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E SOURCE Announces Top Utility Web Sites

August 18, 2009

BOULDER, Colo., Aug. 18 /PRNewswire/ — According to the latest E SOURCE benchmark results for the performance of North American utility web sites, the top-rated U.S. electric and gas web sites belong to Avista Utilities, Arizona Public Service, South Carolina Electric and Gas, Wisconsin Public Service, Pacific Gas and Electric, and Alliant Energy. The top-rated Canadian utility web sites belong to BC Hydro and Union Gas.

The “E SOURCE 2009 Review of North American Electric and Gas Company Web Sites” assessed the web sites of 100 U.S. and Canadian utilities. Between December 2008 and May 2009, a team of residential customers accessed and used the top 31 web and mobile features (both content information and self-service tasks) identified by a 2008 E SOURCE market research study as the features residential customers most want to see on their utility’s web site. Testing the utility web sites on mobile devices was a new element of this year’s study. The reviews were conducted from the perspective of general Internet use, so the sites were rated against the best in class across all web sites, not just utility web sites.

This new study–the fifth E SOURCE web site review–is the largest, most detailed benchmark of electric and gas web sites available. E SOURCE found that both utility customer expectations and utility web sites have changed significantly since earlier reviews. Florence Connally, a research manager at E SOURCE, said, “Utilities are taking note that the web site is an important customer service channel and have taken strides to make them customer friendly. This year, utilities that offer more of the features residential customers want had more user-friendly web sites. In previous studies, we found outliers that focused more on customer experience and not on functionality and vice versa. That is no longer the case.”

Overall, E SOURCE found that utility web sites are catching up with customer expectations, as demonstrated by the fact that utilities now offer 77 percent of the features that customers want. Stephanie Cary, a senior research associate at E SOURCE, explained, “Electric and gas companies can never stand still. Just when they refine their web site offerings to match consumer expectations, new twists come along, such as our finding that consumers now expect to navigate the utility site through Google sitelinks.”

Eastern U.S. PPL Electric is the top ranked utility in the eastern region and was the only utility from this region to rank in the top quartile. Pepco and Connecticut Light & Power earned second and third respectively.

Midwestern U.S. Wisconsin Public Service captured the top rank in the midwestern region. Alliant Energy and We Energies rounded out the top three.

Southern U.S. South Carolina Electric and Gas ranks highest in the southern region. Dominion and Progress Energy earned the next two highest scores.

Western U.S. Avista Utilities earned the top rank in the western region. Arizona Public Service and Pacific Gas and Electric were the next highest performers.

Canada. BC Hydro garnered the highest ranking among Canadian utility web sites. Other top performers include Union Gas and SaskEnergy.

“As more customers turn to their utility’s web site to report electric outages or pay their bills, the focus of these web sites needs to be online self-service. Utility web sites are at their best when there is a problem such as a gas leak or power outage, but surprisingly, we found that one of the hardest features to use is simply making a payment,” said Andrew Heath, director of E SOURCE Customer Satisfaction Services.

E SOURCE members will learn more about the findings from the benchmark study in a special web conference today. Others interested in learning about the key findings should attend the 22nd Annual E SOURCE Forum (www.esource.com/forum2009) being held in Denver, Colorado, September 21-25, 2009.

This “E SOURCE 2009 Review of North American Electric and Gas Company Web Sites” final report includes benchmarking information, best practice advice, and detailed recommendations for utilities wishing to provide a positive online experience for their residential customers. For more information about this comprehensive report, please visit www.esource.com/public/products/Web_2009_Review.

About E SOURCE

E SOURCE has been providing unbiased, objective energy business intelligence to over 300 utilities and large energy users for more than 20 years. Our benchmarking services are supported by the latest market research looking at what customers want in utility self-service. That research helps us determine what utility IVR and web site tasks and functions should be assessed during our reviews. Our research analysts and consultants are among the best minds in the business, delivering significant and timely research that equips our customers with the right information at the right time to make better, faster decisions. We predict and address trends, technologies, and problems related to energy efficiency, utility customer satisfaction, program design, marketing, customer management, and sustainability.

NOTE: one chart follows.

Performance Ranking of U.S. and Canadian Web Sites

Functionality and average usability ratings were combined with equal weighting to determine the overall performance index, which has a maximum possible value of 1,000. The web sites were then ranked in descending order.

    Rank  Company name                                  Score
    Top Quartile
    1     Avista Utilities                                821
    2     Arizona Public Service (APS)                    788
    3     South Carolina Electric & Gas                   787
    4     Wisconsin Public Service Corp.                  782
    5     Pacific Gas and Electric Co.                    769
    5     Alliant Energy                                  769
    7     BC Hydro                                        751
    7     Union Gas Limited                               751
    9     Dominion Virginia Power                         734
    10    Progress Energy                                 733
    11    Alabama Power                                   731
    12    PPL Electric Utilities                          728
    13    Duke Energy                                     724
    14    San Diego Gas & Electric Co.                    723
    15    Salt River Project (SRP)                        722
    15    We Energies                                     722
    17    Puget Sound Energy                              718
    18    Peoples Gas Delivery (Illinois)                 715
    19    American Electric Power                         713
    19    SaskEnergy                                      713
    19    PacifiCorp                                      713
    22    Southern California Gas Co.                     708
    23    Memphis Light, Gas & Water Division             703
    23    Vectren                                         703
    23    Westar Energy                                   703

    Second Quartile
    26    NW Natural                                      698
    27    New Brunswick Power                             697
    28    Portland General Electric                       693
    28    Florida Power & Light                           693
    28    Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD)    693
    31    SaskPower                                       689
    32    Ameren                                          685
    33    ComEd                                           679
    34    Georgia Power                                   667
    35    Kansas City Power & Light                       666
    36    DTE Energy                                      663
    37    NV Energy                                       658
    38    MidAmerican Energy                              653
    38    Southern California Edison                      653
    40    PNM                                             648
    40    Reliant Energy                                  648
    42    Pepco                                           645
    42    Manitoba Hydro                                  645
    44    Connecticut Light & Power                       643
    45    Terasen Gas Inc.                                642
    46    CPS Energy                                      632
    47    New York State Electric & Gas                   628
    48    Otter Tail Power                                625
    49    Nicor Gas                                       621
    49    Los Angeles Department of Water & Power         621

    Third Quartile
    51    Enbridge Gas Distribution                       618
    52    Hydro Ottawa Limited                            616
    53    Idaho Power                                     613
    53    NorthWestern Energy-Montana                     613
    53    Washington Gas                                  613
    56    National Grid New York                          612
    56    Public Service Electric and Gas                 612
    58    Central Maine Power                             610
    59    Con Edison                                      606
    60    Oklahoma Natural Gas Co.                        605
    61    Hydro One Networks                              601
    61    Hydro-Quebec                                    601
    61    Tampa Electric Co.                              601
    64    Xcel Energy                                     595
    65    Omaha Public Power District                     591
    66    Atmos Energy                                    590
    66    Jersey Central Power & Light                    590
    68    Louisville Gas & Electric                       590
    69    Virginia Natural Gas                            588
    70    Black Hills Energy                              583
    70    Nova Scotia Power                               583
    72    Consumers Energy                                578
    73    Long Island Power Authority                     577
    74    Entergy Louisiana                               576
    74    Laclede Gas                                     576

    Fourth Quartile
    76    NSTAR                                           575
    77    Questar Gas                                     571
    78    Centerpoint Energy (Minnesota)                  567
    79    ENMAX                                           556
    79    Duquesne Light                                  556
    81    Baltimore Gas & Electric                        554
    82    Hawaiian Electric Co.                           550
    83    PECO Energy                                     547
    84    Allegheny Power                                 535
    85    Direct Energy (Texas)                           531
    86    Oklahoma Gas & Electric                         529
    87    Austin Energy                                   525
    88    Columbia Gas of Ohio                            523
    88    Gaz Metro                                       523
    90    TXU Energy                                      520
    91    Silicon Valley Power                            511
    92    Toronto Hydro-Electric System Ltd.              488
    93    Southwest Gas                                   487
    94    Missouri Gas Energy                             485
    95    Pedernales Electric                             458
    96    Dayton Power & Light                            440
    97    Piedmont Natural Gas                            436
    98    National Fuel Gas                               431
    98    Philadelphia Gas Works                          431
    100   EPCOR                                           412

Source: “E SOURCE 2009 Review of North American Electric and Gas Company Web Sites”

Charts and graphs extracted from this press release must be accompanied by a statement identifying E SOURCE as the publisher and “E SOURCE 2009 Review of North American Electric and Gas Company Web Sites” as the source. No advertising or other promotional use can be made of the information in this release without the express prior written consent of E SOURCE.

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