Category Archives: utility

Lisa Dundon Better Business Bureau Recognizes CenterPoint Energy’s Commitment to Ethical Behavior

AGA member CenterPoint Energy was awarded last month with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) International Torch Award for Ethics, presented by the Council of Better Business Bureaus, recognizing businesses exhibiting outstanding ethical practices.

Candidates for this inaugural award had to have previously won their local Torch Award for Ethics, which CenterPoint Energy did in October 2013 in the largest business category by the BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota. In 2012, CenterPoint Energy was also named to the BBB Centennial Honor Roll, which salutes century-old companies that have supported BBB for most or all of its history.

CenterPointEnergy Jean Krause Better Business Bureau Recognizes CenterPoint Energy’s Commitment to Ethical Behavior

CenterPoint Energy Community Relations Director Jean Krause accepts the BBB International Torch Award for Ethics.
Image courtesy of CenterPoint Energy.

According to the BBB, the international award judges were impressed with CenterPoint Energy’s commitment to employees and ethical behavior. Each of the utility’s employees are required to take at least one continuing education course related to ethics each year. The judges also said they appreciated CenterPoint Energy’s motto, “Operating ethically is simply what we do.”

“This award reflects our employees’ commitment to providing safe and reliable service to our customers and communities every day,” said Joe Vortherms, Vice President of CenterPoint Energy Gas Operations in Minnesota. “We’re proud to say that we’ve been doing it for more than 140 years.”

AGA congratulates CenterPoint Energy on this prestigious international recognition for ethical behavior, as well as their continued commitment to safety, integrity and reliability.

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Christina Nyquist Natural Gas Utilities Engage Communities to Promote 811, Safety Awareness

Today marks the last day of National Safe Digging Month. All April long, throughout the nation, local natural gas utilities have taken creative steps to spread the word about safe excavation practices. Damage from construction and digging activity is the leading cause of pipeline incidents, so communicating with customers and communities about the importance of calling 811 before starting any digging project is essential to enhancing public safety. Efforts surrounding safe digging have contributed to a nearly 50 percent decline in excavation damages to underground facilities since 2004. Here are just a few of the ways AGA member companies raised awareness about safe digging in their local communities.

North Carolina-based Piedmont Natural Gas teamed with garden centers in North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee to tag trees and shrubs with reminders to “Call Before You Dig.” Piedmont Natural Gas Managing Director of Safety and Community Relations Timothy Greenhouse explained, “We know people are eager to get started on gardening and landscaping projects after the long winter we’ve had, but calling 811 is a free, easy way to avoid the inconvenience, added cost and potential injury that can result from damaging underground utilities.” At the Gardens of Blackhawk Hardware in Charlotte, N.C., Girl Scouts from the local Hornets Nest Council worked with garden center employees to make sure every customer buying a tree, shrub or bush or digging tool received a “Call Before You Dig” tag.

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Piedmont Natural Gas employees demonstrate safe digging practices with local Girl Scouts at National Safe Digging Month awareness event. Credit: Piedmont Natural Gas

Atmos Energy, headquartered in Dallas, Tex., engaged social media to launch its “iDig It” campaign. The utility offered participants the chance to win $811 by snapping and submitting photos of clearly marked digging sites in their communities and sharing them on Facebook or Twitter using the hashtag #iDigIt. Atmos also released a new 811 awareness video at the end of March.

In Fresno, Calif., Pacific Gas and Electric Corporation joined the Fresno City Council, the Fresno Fire Department and the Mayor of Madera for a safe digging awareness rally, where participants wrapped 100 stickers around trees that were given away to anyone who pledged to call 811 before digging. In addition to spreading safety awareness, the event added 100 new trees to the city’s landscape. PG&E also hosted weekly safety events at Home Depot stores throughout its service territory throughout the month, where PG&E employees spoke with shoppers about the importance of safe digging. Attendees and their children also played safety games and observed some of the innovative tools PG&E is using to supply customers with safe and reliable gas and electricity.

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PG&E’s Dan Kalendar, left, and Joe Sutton demonstrated the interactive gas safety board for customers at a Home Depot Safe Digging Awareness event. Credit: PG&E

The team here at AGA developed and released a “Kids and Natural Gas Safety” video designed to appeal to younger audiences to help educate them about all aspects of living with natural gas.

Many other natural gas utilities throughout the nation spread awareness about National Safe Digging Month through news releases, social media, advertisements, community events and more. Safety is the top priority for AGA and its member companies. Along with the industry’s dedicated efforts to enhance the safety of its systems, growing public awareness about natural gas safety is an essential part of helping to ensure Americans can enjoy the benefits of domestic, abundant natural gas for decades to come.

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Christina Nyquist Energy Utilities Work to Serve the Modern Customer

From smart meters to mobile devices and social media, joined with transformations in energy production, revolutions in technology have created boundless new opportunities for utilities to interact with, understand and serve their customers even more reliably, safely and efficiently. As companies innovate and enhance the customer experience across all sectors, utilities are charged with meeting and surpassing customer expectations driven by leading brands. With this transformed landscape in mind, more than 400 natural gas and electric utility professionals gathered in San Francisco last week to help enhance the customer experience for energy users throughout the nation. The 2014 Customer Service Conference and Exposition, co-hosted by the American Gas Association and the Edison Electric Institute, featured two and a half days of presentations, 60 exhibitors, breakout sessions and workshops focused on how to better meet customer needs and expectations in a changing energy and technology world.

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Utility customer service professionals gather for the AGA/EEI Customer Service Conference General Session.

Utilities and their employees are an integral link between our nation’s energy resources and homes and businesses throughout the nation, making a smooth energy customer experience a vital underpinning of a healthy economy. As part of their commitment to safe and reliable energy delivery, utilities are dedicated to helping ensure their customers are able to access the information and resources they need to better understand how to use energy wisely and safely, manage their energy costs, prepare for storms and outages and get the best possible value from their energy delivery service.

Thanks to constant innovations in information, communications and energy delivery technology, customers have more ways than ever to access information, manage their energy use and communicate with their local utility. Utilities also have access to an unprecedented amount of data and communications channels that can help them better understand and serve their customers’ needs. This new “data deluge” combined with today’s changing energy landscape provides opportunities and challenges for utilities, customer service professionals and customers. Conference participants heard from industry leaders and panels discussing these changes, what the future holds for utilities and how to meet and exceed customer expectations for decades to come.

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AGA Customer Service Committee Chair Kathy Kerr, New Jersey Natural Gas, moderates a panel discussing the Utility-Customer Business Model Evolution. L-R: Mike Hazelton, Georgia Power; Gregg Knight, CenterPoint Energy; Dave Williams, NW Natural

Afternoon breakout sessions followed the general sessions, where participants could fous on issues impacting their specific area of customer contact. These sessions examined addressing more effective meter reading and data collection processes, streamlining billing and payment processing, exploring innovative ways to assist low-income and at-risk customers, managing and modernizing call centers, and enhancing outage and restoration communications. Across the board, participants noted the potential for increased information and communication capabilities to transform the utility-customer relationship.

Meeting and exceeding their customers’ need for safe and reliable energy delivery has been the core mission of natural gas utilities for more than a century. America’s natural gas utilities will continue their historically excellent record of service as they leverage the opportunities of the future.

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Lisa Dundon AGA Members Work To Improve Their Communities on Earth Day

Natural gas utilities safely and reliably deliver energy to more than 177 million Americans and are true partners in the communities they serve. Many utilities have served their customers for more than 100 years. It is important for the American Gas Association (AGA) and our more than 200 utility members to give back to these communities, especially on Earth Day.

Earlier this month, a group of AGA and Washington Gas staff volunteers participated in the 26th Annual Anacostia River Clean-Up as part of an Earth Day service project put on by the Alice Ferguson Foundation (AFF). During the event, which took place in 209 sites along the Anacostia Watershed in Washington, D.C., Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and Pennsylvania, volunteers removed trash, tires and plastic bags. AGA and Washington Gas volunteers primarily focused on picking up trash in and around Four Mile Run in Shirlington, Va. According to the AFF, more than 6,000 volunteers collected 131.5 tons of trash, including 537 tires, 19,500 plastic bags and 100,600 beverage containers.

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Photo Courtesy: Washington Gas

To commemorate Earth Day, AGA member Entergy Mississippi gave a $7,500 grant to the Jackson Zoo’s Wild Learning Project, which brings Jackson Public School students to the zoo for free educational field trips. Entergy also invited their Facebook fans to post their favorite nature photographs for a chance at winning a $100 donation to an eligible nonprofit of choice.

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Photo Courtesy: Entergy Mississippi’s Twitter page

Employees of Baltimore Gas & Electric teamed up with Blue Water Baltimore to help plant trees in Cherry Hill Park on Earth Day. The trees will contribute to the growth of the tree canopy and help to work to make the watershed cleaner and healthier. Enbridge Gas is once again participating in Trees Across Toronto to help rebuild the urban forest’s tree canopy near the utility’s offices.

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Photo Courtesy: BG&E’s Facebook page

AGA member Consumers Energy celebrates Earth Day all year long focusing on a series of sustainability efforts. Since 1992, Consumers Energy has recycled 16,266 gallons of paint, 267,000 gallons of fuel, 190,948 pounds of electronics, 134,000 yards of paper, 65,000 yards of corrugated cardboard and 608,694 batteries.

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Infographic Courtesy: Consumers Energy

These are just a few highlights of the efforts underway in AGA’s members’ communities. Let us know in the comments section below what you’ve been doing to celebrate Earth Day this year. We’d love to highlight your efforts on AGA’s Facebook and Twitter pages.

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