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On May 11, the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) announced, “Energy utilities face serious challenges as customer satisfaction drops 3.2 percent.”
With an ACSI score of 71.9 on a scale of 0 to 100, the energy utilities sector dropped again for the third straight year. On a positive note that speaks to the cooperative difference and value of membership, Touchstone Energy Cooperatives remain the highest rated utility group.
The ACSI highlights in their latest report that, as a group, cooperatives “still do better than investor-owned and municipal utilities. Touchstone Energy Cooperatives stays ahead of the smaller electric utility cooperatives despite slipping 4 percent to 77. The gap between Touchstone and the competition widens as all other smaller cooperatives plunge 8 percent to 72.”
In comparison, municipal utilities declined 6.8 percent overall to an ACSI score of 68 and large investor-owned utilities fell 2.7 percent as a group to 72 (see chart below).
When asked about the utility sector decline, ACSI Founder and Chairman Claes Fornell said, “Utilities customers are sensitive to two things: price and disruption. Demand for energy is inelastic and nondiscretionary, meaning consumers have little choice but to pay regardless of price. While energy prices have been stable and have not increased dramatically, wages remain stagnant and monthly energy bills are a constant drain on disposable income. Consumers expect the lights to turn on and the A/C to work when they flip the switch. ACSI data suggests that consumers have reduced confidence in utilities’ ability to respond and recover from outages.”
Here is the full press release, and you can download the full report and learn more about ACSI scores by visiting www.theacsi.org. If you are interested in taking a deeper dive into the drivers of cooperative member satisfaction and engagement, visit the Touchstone Energy interest area of cooperative.com to review the National Survey on the Cooperative Difference and the case studies featured in the Best Practices Knowledgebase.
The power of common sense
In a perfect world, no electric lines would ever be downed by ice, wind or errant vehicle. But that’s not the reality we know, especially in the forested areas of rural Pennsylvania. Occasionally, the power does go out – despite our best efforts.
When it does, our focus turns to getting that power back on quickly and safely for you, our members. To do that means not only getting our line personnel to the areas where service has been interrupted, but also ensuring their safety while they repair or replace the lines, poles and transformers. Protecting our cooperative line workers while they are on the job just makes common sense.
And now, that just got somewhat easier, thanks to cooperative-supported legislation recently passed by the Pennsylvania General Assembly and signed by Gov. Tom Wolf on Nov. 4, 2015.
Known as Act 61 of 2015, this “Move Over PA” law provides greater protections to cooperative and utility line workers engaged in restoring service during emergencies. Specifically, the law includes line personnel as emergency service providers within the first 72 hours after an emergency is declared or until the expiration of a declared emergency, whichever is later.
The measure was introduced last spring by state Sen. Michele Brooks (R-Mercer), who represents counties where many electric cooperative members live and work.
“Risking their safety, these men and women are out at all hours of the day and night in the worst of weather to ensure we receive services,” stated Brooks. “This legislation is one way we can help protect them.”
The law requires vehicles to yield to line personnel actively engaged in emergency situations. Line crews are now legally considered emergency service responders, joining police officers, firefighters, ambulance personnel, highway maintenance and construction personnel, emergency medical services personnel, and towing and recovery personnel.
Drivers who are approaching or passing an emergency response area (unless otherwise directed by an emergency service responder) must move to a lane that is not adjacent to the emergency response area, if possible. If moving to a nonadjacent lane is impossible, illegal or unsafe, drivers are directed to carefully pass the emergency response area at a reduced speed.
Persons who do not move over or slow down can be found guilty of a summary offense and fined up to $250. Additional penalties are in place if the violation leads to the injury of a worker.
In essence, the legislation simply takes what should be common sense and makes it a requirement. This is especially important in our rural areas, where line crews often have limited space to perform their already dangerous work.
Your cooperative and its directors, along with our sister co-ops across the state, have worked long and hard to get this legislation approved. In a big push last spring, cooperative leaders met with more than 150 legislators and key legislative staff to discuss the importance of this initiative. That effort was rewarded this fall when the Move Over PA legislation was unanimously supported by both chambers of the Pennsylvania General Assembly. It becomes effective in January 2016.
Our line crews work hard to deliver safe and reliable electricity to you, often in challenging conditions. This law will improve the safety conditions as they work along Pennsylvania roads and highways to restore your power during emergencies. In an era of partisan politics, we are grateful that the cooperative approach of doing the right thing by our members, our employees, and our communities still resonates with lawmakers. That’s co-op power. That’s the power of common sense.
Pennsylvania Act 187 reads: Any property presumed to be abandoned and unclaimed under this article that is held by a rural electric cooperative organized or qualified to do business in this Commonwealth under 15 Pa.C.S. Ch. 73 (relating to electric cooperative corporations) may, at the discretion of the rural electric cooperative, be retained and used by the rural electric cooperative…
Every year when Tri-County REC returns Capital Credits to the membership a portion of them are unclaimed. In past years, those unclaimed checks were returned to the state. With the passage of Act 187, the cooperatives now keep that money and can use it in three areas: energy assistance, education and civic purposes. Our Community Services Committee meets twice per year to review applications for Civic Purposes. This application is for civic purposes only and can be filled out online (see below) or downloaded from here.