The increase in natural gas production and the growing generation of electricity from renewable sources belies the decrease in customer satisfaction seen in both sectors, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) Energy Utilities Report 2018-2019. This comes after a slight increase in residential customer satisfaction in 2018. ACSI results are derived from interviews with more than 21,000 residential customers buying energy from investor-owned, municipal and cooperative utility companies.
According to David VanAmburg, Managing Director at the ACSI, the decrease in satisfaction levels are primarily due to higher prices and severe weather. In addition, the decrease in electric power reliability contributed to the lower scores.
“The energy utilities sector needs to take a hard look in the mirror, as the pressure mounts to upgrade and strengthen the grid” Says David VanAmburg.
While still the preferred energy source for households, natural gas scores declined to 78 while scores for electric power lagged further behind at 72 out of a possible score of 100.
Investor-owned utility performance
CenterPoint Energy, the Houston-based utility, outperformed all other investor-owned utility companies, earning a score of 80. This represents a 2 percent drop from the previous year but still tops others in the segment. Atmos Energy and Consolidated Edison both scored a 78 in the report, with the former dropping 3 percent and the latter remaining unchanged year-over-year. One of the few investor-owned utilities to see a rise in customer satisfaction was NextEra Energy, ticking up 1 percent to 77.
The biggest losers in customer satisfaction scores include PPL at 73 (a six percent drop), American Electric Power at 68 (a 7 percent drop) and Eversource Energy, also at 68 (a 3 percent drop). Although PG&E was embroiled in the recent California wildfires and might have expected to see a drop, their score remained the same, year over year, at 70.
Municipal and cooperative scores experience slide but remain high
Although scores tend to be generally higher for municipal utilities, they still experienced a decrease in their ACSI scores, dropping a combined 2.7 percent in customer satisfaction. Despite the drop, Salt River Project still scores a 78, CPS Energy scores a 72 and the LA Department of Water & Power comes in at 69, the lowest score among municipals.
Cooperatives top municipal and investor-owned utilities with an average score of 75, despite their overall decline of 2.6 percent. For the third straight year, small cooperatives have seen a small increase in customer satisfaction scores, coming in at 77 and representing a 1 percent rise. The one small cooperative posting a lower score is Touchstone Energy, with a decrease of 3 percent to 75.
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