Dan Rattiner's Stories

The Best Worst: PSEG Tells Us How Much We Love Them

A few weeks ago, a big printing company turned out a glossy, full-color, six-page brochure in a press run of 1 million for PSEG Long Island, our new power company. This had to be a pretty expensive printing job. I ought to know. I’ve been in the printing and publishing business for more than half a century.

After the job was done, I imagine the printing company had the job trucked to PSEG for their approval, after which it got delivered to the post office for delivery to every customer of theirs on Long Island, which is to say everybody, because they are our only power company. The brochure went out last week.

I got mine. I suspect you got yours.

The brochure congratulated us for being so happy with their service.

OUR FIRST YEAR BEGAN WITH PROMISE—AND ENDED WITH PROMISES KEPT, the brochure says, AND OUR CUSTOMERS ARE STARTING TO NOTICE. [AND] OUR COMMITMENT TO YOU IN 2015 AND BEYOND IS EVEN STRONGER.

Well, their commitment is they want to raise their delivery charge by nearly 4 percent a year for three years beginning in 2016. This is well above inflation and in the face of oil prices going down, it’s a real slap in the face. But hey, as they are telling us, we love them. And thank you very much.

“According to J.D. Power, in 2014, PSEG LONG ISLAND showed the most improvement in overall customer satisfaction of any large electric utility, anywhere in the nation,” they wrote.

But did J.D. Power really say that? Turns out a close look at the facts tell a somewhat different story. Of the 95 power companies surveyed in 2014, PSEG–LI ranked 95th. That’s last. On a satisfaction survey where 1,000 is perfect, 94 power companies scored more than 600. Only one was under 600. PSEG-LI. And the gap between PSEG-LI’s score and the average of all the other power company’s scores widened during the past two years. PSEG-LI is getting further and further behind.

But PSEG sees things differently.

Our State AssemblymanFred Thiele sent a press release from Albany to his constituents here on eastern Long Island to explain how PSEG did this little hocus pocus with the J.D. Power report. It’s of interest to Albany because Albany has to approve of the rate increase.

Here’s how PSEG did it. In 2012, when LIPA was running things out here, LIPA scored 552. And the average for all the power companies that year was 625. That year, 2012, we had Sandy (and Hurricane Irene the year before) and the Great Recession. People didn’t like much of anything, especially power companies.

Since then, however, there have been no great disasters. So in this year’s survey, now with oil prices coming down, the average for all the companies is 677. People around the country feel a little more kindly toward power companies. And now PSEG-LI scores 595.

Even though the spread between PSEG and the average power company widened during the last two years, from 73 points behind to 82, it’s also true that PSEG-LI’s score went up from the earlier survey to this survey by more than any other utility.

Only a company which really wants you to sit back and enjoy a whopping 4 percent delivery charge rate increase in your power bill guaranteed every year for three years beginning in 2016 would want you to look at these facts from that upside down perspective.

We’re #1. We’re #1.

Mr. Thiele wants to know, and I want to know—who paid the printing bill so PSEG could tell us how much we love them?

Take a guess.

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