Lisa Dundon AGA Members Rank High In J.D. Power Customer Service Satisfaction Survey

Natural gas customer satisfaction of their utility service has grown positively for the third consecutive year, according to the 2014 Gas Utility Residential Customer Satisfaction Study, created by J.D. Power and Associates.

The recently released study measured residential customer satisfaction with gas utility companies by looking at six factors: billing and payment; price; corporate citizenship; communications; customer service; and field service.

Large (125,000 and 399,999 residential customers) and midsize (400,000 or more residential customers) utility companies were ranked in four geographic regions: East, Midwest, South and West. American Gas Association (AGA) members UGI Utilities, DTE Energy, Oklahoma Natural Gas and NW Natural ranked highest among large utilities, while Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania, Madison Gas and Electric, TECO Peoples Gas and Colorado Springs Utilities ranked highest among midsize utilities.

Other AGA members who were ranked second or third place in their respective utility size and region include: New Jersey Natural Gas, National Fuel Gas Company, Rochester Gas & Electric, Consumers Energy, MidAmerican Energy, Alliant Energy, CenterPoint Energy-South, Texas Gas Service, South Carolina Electric & Gas, Virginia Natural Gas, Southern California Gas Company and Southwest Gas.

According to the study, communication from gas utilities informing customers about efforts to keep energy costs low, as well as demonstrating leadership in the community are key drivers of satisfaction. The study, fielded between September 2013 and July 2014, was based on nearly 70,000 responses from residential customers of 83 large and midsize gas utilities across the U.S.

AGA utility members deliver clean and affordable natural gas to more than 177 million Americans, and are true partners in the communities they serve, some for as many as 100 years.

To learn more about the 2014 Gas Utility Residential Customer Satisfaction Study, click here.

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Chris McGill Natural Gas Market Indicators: Sept. 26, 2014

The forward market for natural gas futures currently points to a price expectation range of only about 20 cents for the five-month period November 2014 through March 2015, which is essentially huddled around $4 per MMBtu. Conditions can change, but once again market stability seems to be the observed pattern for the coming winter heating season.

With the weather induced demand totals seen during the 2013-2014 winter and the possibility of a more normal winter this year, analysts will begin to scrutinize what portion of that seasonal demand noted last winter has become institutionalized. For example, what portion of power generation demand is here to stay? Are the conservation and efficiency patterns seen during the past decade in the residential and commercial sector staying intact? Is industrial demand growing with the completion of key projects many of which are founded on a stable natural gas market?

Comparisons of winter season performance year after year are part of the crucible that allows analysts to understand the ebb and flow of the natural gas supply/demand balance in this country.

Visit this link to download the full Natural Gas Market Indicators report. Topics covered in this week’s report include: Reported Prices, Weather, Working Gas in Underground Storage, Natural Gas Production, Shale Gas, Rig Counts, Pipeline Imports and Exports, and LNG Markets.

Please direct questions and comments to Chris McGill at cmcgill@aga.org or Richard Meyer at rmeyer@aga.org.

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Richard Meyer 7 lessons from last winter

Report Cover Art 214x300 7 lessons from last winterIt was the strongest winter in decades. The polar vortex, a new term to most of us last winter, brought a mass of freezing air from its usual home in the artic and dropped it over North America where it settled and stayed. As the bitter cold persisted, families turned up thermostats and power consumption jumped. Across the country, more natural gas was being used than ever before.

In fact, the top five days for natural gas consumption in history took place last winter. For the industry, it was the most exceptional heating season ever. But it was more than just records and high demand for natural gas. It was a test, the industry’s first during the shale era.

In recent years, abundant supplies have awakened broader recognition of new and greater use for natural gas and an expectation of performance. It’s in this context that the industry faced consumers’ unprecedented requirements this winter. How did the industry do?

Simply put, local gas companies rose to the occasion and customers were served. When presented with a real-world test of stability, capability, and reliability under exceptional conditions, gas utilities delivered. This outcome was the result of the planning, preparation and performance of the industry, and of gas utilities in particular.

This week, AGA released a new report entitled Promise Delivered, providing an examination of the past winter heating season from the perspective of natural gas utilities.

Here are the top seven observations and conclusions to take away from the 2013-2014 polar vortex:

  1. The 2013-2014 winter set new records for the largest volume of natural gas ever consumed.
  2. Natural gas utilities employ numerous flexible approaches to supply planning and operations. Across the country, resources were available when needed, which suggests that existing processes, regulatory oversight and planning procedures are working.
  3. Underground storage played its largest role ever to meet consumer demand, a result of investment and contracting to assure supply storage when needed.
  4.  Constraints on systems that feed into distribution company networks can affect gas utility operations and customers. These considerations are often recognized in system and regional infrastructure planning as appropriate.
  5.  Flowing natural gas was available and generally affordable for local gas utilities that needed it. Supplies were bolstered by strong and steadily increasing domestic production, incremental pipeline volumes from Canada, and short-term bursts of liquefied natural gas imports.
  6.  Customers that contract for interruptible service are a crucial component of gas utility supply planning and system operations management during peak days. Due to the exceptional winter, the frequency and duration of interruptions increased in some cases.
  7.  Stable and affordable natural gas prices and the cumulative contributions of energy efficiency helped to moderate customer bills this winter. Continued encouragement of policies to maintain affordable prices and spur greater efficiency will help further mitigate bills during future winter events.

Report Infographic 7 lessons from last winterIn many ways, these tangible experiences of this past winter pave the way for future development of natural gas applications in homes and businesses. The study’s observations reinforce a vision of a stable US natural gas market shaped by the following broader developments:

  • Growth across the natural gas industry – production, transmission, storage and distribution – has laid the foundation for today’s market. Future infrastructure development will be key to further growth and stability.
  • Demand signals have facilitated the substantial increase in domestic natural gas supplies. Future increases in demand are expected to continue this trend.
  • Policies and regulatory precepts evolve with time, and the natural gas industry will face new challenges in the future. However, the iterative process of aligning industry opportunity with regulatory principles has been most successful when it manifests sustainable value for utilities and consumers.
  • The future of the natural gas industry is one of efficiency at its core—in production, transportation, and direct-use.

Bottom line: a new bar has been set. Our vision of a stable natural gas market is predicated on today’s realities of abundant domestic supplies, diverse sources, flexible options and affordable prices, and this past winter’s experience substantiates that vision. Ultimately, it underscores the industry’s ability to deliver and serves as a proof point for new investments in the nation’s natural gas infrastructure.

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Lisa Dundon New Website Earning Rave Reviews for Citizens Energy Group

Guest Blogger: Sarah Holsapple, Media Relations/Spokesperson, Citizens Energy Group

After a year of hard work, AGA member utility Citizens Energy Group launched a new and improved website last month. The new site is receiving rave reviews from both customers and employees. While the website has the same URL as our previous site, CitizensEnergyGroup.com has a brand new look and feel. Before I explain the features of the new website, let me provide some background as to why Citizens developed it in the first place.

In early 2013, Citizens began an initiative we dubbed Voice of the Customer in which we proactively sought feedback on all our business practices, including our website. Through dozens of conversations, customers told us we needed to improve the design and navigation of our site. With customer service being a top priority at Citizens, we took their suggestions to heart.

Citizens Energy Group New Website Earning Rave Reviews for Citizens Energy GroupBesides the aesthetic differences to the website, we’ve added the following features to make the user experience more convenient:

  •  Fewer Clicks - Whether you’re looking for conservation tips or a link to pay your bill, our new website will get you there faster by offering just five category choices: My Account, My Home, My Business, Our Company and For Partners.
  • Personalized Dashboard – Our new customer dashboard provides links to customers’ current and previous bills. The dashboard also provides quick links to important topics including payment options, starting and stopping service and conservation tips.
  • Mobilization – In this day and age when many customers access our site on mobile devices, we’ve designed the site to be optimized for any screen size: smartphones, tablets, laptops and desktop computers.
  • Convenient Communication – Over the next year, Citizens will add even more functionality allowing you to enroll in budget billing or to make flexible payment arrangements. We’ll also let you choose how you hear from us whether via text, email or by phone.

Citizens promoted the new website, designed in-house and built by Bitwise Solutions, Inc., through a press release, an email to customers and various forms of social media. Our customers have been pleased with the change and are commenting about how easy it is to pay bills on the new site and how quickly they can find information. When it comes to interacting with customers, Citizens’ website is one of our most powerful tools. Now that this tool is updated, easy to access on any device and user-friendly, we’re proving to customers that their voices are being heard.
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Has your utility’s website recently gone through a redesign? Let AGA know in the comments section below.

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