Electric cooperatives dominated the 2021 J.D. Power rankings, with 14 in the top 20 of the annual survey of residential electric customers.
Two Florida co-ops placed in the top five in customer satisfaction among all electric utilities in overall points: Clay Electric Cooperative, headquartered in Keystone Heights, and Sumterville-based SECO Energy.
Third-place finisher Clay EC scored 822 points out of a maximum 1,000, just two points behind overall leaders Clark Public Utilities in Vancouver, Washington, and EPB of Chattanooga, Tennessee, which tied for first place with 824 points. Fifth-place finisher SECO Energy scored 814.
Also in the top five was Walton EMC, based in Monroe, Georgia, which placed fourth with 816 points.
Clay Electric’s score shot up 48 points in 2021 compared to the previous year. Ricky Davis, general manager and CEO, credited the co-op’s employees and trustees for the strong performance.
Calling co-op employees “the best of the best,” Davis said, “our people are the heart of Clay Electric, and they make a difference for our members. This year’s J.D. Power award is a tangible representation of how our members feel about the cooperative. I am grateful and humbled by their praise and goodwill.”
The 2021 J.D. Power Electric Utility Residential Customer Satisfaction Study is based on responses from 100,999 online interviews conducted from January through November. The survey targeted residential customers of the nation’s 145 largest electric utilities, representing more than 101 million households. Utility performance was measured in six areas: power quality and reliability; price; billing and payment; communications; corporate citizenship; and customer care.
Overall residential satisfaction with electric utilities dipped slightly this year to 748 from a record-high 751 in 2020.
Electric utilities can improve overall customer satisfaction scores by as much as 122 points by supporting and “communicating more effectively” about local economic development efforts, said John Hazen, managing director of the utility practice at J.D. Power. Only 32% of customers know about their utilities’ efforts in this area, the study found.
At Clay Electric, a dedicated economic development team actively courts prospective businesses looking to locate or expand into its service area, said Kathy Richardson, the co-op’s manager of communications. In recent years, those businesses have included a bottling company and a landfill that captures and resells methane gas.
“Our purpose statement is to improve the quality of life for our members with safe and reliable electricity while strengthening the communities we serve,” said Richardson. “Partnering with our local and regional economic development professionals is critical to being successful at growing our communities.”
Other high-ranking co-ops include Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative. At 803, the Hughesville-based co-op’s score is 14 points higher than last year, and it placed 11th among all utilities.
“We’ve increased our score every year since 2008, and we couldn’t be prouder,” said Sonja M. Cox, SMECO president and CEO. She credited co-ops’ high scores to the co-op business model.
“It is remarkable how the cooperatives compare to the investor-owned utilities,” she said.