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Public power utilities earn high customer satisfaction rankings from J.D. Power

Public power utilities picked up a number of the top rankings in J.D. Power's latest yearly Electric Utility Residential Customer Satisfaction Study, which was released on July 13.

Although customer-reported monthly electric bills have fallen to their lowest levels in 10 years and overall satisfaction is on the rise, electric utility providers, including investor-owned utilities, continue to struggle to match other industries in customer satisfaction, J.D. Power said in releasing this year's results.

The annual study ranks midsize and large utilities in four geographic regions: East, Midwest, South and West. Companies in the midsize utility segment serve between 100,000 and 499,999 residential customers, while companies in the large utility segment serve 500,000 or more residential customers.

In this year's study, the Salt River Project in Arizona ranked highest in the large utility segment in the West region for a 15th consecutive year, with a score of 730. The Sacramento Municipal Utility District in California, another public power utility, ranked second at 719, followed by three investor-owned utilities: Portland General Electric (710), Pacific Power (698) and APS (691).

Public power utility Clark Public Utilities in Washington state ranked highest in the midsize utility segment in the West region for a ninth consecutive year, with a score of 743. Another public power utility, Colorado Springs Utilities in Colorado, ranked second (712), followed by investor-owned Idaho Power (704) and two more public power utilities, California's Imperial Irrigation District and Washington's Seattle City Light, tied at 699 each.

Two public power utilities in Nebraska, the Omaha Public Power District and Lincoln Electric System, were ranked among the top midsize utilities in the Midwest region. Investor-owned Kentucky Utilities ranked first in the midsize segment with a score of 712. Next were IOU Otter Tail Power Company (703), the Omaha Public Power District (700), IOU Louisville Gas & Electric (696) and Lincoln Electric System (694). Among large utilities in the Midwest, investor-owned companies topped the list. MidAmerican Energy ranked highest (713), followed by DTE Energy (703), Xcel-Energy Midwest (692) and Alliant Energy and We Energies in a tie (687 each).

Public power utilities in the South also did well in the J.D. Power study. EPB, the utility in Chattanooga, Tennessee, ranked highest in the midsize utility segment in the South region with a score of 737. Following EPB were three investor-owned utilities: Entergy Texas (715), Entergy Mississippi (714) and Gulf Power (711).

Public power utility CPS Energy of San Antonio, Texas, tied with investor-owned Entergy Arkansas for fifth place among large utilities in the South (707 each). Florida Power & Light ranked highest in that segment with a score of 724. Alabama Power was second (721), Georgia Power third (712), and OG&E fourth (711).

In the East region, investor-owned utilities led the rankings. PPL Electric Utilities was first among large utilities, with a score of 705. PSE&G (690) was second, followed by BGE (680), PECO (675) and Con Edison (672). Among midsize utilities in the East, Green Mountain Power ranked highest with a score of 681. Following were Met-Ed (672), Delmarva Power and Rochester Gas & Electric in a tie (670 each), and Penn Power (664).

For the first time, the study also includes a new segment that includes brands serving cooperative residential customers, which were previously included in regional segments, J.D. Power noted.

Florida-based SECO Energy ranked highest in the newly designated cooperatives segment with a score of 769. Following SECO Energy were Georgia-based Jackson EMC (763), Virginia-based NOVEC (748), Georgia's Sawnee EMC (741) and Walton EMC, which is also based in Georgia (740).

Overall satisfaction has improved for the fourth consecutive year, averaging 680, up by 12 points from 2015, said J.D. Power. However, the electricity industry "continues to trail far behind many of the other industries J.D. Power tracks, including auto insurance (averaging 811 in 2016), retail banking (793), and airline (726)," the company said.

The annual study measures customer satisfaction with electric utility companies by examining six factors: power quality and reliability; price; billing and payment; corporate citizenship; communications; and customer service. Satisfaction is calculated on a 1,000-point scale.

The 2016 Electric Utility Residential Customer Satisfaction Study is based on responses from 101,138 online interviews conducted July 2015 through May 2016 among residential customers of 137 electric utility brands across the United States, which collectively represent more than 97.7 million households. More information on the survey is available at J.D. Power's website.

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