light (724).

However in general, customer satisfaction with the top electrical utilities has declined, down to an average 668 points in 2006, compared to 704 points in 2005. Customers reported spending 16% more on electricity in 2006 – the fourth consecutive year in which bills are reported to have increased – with the average monthly bill nationally now US$127, but they also commented on an 11% increase in outages, indicating that they are becoming increasingly critical on their spending on electricity.

“Over previous years the results have been somewhat stable and this is the first time we have seen such a downturn,” says Jeff Conklin, senior director of JD Power & Associates.

On average customers in the Southern region were most satisfied, with an average score of 679 points, while those in the Eastern region were least satisfied, with an average 654 points.

Conklin says the top rated utilities are those that according to their customers, do everything well. They have lower average rates, as well as a greater range of optional price plans, they do a better job on power quality and reliability, and they also offer better customer service, with shorter hold times when customers call and better self-service options such as automated phone systems and websites.

“The best utilities also communicate more frequently with their customers – and they communicate topics that are more important, such as information during outages and energy conservation tips.”

By Jonathan Spencer Jones