ACSI: Customers Not as Satisfied With Energy Utilities
After another harsh winter, customer satisfaction with gas and electric service providers is down 2.7 percent to an ACSI score of 74.3 on a zero-to-100 scale, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI).
“Higher cost tends to weaken customer satisfaction, particularly when spending is not discretionary, as is the case with commodities such as energy,” said Claes Fornell, ACSI chairman and founder. “It is not as much the cost of energy per se, but that usage was high and took a bigger bite out of household income.”
The ACSI report covers customer satisfaction with three utility categories (cooperative, investor-owned and municipal) and two health care service industries (hospitals and ambulatory care), along with consumer shipping and the mail services of the U.S. Postal Service (USPS).
IoUs- Rising Cost of Electricity, Natural Gas Dampens Satisfaction
Household satisfaction with investor-owned utilities (IOUs) fell 1.3 percent to an ACSI score of 74. Among the largest IOUs, the highest-scoring companies are both natural gas suppliers: Atmos Energy (ACSI score of 82) and CenterPoint Energy (81).
FirstEnergy is next at 79 and posts the largest gain (+8 percent); it now ties Sempra Energy. Dominion Resources, PPL and NiSource all come in at 78, followed by Southern Co., Entergy (+1 percent) and NextEra Energy (+1 percent) at 77. The only other providers to improve are Xcel Energy (+1 percent to 76), Public Service Enterprise Group (+3 percent to 72), and PG&E (+1 percent to 71).
Most utilities moved in the opposite direction, with DTE Energy and Exelon having deteriorated most (-8 percent). Duke Energy (-6 percent) also declined, while Eversource Energy (formerly Northeast Utilities), hurt particularly hard by winter storms, fell 7 percent to the industry low of 66.
Municipal Utilities- Smaller Companies Hit Hardest; SrP Maintains Lead
Most large municipal utilities improved from a year ago, but smaller providers, which make up most of the market, dropped to a combined ACSI score of 73. The Salt River Project (SRP) leads in customer satisfaction for a fifth straight year, having edged up 1 percent to 80, and CPS Energy advanced 3 percent to 77. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (LADWP) slipped 1 percent and scores far below for customer satisfaction at 68.
Cooperative Utilities- Best in Category
Smaller, rural cooperative utilities hold a strong lead over the other utility categories but slipped 1.2 percent to an ACSI score of 80. Despite a 1 percent downturn, Touchstone Energy Cooperatives remains one of the Index’s top-scoring energy utilities at 80, followed by the aggregate of smaller co-ops (-3 percent to 78).
The full report is available for free download at www.theacsi.org.
Con Edison Development Agrees to Procure GE Energy Storage System
General Electric Co. (GE) will supply Con Edison Development with an 8-MWh battery energy storage system in Central Valley, California, the company announced April 16.
The new storage solution will use GE’s Mark VIe-based plant control system, Brilliance MW Inverters and packaged lithium ion battery modules.
“We have a history of working with GE in thermal and wind, and we are pleased to continue our long-standing collaboration into the evolving world of energy storage,” said Mark Noyes, senior vice president and chief operating officer of Con Edison Development. “GE brings a strong technical solution, along with performance guarantees.”
As part of its expanding energy storage portfolio, the project marks the first time GE will introduce a lithium ion battery solution. The system will provide 2 MW of power over a four-hour period, and the deal includes delivery of a complete energy storage system with associated long-term service agreements.
“The recent addition of lithium ion technology complements our Durathon battery offering and gives customers more flexibility in meeting their specific site application needs,” said Jeff Wyatt, general manager of GE’s solar and energy storage units.
Working with Con Edison Development, GE used advanced analytics and modeling to evaluate potential benefits of the energy storage system. The California-based installation will be Con Edison Development’s first energy storage project and will serve as a learning tool for optimizing and operating energy storage facilities.
California has encouraged investments in energy storage in recent years. In 2013, the California Public Utilities Commission announced targets that call for California investor-owned utilities to procure 1.325 GW of cost-effective energy storage by 2020.
The site is expected to be operational in the next six to nine months.
Sumitomo Corp. Invests in Energy Storage Project to Help Balance PJM Electricity Grid
Sumitomo Corp. (SC) together with Sumitomo Corp. of Americas recently announced their investment in an innovative battery power storage system that will provide a reliable and stable supply-demand balancing service for the frequency regulation market operated by PJM, the largest regional transmission organization of wholesale electricity in the U.S.
Sumitomo acquired an interest in Willey Battery Utility LLC (WBU) from Renewable Energy Systems Americas (RES), the U.S. renewable energy developer and constructor, through Perennial Power Holdings, a U.S.-based subsidiary of the Sumitomo Corp. Group. WBU will own the battery energy storage system-with a maximum output of 6 MW and energy capacity of 2 MWh-manufactured by Toshiba Corp. This is the company’s first investment in a large-scale stand-alone battery storage facility in the U.S.
With the increase in the percentage of electricity generated from renewable resources with high output fluctuation, such as wind and solar energy, it is becoming increasingly important to balance and manage any difference between supply and demand efficiently and effectively. Storage batteries like the one WBU will have at its facility in Ohio will provide the regulated power to the frequency regulation market by following the PJM instructions sent every 2 seconds. Such power conventionally has been supplied by thermal and hydraulic power generation. In the U.S., however, it is believed that the introduction of battery storage systems along with other new technologies will provide promising alternatives because they can respond quickly to supply and demand variations and enable fine-tuned adjustment.
PJM operates power grids in 13 states in the northeastern U.S. with a total electric power generation capacity of some 185,600 MW, which is comparable to the total capacity of 230,000 MW for all of Japan (excluding nuclear power generation capacity). With this project, Toshiba will deliver and maintain the battery power storage system and RES will supply and install the auxiliary machinery. Construction began in April in Hamilton County, Ohio. The operation is planned to commence in December.
“Sumitomo plans to expand beyond the PJM frequency regulation market with entry into potential marketplaces such as Texas and California,” said Naoyuki Hagiwara, director, power and infrastucture group at Sumitomo Corp. of Americas. “This team brings strong expertise to future projects through the integration of technical strength of Toshiba, the manufacturer of lithium ion batteries, the development-construction capabilities of RES with its proven track record in the construction of more than 7,700 MW of renewable energy projects (including under construction) in North America, and the knowhow of the Sumitomo Corporation Group with regard to electricity business operation, including renewable energy.”
Florida PSC approves FPL rate decrease, reduces electric bills about $3 a month
The Florida Public Service Commission on April 16 approved Florida Power & Light Co.’s (FPL’S) request to reduce customer rates thanks to savings on fuel costs, the utility announced.
Beginning May 1, the rate decrease cut some $3 a month off a typical 1,000-kWh residential customer bill.
With this latest rate decrease, FPL’s typical residential bill is some 30 percent lower than the latest national average. FPL’s typical bill has been the lowest in Florida for more than five years in a row.
“This is another example of our successful strategy of investing in affordable clean energy technology and the benefits that it delivers to all of our customers each and every day,” said Eric Silagy, president and CEO of FPL. “Our customers are paying less for their electricity than they were all the way back in 2006, and our system gets cleaner every day. We’re proud to say that not only are we 30 percent cheaper than the national average, but our carbon emissions rate is also 35 percent cleaner.”
The rate decrease means that as of May, FPL’s 1,000-kWh bill is more than 10 percent lower than it was in 2006, nearly a decade ago.
Individual electric bills vary depending on electricity usage. FPL residential customers can calculate their estimated savings by entering their monthly electricity usage into the online calculator at www.fpl.com/lowerbills.
FPL business customers also see a rate reduction, with typical business customer bills’ decreasing in the range of some 3 to 6 percent compared with current rates, depending on rate class and type of service.
FPL has been aggressively phasing out older, less-efficient fossil fuel plants since 2001 and replacing them with high-efficiency natural gas energy centers that use one-third less fuel per megawatt-hour. To date, these investments have prevented more than 85 million tons of carbon emissions-the Environmental Protection Agency-equivalent of removing more than 16 million cars from the road annually-and saved FPL customers more than $7.5 billion on fuel costs.
Advanced Energy Tools Help Customers Save More
FPL’s Online Home Energy Survey can help customers reduce their bills further with personalized energy-savings plans, tips and recommendations. The survey is integrated with a customer’s individual FPL Energy Dashboard, which is updated automatically with hourly, daily and monthly energy usage data, monthly bill amounts, local temperature readings and more. Customers may visit www.fpl.com/easytosave to learn more.
ScottMadden: Inconsistent Policies not Good for EV Sales
Energy consulting firm ScottMadden Inc. recently released its newest edition of the “Energy Industry Update.” The semiannual publication offers an inside view of major events and emerging trends in the energy industry, including an in-depth analysis of electric vehicle (EV) sales trends and business models.
The report explores how EVs continue to make inroads, and utility and other companies in this sector seek the right charging infrastructure and business models.
“Electric vehicle sales continue to grow, aided by favorable state policies and improving technology, and utilities are warming to the business opportunities for EVs and related infrastructure,” said Randy McAdams, partner at ScottMadden. “Low gasoline prices continue to be a headwind, but not as significant as one might fear. Nonetheless, consistency in policy is critical. For example, recent legislative activity in Georgia-rolling back state incentives and imposing EV fees-could dampen what has been a strong EV market. This is an unfortunate development for areas like Atlanta that are plagued by ozone problems.”
EYE ON the world
Alstom unveils green manufacturing, R&D site in Italy
Alstom Grid President Gregoire Poux-Guillaume recently unveiled the company’s new site in Sesto San Giovanni, near Milan, Italy. Customers attended the event, along with Sesto San Giovanni Mayor Monica Chittàƒ² and Assolombarda General Manager Michele Angelo Verna.
Green, sustainable and efficient, the new plant is the grid’s worldwide competence center for the research, development, production and testing of bushings for both DC and AC applications. The bushings are used around the world for power transformers, gas-insulated switchgear (GIS) and generators in AC/DC yards up to 1,100 kV. The site includes one of the largest test laboratories in Europe and is Alstom’s worldwide technical competence center for bushings. The facility also is LEED certified.
Alstom invested more than 30 million euros in the project, including the development and industrialization of bushing technologies such as wall-bushing for ultra-high-voltage DC (UHVDC) and resin impregnated paper (RIP).
Alstom Grid Italy employs 400 people across three plants, including the Noventa di Piave (Venezia district) plant, an excellence center for ultra-high and high-voltage disconnectors with research and development teams, as well as a manufacturing site for hybrid solutions and circuit breakers, and a protection and automation unit in Sesto San Giovanni.
German transmission grid operator taps Prysmian for German Baltic Sea wind farm
50Hertz Offshore GmbH, a subsidiary of German transmission grid operator 50Hertz Transmission GmbH, recently awarded energy and telecom cable systems company Prysmian Group a contract worth some 230 million euros.
Under the contract, Prysmian Group will design, produce and install a power cable system for the offshore wind park cluster West of Adlergrund in the German Baltic Sea.
The award comes as a result of 50Hertz’s exercising an option for a further grid connection already provided for in the existing contract for the West of Adlergrund project that was originally worth 480 million euros, effective immediately with options for further grid connections to be activated separately, when secured by Prysmian in May 2014.
The project scope includes the design, supply and installation of multiple high-voltage submarine cable systems, now including this additional connection, between planned offshore wind parks, some 40 kilometers northeast of the island of Ruegen to the Lubmin substation in Northeast Germany (and consequently with the mainland electricity grid) along a route of some 90 kilometers (submarine) and 3 kilometers (land).
The 220-kV high-voltage AC (HVAC) three-core extruded cables (including fiber-optic cable system) will be produced in the group’s centers of technological and manufacturing excellence for submarine cables in Pikkala, Finland, and Arco Felice in Naples, Italy, which recently were upgraded to be fully equipped to manufacture and test large cross-section, three-core cables up to 400-kV AC.
The production of the West of Adlergrund cable systems has begun. Installation operations are scheduled to begin in 2015.
Marine cable laying will be performed using the group’s DP2 ship Cable Enterprise specifically geared to use its expertise in offshore wind farm connections to serve the growing markets in Northern Europe and to provide highly complex installation solutions.
The vessel has been upgraded and converted from a dumb barge to a self-propelled DP2 vessel that can operate in very shallow waters.
Sensus opens meter plant in China
Sensus has opened a new meter manufacturing and assembly plant in Fuzhou, Fujian Province, China.
The plant, with capacity to produce 150,000 meters annually, will meet the growing demand for advanced meters in China, Southeast Asia and other markets.
The manufacturing and assembling facility, which went into operation in February, is where the WPD, WSD, MeiTwin and 420PC meters are produced.
The Fuzhou plant will meet demand for Sensus meters in Asia-including China, Indonesia, Korea, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam-as well as Oceania, South America and Europe.
CFE picks Silver Spring Networks for Mexico City smart grid program
Silver Spring Networks recently announced its selection for the Comisiàƒ³n Federal de Electricidad’s (CFE’s) Reducciàƒ³n de Pàƒ©rdidas de Energàƒa en Distribuciàƒ³n (Loss Reduction Projects on Distribution) smart grid project in Mexico City’s Central District.
In partnership with Tecnologàƒas EOS, under the Megacable and Hola Innovacion consortium, Silver Spring will deploy a canopy network across residential and commercial areas of Mexico City’s Central District and provide connectivity solutions to cabinets that house a group of centralized meters.
The Silver Spring solution will reduce electricity theft for residents and businesses, and Tecnologàƒas EOS will provide remote indoor displays to help these customers monitor their power usage.
Silver Spring also will provide its multiapplication IPv6 network and UtilityIQ software suite to connect and manage the individual cabinet meters.
Silver Spring will deploy this solution for some 140,000 residential and commercial customers within CFE’s Central District in Mexico City that serves 2 million customers.
CFE is the largest utility in the Americas, with more than 38 million customers in 16 divisions throughout Mexico.
According to CFE, nearly 15 percent of its total electricity production in 2013 was lost because of theft or defaults, and in some areas of Mexico City, it’s more than 35 percent.
To help overcome these challenges, Silver Spring is introducing a cabinet-level networking and software solution that enables CFE to reduce nontechnical loss, increase billing accuracy, deploy remote connect and disconnect operations, and help ensure the safe delivery of its energy supply to its customers.
Silver Spring has partnered with Tecnologàƒas EOS to integrate the Silver Spring Communications Module and UtilityIQ software suite with the EOS Cabinet Controller (CCG), enabling remote reading, command, control of the meters in the cabinet and remote displays.
The solution allows for a secure physical connection from the transformer to the meter to prevent illegal connections and protects the meter from tampering via a secure enclosure.
The utility maintains secure access and control of the meters via Silver Spring’s IPv6 mesh network to ensure that consumption is accurately captured and provided to CIS for billing.
Florida Power & Light Prepares for Storm Response With Staging Drills
In preparation for the 2015 hurricane season, Florida Power & Light Co. (FPL) on April 15 hosted a staging site drill at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Florida. More than 900 employees simulated what would be a massive logistical response to a major hurricane, including the deployment of thousands of workers and associated equipment.
“Today’s staging site drill is yet another visible demonstration of how FPL prepares year-round to safely and quickly restore power when a major event, such as a major hurricane, impacts our customers’ lives,” said Manny Miranda, vice president of power delivery for FPL. “These employee-focused exercises are key elements of our power restoration plan, providing our team with the hands-on experience that is necessary when restoring power in the wake of such an event.”
Gulfstream Park is one of 90 designated staging sites across the state where FPL can base utility crews, support staff and equipment as part of a restoration effort. The site has been used during prior events, including hurricanes Wilma, Frances and Jeanne.
During this year’s drills at several staging sites during several days, storm restoration specialists participated in damage briefings, received work assignments and prepared convoys for deployment throughout the area.
Hurricane season began June 1 and marks the 10th anniversary of hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma, which affected millions of FPL customers. Since the 2005 storm season, FPL has invested more than $2 billion to strengthen the electric grid against severe weather, including inspecting more than 1.2 million power poles and strengthening the poles and wires that serve critical facilities. The company also has installed 4.7 million smart meters and thousands of intelligent devices throughout its system to help reduce outages and restore service faster when outages occur.
“We all must safeguard against complacency, particularly where it concerns hurricanes,” Miranda said. “At FPL, we’ve worked hard to put ourselves in the best possible position to respond to severe weather, and we never stop working to improve. We know that it’s not a question of if, but when a hurricane will strike. While we have made significant investments in our electric system, we know there still will be power outages following a major storm. Just as we continue to prepare and plan, we encourage our customers to do the same: Make a storm plan now for their families and businesses.”
Florida Power & Light Co. Vice President of Power and Delivery Manny Miranda addresses executives and key participants on simulated hurricane in an annual storm drill on May 7 in Riviera Beach, Florida.