Residential customers of electric utility companies report lower bills and improved handling of power outages, resulting in an increase in overall satisfaction from 2008, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2009 Electric Utility Residential Customer Satisfaction Study released today.

The study measures customer satisfaction with electric utility companies by examining six key factors: power quality and reliability; price; billing and payment; corporate citizenship; communications; and customer service.

The study finds that customer satisfaction with utility companies in 2009 averages 618 on a 1,000-point scale--up from 614 in 2008. Driving this improvement are customer reports of lower bill amounts ($130 in 2009 from $132 in 2008, on average) and fewer power outages (an average of 1.9 in 2009 vs. 2.1 in 2008)(1).

In addition, electric utility companies have improved notably from 2008 in three key aspects of power outage communications: availability of information; accuracy of outage restoration estimates; and follow-up contacts.

"Even in a challenging economic climate, electric utility companies have improved power reliability and enhanced communications with their customers, especially when outages occur," said Alan Destribats, vice president of the energy and utility practice at J.D. Power and Associates. "This investment in communication technologies and processes is key to the industry's overall improvement."

The study also finds that satisfaction with utility companies' corporate citizenship improves considerably--by 130 points or more--when customers are aware of their utility company's community involvement and outreach efforts.

The study ranks large and midsize utility companies in four geographic regions: East, Midwest, South and West. Companies in the midsize utility segments serve between 125,000 and 499,999 residential customers, while companies in the large utility segment serve 500,000 or more residential customers.

East Region

Among large utilities in the East region, Central Maine Power ranks highest for a second consecutive year. Following in the segment rankings are PPL Electric Utilities, and Penelec, respectively.

In the East Region midsize utility segment, Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative ranks highest for a second consecutive year, followed by Central Vermont Public Service and Rochester Gas & Electric, respectively.

Midwest Region

MidAmerican Energy leads among large utility companies in the Midwest region for a second consecutive year. Kansas City Power & Light follows MidAmerican Energy, while We Energies ranks third in the segment.

Omaha Public Power District ranks highest among midsize utility companies in the Midwest region for a second consecutive year. Kentucky Utilities follows Omaha Public Power District in the segment, while Indianapolis Power and Light follows Kentucky Utilities to rank third.

South Region

CPS Energy ranks highest among large utility companies in the South region. Following CPS Energy in the rankings are Duke Energy--Carolinas and Progress Energy Carolinas, respectively.

Santee Cooper ranks highest among midsize utility companies in the South region, followed by Jackson EMC and NOVEC, respectively.

West Region

Salt River Project ranks highest in the West region large utility segment for a third consecutive year, followed by Sacramento Municipal Utility District. Portland General Electric ranks third in the segment.

Clark Public Utilities ranks highest among midsize utility companies in the West region for a second consecutive year, followed by Intermountain Rural Electric Association and Colorado Springs Utilities, respectively.

The 2009 Electric Utility Residential Customer Satisfaction Study is based on responses from more than 79,500 online interviews conducted from July 2008 through May 2009 among residential customers of the 121 largest electric utility brands across the United States, which collectively represent more than 92 million households.

(1) Although the 2009 study was fielded from July 2008 to May 2009, these figures represent data from April and May 2009, to allow for direct comparison with the 2008 study.