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Survey finds customers happier with utilities, but industry still trails

Electricityconsumers' satisfaction with their electric utilities increased for the fourth consecutiveyear, according to an annual surveyby J.D. Power and Associates released July 13, but the sector remains behind otherindustries.

Only11 out of 137 utility "brands" surveyed had customer satisfaction scoreshigher than the average score for the airline industry, J.D. Power said.

"Thelesson that utilities can learn from other high-performing service providers isthat to excel you need a culture that puts customers and employees first,"John Hazen, senior director of the utility practice at J.D. Power, said in a newsrelease. "And because customer expectations continue to increase, you needto have a mindset of continuous improvement to keep up."

J.D.Power measures customer satisfaction with their utilities looking at six factors— power quality and reliability, price, billing and payment, corporate citizenship,communications, and customer service — and scoring companies on a 1,000-point scale.The industry's overall satisfaction rating for the 2016 study averaged 680.

Overall,J.D. Power said average monthly electric bills reported by customers were at theirlowest level in a decade, and reliability of service has improved.

The companythen breaks down utilities by geographic region and size, separating midsized utilities,with 100,000 to 499,999 customers, from larger utilities. New this year was a surveyof electric cooperatives.

In theEast region, among large utilities PPLCorp. subsidiary PPL ElectricUtilities Corp. had the highest satisfaction rating among 16 companies,ranking first for the fifth consecutive year. The lowest-ranked was , a subsidiarythat manages the Long Island PowerAuthority's grid. Among midsized utilities, Green Mountain Power Corp., a Gaz Métro LP subsidiary, led a group of a dozen companies.The lowest-ranked were Emera Inc.subsidiary Emera Maineand Consolidated Edison Inc.'sOrange and Rockland Utilities Inc.

, a unit ofBerkshire Hathaway Energy,topped a group of 16 large Midwestern utilities for the ninth consecutive year,ahead of DTE Energy Co.unit DTE Electric Co.At the end of the list was FirstEnergyCorp.'s Cleveland ElectricIlluminating Co. Among midsized utilities, PPL subsidiary led a groupof 15 companies, while at the end of the list were American Electric Power Co. Inc. subsidiary and subsidiary Vectren EnergyDelivery, known legally as SouthernIndiana Gas and Electric Co. Inc.

, aNextEra Energy Inc. subsidiary,came up with the highest rating among 13 large utilities in the South, slightlyahead of Southern Co.unit Alabama Power Co.The lowest-ranked among this group was DukeEnergy Corp. subsidiary DukeEnergy Florida LLC. The EPB, owned by the city of Chattanooga, Tenn., was atop the list of 19 midsized southernutilities by a large margin. Lowest-ranked were the Knoxville (Tenn.) Utilities Board and Entergy Corp. subsidiary Entergy New Orleans Inc.

For the15th consecutive year, the Salt RiverProject had the highest rating among large utilities in the West, outof a group of 13. Ranked lowest was the LosAngeles Department of Water and Power. Out of 13 midsized utilities,Clark Public Utilitieshad the highest satisfaction rating for the ninth consecutive year and the highestrating of all large and midsized utilities outside of cooperatives. had the lowest ratingin this group.

Among20 electric cooperatives included in the survey this year, SECO Energy in centralFlorida ranked highest, and had the highest rating, 769, of all companies surveyed.Just behind it was Jackson ElectricMembership Corp. in northeast Georgia, with a rating of 763.

S&P Global Market Intelligenceand J.D. Power and Associates are both divisions of S&P Global Inc.