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

Updated: March 2021

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 better ways to communicate with our customers and meet their needs. We are also committed to assisting our customers during the COVID-19 pandemic. In an effort to respond to customer needs, we established a Customer Advisory Board and a COVID-19 Customer Support Fund in 2020.

Customer Advisory Board.  In an effort to enhance our customer interactions and create an exchange of ideas, we established a Customer Advisory Board. The Customer Advisory Board is a diverse group of approximately 35 residential customers from across the APS service territory. 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 concerns, help shape and co-create solutions, and inform business decisions. The board is managed through a third-party vendor to assure board members that they can provide us with honest and direct feedback In 2021, board members will provide key insights on customer programs and tools including bill redesign, rate plan simplification and more. The successful collaboration between APS and the Customer Advisory Board was recognized by Public Utilities Fortnightly as a Top Innovator in 2020. 

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 10 APS customers are highly satisfied with the outcome of their customer service experiences. However, we know we can 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.

COVID-19 Bill Assistance

To directly assist our customers most impacted by the pandemic, we implemented a variety of programs, including providing $15 million to assist customers and local non-profits and community organizations to help with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our COVID Customer Support Fund of $12.4 million directly committed to bill assistance programs includes: 

  • One-time credit for customers with a delinquency of two or more months 
  • Additional credits for limited-income customers
  • Programs to assist extra-small and small non-residential customers with a one-time $1,000 credit
  • Other targeted programs to assist with other COVID-19 needs in support of utility bill assistance

 

Customer Satisfaction 

 APS measures customer satisfaction results through the JD Power Electric Utility Residential Study and the JD Power Electric Utility Business Study. In 2020, we were one of the most improved utilities in the nation on residential and business customer overall satisfaction in the JDP Residential and Business Studies. Across the board, our 2020 JDP Study results were significantly improved over 2019 – on overall customer satisfaction as well as on all six driving “factors” of overall satisfaction that JDP tracks: Power Quality & Reliability, Price, Corporate Citizenship, Billing & Payment, Communications and Customer Care.

 


 

 

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 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 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

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. Under the program, 86 commercial Level 2 charging plugs have been installed at 43 locations. This has enabled charging at hotels, workplaces and municipalities. We expect to install more than 250 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 full and has a wait list. One of the installations is at the Pinal County government offices, where we also installed solar panels as part of our Solar Communities program, providing covered solar parking and electric charging for the public and Pinal County employees.  


  

 

Solar Communities. This program makes solar and its clean energy benefits available to 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 most recent rate case. Construction of remaining sites should conclude in 2021, and will close the program within the $45M total ACC approved program budget. As of year end, 2020, the program had installed:  

  • 688 limited- and moderate-income household installations
  • 4 multifamily systems
  • 13 nonprofits, Title I schools and rural or government buildings

Demand Response Programs

We expanded the Rewards distributed energy resource storage programs. Launched in 2018, 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 provide resource adequacy and significant capacity during operational peaks.  

2020 Programs include:

Cool Rewards: connected residential smart thermostats for demand response with pre-cooling 

  • 31,200 smart thermostats enrolled
  • Total of 10 events called
  • Highest hour of DR capacity was 48MW

Peak Solutions: Commercial and Industrial Demand Response program 

  • Approximately 366 customers enrolled 
  • Total of 5 events called 
  • Highest hour of DR peak capacity was 41MW

Storage Rewards: residential and commercial battery systems installed on specific feeders

  • 33 residential sites

Reserve Rewards: grid-interactive water heaters installed in homes on specific feeders 

  • 226 grid-interactive water heaters

 

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.  The next generation of energy efficiency measures and programs were approved by the Arizona Corporation Commission offering new program opportunities and benefits for customers:

  • 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, and connected water heating 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 more aggressive standards in the nation, requires utilities to achieve cumulative savings equivalent to 22% of 2019 retail sales. APS achieved and exceeded this goal in 2020. Through 2020, we achieved 23% of the EES goal. Our portfolio of energy efficiency programs provided about 585,637 MWh of energy savings for 2020. That is enough energy to power more than 50,000 typical Arizona households for an entire year. Since 2005, the lifetime energy savings from our energy efficiency programs have avoided approximately 22 million metric tons of carbon emissions.

To best support customers impacted by this rare global health and economic crisis, APS proposed additional DSM measures in its 2020 DSM Implementation Plan to help customers adversely affected by the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The plan was approved by the Arizona Corporation Commission in October 2020 to help:

  • Limited-income customers, including those recently unemployed by the crisis
  • Customers who face unexpected costs due to HVAC failures and other related equipment emergencies
  • Non-profit organizations and agencies that provide community health and human services
  • Schools, historic facilities and other cultural sites that are important to the quality of life for Arizonans
  • APS's Trade Allies that provide energy services, as long as they can do the work in a safe manner
  • Local small businesses continue operating through the economic impacts of this pandemic

Limited Income Offerings

We have assistance programs that provide discounts to qualified limited-income customers as well as programs to help customers 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 every 12 months to cover current or past-due APS bills through the Crisis Bill Assistance program. We work closely with agency partners to assure that our limited-income customers can participate in programs to assist them in keeping their power 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 2021 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.  APS also provided $500,000 in additional Crisis Bill funding to a large Metro Phoenix assistance agency for 2021.

Energy Support. Our Energy Support program is funded at $48 million for 2021. At the end of 2020, approximately 72,400 customers, a 22% increase during 2020, were receiving the limited-income rate discount. We are working to expand the program to reach more eligible customers. For example, we increased the enrollment term from 12 to 24 months. Additionally, in late 2020 the Arizona Corporation Commission approved an increase in the eligibility requirement for the Energy Support program from 150% to 200% of the Federal Poverty Limit. 

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 2020, we spent $6.5 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 2020, customers, employees and APS donated close to $383,000 through Project SHARE. 

Learn more about our limited-income programs.

 




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 bulletins and other outreach activities help raise employee awareness about emerging threats and risks to the company. We also hold workshops and “lunch and learns” 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 and training assesses our employees’ susceptibility to certain cyber threats, such as phishing. APS’s annual phishing test identification rate in 2020 of 96.6 % exceeds industry average benchmarks and continues to improve each year. 

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 and coordinate with federal, state, and local government partners, utility associations, regulatory bodies, 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. 

APS focuses on key principles including: 

  • Awareness – Building security aware employees.
  • Resiliency - Process and tools to identify, contain, eradicate, and recover.
  • Defensive posture – Withstand, alert, and remediate malicious activity.

In addition to our cybersecurity efforts, we take extensive measures to protect our customers’ 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.

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, 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. APS joined the market in 2016 and the market continues to expand with utility participation through 2023.  Benefits include: lower fuel cost, improved visibility and situational awareness for system operations in the western power grid, improved integration of renewable energy and improved ability to import low or negatively priced energy. 

According to the most recent report released by the California Independent System Operator, the EIM has delivered more than $189 million in gross benefits (through December 2020) to APS customers since our participation began.

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