Customer Technology Solutions | Next Generation of Energy Efficiency | Limited-Income Offerings | Customer Interactions | Energy Imbalance Market | Cybersecurity & Data Privacy

Updated: April 2020

Customers are at the core of what we do every day at APS, and we are committed to providing options that make it easier for them to do business with us. We continually work to find new and better ways to meet our customers’ needs. Two initiatives begin in 2020 to help strengthen our outreach to customers:

  • Customer Assistance through Remote Engagement (CARE) Team. The vision of the CARE Team is to make it easier for customers to get the help they need closer to home. The APS CARE Team provides an opportunity for customers to meet face-to-face with knowledgeable, helpful advisors in open house-style events held in the communities we serve statewide. Advisors will be prepared to discuss and address any questions a customer may have and provide direct support regarding account information, bill assistance and support options.
  • Customer Advisory Board. The objective of the Customer Advisory Board is to serve as a vehicle for gathering valuable insights, directly from residential customers, that will keep us apprised of customer needs, wants and trends, identify and diagnose potential customer pain points, help shape and co-create solutions, and inform business decisions. The board will be managed through a third-party vendor to assure board members can provide us with honest and direct feedback.

It is our responsibility to ensure we are doing everything we can to deliver our services to customers in the most cost effective way possible. Since January 2018, the average residential bill decreased by 7.8% or $11.68, due primarily to savings from lower operating costs in areas such as fuel and purchased power and federal tax reform that have been passed on to customers.

To enhance the customer experience, we conduct ongoing research to gain insight into their needs. This research has been instrumental in the development of programs, tools and advisor trainings to serve customers better. Our survey results show that more than eight out of ten APS customers are highly satisfied with the outcome of their customer service experiences. However, we know we can further improve the customer experience by continuing to examine best practices throughout the industry, leverage insights provided by our customers, and learn directly from other companies that have made significant advances in improving their customer service.

 



Customer Technology Solutions

Technologies such as rooftop solar, LED lighting and smart thermostats have given customers more power to control their energy usage and potentially reduce their costs. As more emerging technologies, such as energy storage devices, become commercially viable, they will continue to change how our customers interact with us. By being proactive and working with our customers to identify and respond to their changing needs, we remain well positioned to deliver value. And by providing customers the opportunity to manage their own energy and peak demand, we can expand the use and understanding of load-management technologies, encourage customers to use energy during off-peak hours and better align with solar production and system peak conditions. Taking these innovations to scale isn’t just good for customers and the energy grid: it will help us achieve our bold clean energy commitment.

Partnerships

  • Assisting municipal customers like the cities of Tempe and Flagstaff to develop Climate Action Plans
  • Developing a Memorandum of Understanding with the City of Phoenix to address sustainability goals jointly
  • Creating a collaborative partnership with Advanced Energy Economy to develop solutions to help APS achieve our ambitious goals for clean energy and support electrification of the transportation sector

Community Programs

  • Take Charge AZ. We launched an innovative pilot program encouraging electric vehicle (EV) adoption by providing charging stations throughout Arizona. Through this program, we will install and own EV charging equipment at various workplace, fleet and multifamily communities, enabling us to gain knowledge that will help facilitate the electrification of the transportation sector. We expect to install 300 chargers through 2021. As part of the program, we conducted a research study examining EV growth and its impact on load growth. The program is currently full and has a wait list. One of the completed installations is at the Pinal County government offices, where we also installed solar panels as part of our Solar Communities program, providing both covered solar parking and electric charging for the visiting public and Pinal County employees.



  • Solar Communities. This program serves limited- and moderate-income customers, as well as governments, schools and nonprofits. As of January 2020, the program had met the capacity approved by the Arizona Corporation Commission in our last rate case. Construction of remaining sites should conclude in 2020, and we forecast to close the program within the $45M total ACC approved program budget.
  • As of March 31, 2020, the program has installed:

    • 656 limited- and moderate-income household installations
    • 1 multifamily system
    • 7 nonprofits, Title I schools and rural or government buildings

Demand Response Programs

We expanded the Rewards distributed energy resource (DER) storage programs. Launched in 2018 and 2019, these industry-leading and award-winning programs incentivize customers to adopt advanced technologies in their homes to help consume electricity at midday when solar energy is plentiful and to conserve power in the late afternoon and early evening when it is in greatest demand and thus costs more. The APS Rewards initiative goes beyond using traditional batteries and helps to harness the use of thermal storage through smart water heaters and thermostats.

Making use of midday solar is an important part of delivering on a cleaner energy future and furthering Arizona’s solar leadership. Rewards programs not only engage a rapidly growing number of customers and harness innovation on both sides of the meter, but at scale, they will help to address the duck curve and also provide resource adequacy and significant capacity during operational peaks. 

Programs currently include:

  • Cool Rewards: connected residential smart thermostats for demand response with pre-cooling
    • 18,000 smart thermostats enrolled in 2019
    • 2020 goal to install 40,000 smart thermostats, providing about 50MW of demand response peak capacity
  • Storage Rewards: residential and commercial battery systems installed on specific feeders
    • 36 residential sites were selected for batteries in 2019
  • Reserve Rewards: grid-interactive water heaters installed in homes on specific feeders
    • 226 grid-interactive water heaters were deployed in 2019

The Rewards programs have received the following industry awards: 

Next Generation of Energy Efficiency

With traditional energy efficiency measures such as LED light bulbs and energy efficient appliances now commonplace, we are pursuing the next generation of energy efficiency. In our 2020 Energy Efficiency plan, currently pending Arizona Corporation Commission review, some of the new programs proposed include:

  • Subscription rate pilot offering rate-optimized smart thermostats to influence energy use patterns
  • Connected pool pump pilot that couples energy savings options with potential load shifting and load management
  • EV-ready pre-wiring, connected water heating and induction cooking in the Residential New Construction program
  • Community research project with homebuilders to explore emerging efficiency technologies and load management opportunities
  • Increased funding for the Limited Income Weatherization program, along with specialized home energy reports focused on low-cost and no-cost energy savings tips and program information
  • Standby truck refrigeration, electric forklifts and airport electrification incentives

The energy efficiency standard (EES) set by the Arizona Corporation Commission, which is one of the most aggressive standards in the nation, requires utilities to achieve cumulative savings equivalent to 22% of 2019 retail sales. Through 2019, we achieved 19.9% of the EES goal. Our current portfolio of energy efficiency programs provided 516,383 MWh of energy savings in 2019. That is enough energy to power more than 44,000 typical Arizona households for an entire year. Since 2005, the lifetime energy savings from our energy efficiency programs have avoided approximately 21 million metric tons of carbon emissions.

Watch to learn more about the next generation of energy efficiency:



Limited Income Offerings

We have assistance programs that provide discounts to qualified limited-income customers as well as programs to help customers to stay on top of their bills.

Crisis Bill Assistance. An unplanned major expense or an unexpected reduction in income can put anybody in a temporary financial bind. Qualified customers can receive up to $800 a year to cover current or past-due APS bills through the Crisis Bill Assistance program. In 2019, we doubled the amount of crisis bill assistance available to eligible customers from $400 to $800. We work closely with agency partners to assure that our limited-income customers can participate in programs to assist them in keeping their lights on. When customers seek APS crisis bill assistance from these agencies, they can also check their eligibility for and enroll in the APS-funded Energy Support program, which offers qualifying limited-income customers a flat 25% discount before taxes on their monthly bill. Additionally, in 2020 we will have $1.25 million in funding and new agency partners in the distribution network to broaden access for customers. In our current rate filing, we have requested crisis bill funding be increased to $2.5 million annually and enrollment criteria for the energy assistance program be expanded.

Energy Support. Our Energy Support program is funded at $48 million for 2019 and 2020. At the end of 2019, approximately 59,000 customers, a 24% increase from 2019, were receiving the limited-income rate discount. We are working to expand the program to reach more eligible customers.

Weatherization Assistance. We also provide funding for limited-income home weatherization in partnership with community action agencies throughout Arizona. This weatherization program enables qualified customers to make their homes more energy efficient. In 2019, we spent $3.7 million to complete limited-income weatherization projects around the state.

Project Share. Through Project SHARE, our customers can join us in giving back to our communities by making tax-deductible contributions when they pay their monthly energy bill. In addition, we match employee contributions to SHARE dollar-for-dollar. This limited-income assistance fund is administered by the Salvation Army. In 2019, customers, employees and APS as a company donated close to $370,000 through Project SHARE.

Learn more about our limited-income programs.



Customer Interactions

More than ever before, our customers are empowered to manage their accounts by monitoring their usage and taking action to keep their bills as low as possible. In 2019, we launched the redesigned aps.com website and mobile app, giving customers upgraded access to their energy usage data and billing information.

During 2019, we experienced strong business results for aps.com and the launch of the new site and mobile app in September. Combined web and interactive voice response (IVR) self-service transactions reached 11.5M, resulting in 9.09 transactions per customer, including an increase of almost 60,000 in payments since site relaunch compared to the like period in 2018. The new site and mobile app were designed around leading user experience (UX) principles and practices, with a complete rewrite of all site content to ensure understandability and customer centricity. The new site capabilities include targeting and better analytics to further enhance customer experience over time.

On the phones, our Customer Care team is using speech analytics to enrich advisors’ interactions with customers, and customers now have online chat as another channel to communicate with us.

Looking forward to 2020, we will keep exploring ways to help our customers save time and money as well as well as provide easier ways to do business with us. We will continue to develop and fine-tune our analytic capabilities so that we can learn more about our customers’ interests in order to provide relevant, preemptive content and efficiency for our customers.

Energy Imbalance Market

Partnering with other western utilities and the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) in the Energy Imbalance Market (EIM) provides us with greater operational efficiency and flexibility. The EIM, which is the only five-minute energy market in the western United States, enables us to take advantage more quickly of favorable pricing opportunities in wholesale energy markets, integrate all generation resources more effectively and pass the savings on to our customers. 

According to the most recent report released by the California Independent System Operator, the EIM has delivered more than $140 million in gross benefits to APS customers since our participation began in October 2016.


Cybersecurity & Data Privacy

As cybersecurity attacks become more frequent and more sophisticated across numerous industries, safeguarding the data and technology that delivers power to our customers becomes increasingly important. Our comprehensive cybersecurity program is designed to prepare our people, programs and technologies for emerging threats. 

All employees and contractors are required to take cybersecurity training and learn techniques to identify suspicious cyber activity and safeguard sensitive customer information. Quarterly security boot camps and other outreach activities help raise employee awareness about emerging threats and risks to the company. We also hold workshops to educate employees on critical issues, such as creating secure passwords, recognizing potential attacks, securing personally identifiable information and ensuring safe file storage. Regular awareness testing assesses our employees’ susceptibility to certain cyber threats, such as phishing.

We monitor for emerging cybersecurity threats 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Our Cyber Defense Center detects, alerts, contains and mitigates attacks in real time. To enhance our capabilities and provide improved threat intelligence, we maintain relationships with federal, state and local government partners as well as fellow utilities and private sector information-sharing organizations. We ensure that cybersecurity awareness is strong at all levels of the company, including briefings to the company’s board of directors, presentations to senior management and updates at staff meetings companywide.

In addition to our cybersecurity efforts, we take extensive measures to protect our customer’s personally identifiable information. We utilize preventative and detective controls in our commitment to keep customers’ sensitive information safe and secure. Internal audits, data loss prevention technology, and reviews utilizing Generally Accepted Privacy Principles are examples of our internal controls and systems to ensure safe handling of customer data.

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