AEP Sustainability - Customer Experience

Our Commitment to Customer Access & Affordability

At AEP, understanding the needs and preferences of our customers is critical to our ability to deliver safe, clean, reliable and affordable energy. We are working to meet and engage with customers through their channel of choice while expanding programs, digital capabilities and clean energy offerings that are inclusive and accessible to all customers. This includes personalized engagements and enhanced self-service options that deliver a modern, convenient and customer-friendly experience. We are also being mindful that our clean energy transition doesn’t leave our customers behind. It’s important to put mechanisms in place to avoid creating energy inequality and provide our customers equal access to clean and modern energy options.

We continue working with our state regulators to offer creative solutions that help customers manage their energy use as well as pay their bills. This includes providing flexible payment options to help them maintain electric service without building up large past-due balances that they would have to pay all at once. We have been communicating with customers facing disconnection using different methods, including email, letters, texts, voice mail messages, social media and door hangers, encouraging them to contact us if they need help paying their bills. Previous standards for payment plan arrangements and extensions have been adjusted, including self-service options, so more customers can get the help they need. Disconnecting customers is always our last resort, and customers who work with us on a payment plan will not be disconnected.

Energy Affordability & Assistance

It is our responsibility to deliver electric service to every customer within our service territory. We understand financial hardships can make it difficult for some of our customers to pay their energy bills, especially within our geographic footprint where 96% of our customers live in counties where the median income is below the national average. At AEP, we are committed to keeping our customers connected and providing access to additional assistance if needed. In addition to payment assistance, we offer flexible payment options, including pre-pay and basing required customer payments on their previous year’s energy use to help customers better manage their energy bills.

As the COVID-19 pandemic headed into its second year, its impact continued to be felt by our customers. In 2021, we received more than 31,000 pledges totaling more than $15 million in energy assistance from our self-serve agency websites. The funding available to support our energy assistance programs comes from a variety of sources, including the government, social service agencies and voluntary customer contributions. Income guidelines determine eligibility. In addition, government-sponsored energy assistance programs provided approximately $135 million in federal and private energy assistance to our customers across our service territory in 2021 – a 47% increase compared to 2020.

Throughout our service territory, we help customers gain access to energy assistance. Our success rests on building strong partnerships with community action agencies, community-based organizations, faith-based organizations and food banks. For example, through Home Energy Aid Month, Public Service Company of Oklahoma teams up with The Salvation Army, City of Tulsa and other local utilities to raise awareness and support for area residents who need temporary assistance to pay their home heating or cooling bill. This annual event helps thousands of qualified customers across Oklahoma facing financial hardships to pay for their energy bills, which is administered through the Salvation Army.

Learn more about AEP’s customer assistance programs:

No matter how our customers choose to connect with us, we’re dedicated to responding to their needs more efficiently and cost-effectively.

Communicating with Customers

In today’s digital world, there are countless ways to communicate. AEP customers can reach us through multiple channels, including web, social media, two-way text and automated phone system as well as calling our customer care team. No matter how our customers choose to connect with us, we’re dedicated to responding to their needs more efficiently and cost-effectively.

We are continuously striving to meet the rising expectations of our customers and support more sophisticated customer interactions across various channels. This includes giving customers the ability to reach us without the need to speak with an agent. We continue to refine a digital assistant named Aepril, which is accessible through our website or our automated phone system and offers an automated way to complete common tasks. Reporting power outages, paying an electric bill or setting up payment arrangements are a few examples of tasks customers can complete without the assistance of a person. We are evaluating other easy-to-use self-service options.

AEP Ohio was recognized as a “Customer Champion” in the 2021 Cogent Syndicated Utility Trusted Brand & Customer Engagement Residential study. This marks the fourth consecutive year that AEP Ohio was named among the industry’s best in terms of interacting with customers in meaningful and effective ways. Survey results indicated that utilities such as AEP Ohio have increased customer engagement during the COVID-19 pandemic by focusing more on their customers, their communities and the environment.

Energy Management

We believe customers should be empowered to make decisions on how to optimize their energy experience. This is why we help customers better understand and manage their energy usage through energy efficiency programs and offerings. Today, AEP provides our customers with access to a variety of energy management tools to help them accomplish these goals. These tools keep our customers informed through proactive energy usage alerts and provide personalized energy efficiency tips and programs. This includes bill comparisons, home and business energy analysis, account information and preferences, and high-bill alerts, empowering customers to make changes in their energy use during the current billing period to keep their monthly electric bill affordable.

Our continued investments in grid modernization, such as smart meter technology, further enhance our ability to provide customers with energy management tools and programs. Smart meters use secure, two-way wireless communication to measure and record electricity usage and send the information from a customer’s meter to AEP. This information gives us the ability to develop and deliver highly personalized solutions, such as high bill alerts.

As of January 2022, AEP has deployed smart meter technology to 63% of our customers. Several of our operating companies, including Indiana Michigan Power, plan to have their smart meters fully deployed by year-end.

In addition, AEP offers our customers a robust set of energy efficiency programs to help them manage their energy usage. These programs include a wide variety of home weatherization, lighting, HVAC, and commercial and industrial equipment upgrades and process improvements to get the most value out of their energy usage.

AEP’s energy efficiency programs and efforts have been recognized among some of the best in the industry for several years. In 2022, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced its ENERGY STAR® Partner of the Year awards for businesses and organizations that have made outstanding contributions to protecting the environment through superior energy efficiency achievements. AEP Texas, Public Service Company of Oklahoma and Southwestern Electric Power Company (SWEPCO – Arkansas) were named ENERGY STAR Partner of the Year – Sustained Excellence winners. SWEPCO (Louisiana and Texas) was recognized for the ENERGY STAR Partner of the Year – Energy Efficiency Program Delivery award, and Appalachian Power received the Award for Excellence in ENERGY STAR Marketing.

AEP is also committed to doing our part to operate more efficiently while reducing our carbon footprint through ongoing reduction of energy consumption within our operations. In 2021, we reduced our kilowatt-hour (kWh) usage, normalized for weather, by approximately 38%, compared with the 2007 baseline, in nearly 215 buildings. This resulted in approximately $7.9 million in cost savings. Energy consumption reductions are mostly achieved through equipment investments, such as new lighting, heating and cooling systems, control systems installations, and employee education. More recently, however, the shift to remote work and a decrease in the number of AEP facilities also contributed to the reduction in energy usage at some of our facilities.

Today, we have 18 LEED-certified company facilities across our service territory, demonstrating our commitment to reducing carbon emissions, improving efficiency, saving money and creating healthy workspaces for our employees. In addition, since 2016, we have installed a total of 275 electric vehicle (EV) charging stations at several of our facilities across our service territory, making charging easy and efficient for our employees.

Investing in Tech to Keep the Power Flowing

Power outages are one of the top reasons customers contact us today. Whether due to a storm, a tree or an animal on the power line, or a vehicle accident, outages can be disruptive and inconvenient. During customer outages, we work to restore power as safely and quickly as possible. Keeping our customers’ lights on is our top priority, which is why investing in the electric grid is so important.

Technology advancements allow for our system to better communicate with us and with our customers. This includes informing us when equipment is about to fail or does fail and, when outages occur, providing the location of the outage; and the ability to prevent a domino effect of additional outages. We are able to track customer outages in real-time, 24 hours a day. This helps us better communicate with our customers, including keeping them updated on our restoration efforts through our outage map or through text and email alerts.

In 2021, smart grid technology investments helped AEP Ohio customers avoid 47 extended outages equaling more than 4 million minutes (65,000 hours) of outage time. AEP Ohio plans to invest more than $220 million over the next seven years in smart grid equipment across its service territory during Phase 3 of its smart grid program. This expansion will ensure that all AEP Ohio customers benefit from smart grid technologies.

Leveraging Tech to Better Restore Power

We are using technology advancements to reinvent what it means to be a modern energy company. This includes improving our field mobility through data and analytics to solve problems, optimize processes and discover new business opportunities. For example, we are improving the technological ecosystem used by many field and back-office employees during their day-to-day jobs and during major storm restoration efforts. This includes digitally collecting information when our assets are damaged and tracking frontline workers to more efficiently and safely assign work, rest and travel schedules, including lodging when our crews are traveling to assist with storm restoration. In addition, our field employees will have the ability to take photos of a physical asset, such as an overhead line, enter the asset information and associated information into a mapping tool, and make the information widely viewable by other interested parties. The objective is to provide our field workers with the opportunity to do their work more efficiently while seamlessly communicating across all business functions. These efforts enhance safety, reliability and customer value.

Supporting Customers’ Clean Energy Investments

Many customers are pursuing installations of various Distributed Energy Resources (DERs) such as solar panels and battery storage systems. We support our customers who are evaluating installing their own DERs. We launched a new, easy-to-use solar calculator providing residential customers with accurate and objective information on the benefits and costs of rooftop solar energy. With information from the solar calculator, customers can make fully informed decisions about their options. In only a few minutes, they will better understand their home’s solar potential through a personal assessment.

Building a Portfolio of Energy Options

AEP’s competitive businesses offer the opportunity to integrate end-to-end customer solutions in a rapidly evolving energy marketplace. This includes projects and technologies to decarbonize, improve resilience, advance energy efficiency and provide clean solutions to customers at a competitive price.

As an experienced developer, owner, off-taker and operator of sustainable energy solutions across the U.S., AEP has competitive businesses that serve customers and communities from Hawaii to Vermont. AEP Energy is committed to meeting customers’ clean energy needs and in early 2021, announced an agreement with the City of Columbus to pursue and source new renewable power generation to meet their 100% Ohio-based clean energy goal. The “Clean Energy Columbus” program will serve residential and small-business customers as well as provide energy efficiency and workforce development initiatives to underserved communities in Columbus. The new renewable energy projects will support more than 4,500 jobs in Ohio and support building a diverse and local pipeline into clean energy jobs of the future.

As we introduce more renewable generation into our energy mix, the need to invest in energy storage grows. Energy storage can help smooth the flow of power as generation from intermittent resources such as wind and solar varies over time. Storage technology supports local reliability and demand response for our customers, and it is integrated into our distribution and resource planning processes. AEP’s competitive businesses executed and finalized two energy storage projects with the City of Martinsville, Virginia, and South River, New Jersey. Each project consists of Li-Ion batteries that will directly serve customers to reduce their electric costs during peak load events. The projects will be placed into service in the first half of 2022.