Every year, our Lead Director of AEP’s Board of Directors engages in a proactive shareholder outreach program with interested investors, along with a small company management delegation, to discuss matters from environment, social and governance (ESG) issues to governance issues and other areas of interest.
AEP Transmission’s project outreach team uses open house events to gather input from the the public and land owners.
In October 2017, we were invited by the U.S. SIF (Social Investment Forum) to share AEP’s transformation story and ESG performance to their members. We intend to organize similar calls annually as a “fifth quarter” call.
In 2017, AEP piloted a new ESG/Sustainability reporting template that helps provide electric industry investors with more uniform and consistent ESG and sustainability-related metrics. The qualitative and quantitative report was developed by member companies of the Edison Electric Institute (EEI). The first formal launch of the template will be issued in 2018; the pilot gave companies a chance to test the format and data collection process and receive valuable feedback from investors, credit rating agencies and research organizations.
AEP is a member of the steering committee that helped to lead the effort in collaboration with institutional investors who specialize in asset management, ESG/sustainability, investment banking, and buy-side and sell-side research. Electric company officials from various disciplines, including accounting, environment, ESG/sustainability, finance, treasury, investor relations and legal developed the pilot metrics collaboratively. See AEP’s EEI ESG/Sustainability Reporting Pilot Template.
Customers are increasingly engaging AEP around sustainability. They have business goals that include renewable energy, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, efficient energy management, and a sustainable supply chain. Customers want to partner with AEP to help them achieve these goals and, most importantly, empower them to manage their energy use and costs. Through our regulated companies and competitive businesses, we are working with our customers to find solutions that match their needs.
In 2017, AEP joined the World Resources Institute’s Clean Power Council. This group of utilities and some of their large commercial and industrial customers are collaborating on a shared goal to achieve an efficient and economic transition to clean energy resources. The Council is also focused on enabling technologies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions—while growing their businesses across America. Participants represent technology, automotive, retail, and manufacturing sectors.
AEP regularly engages with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) within the environmental community on issues ranging from our carbon profile, to new technologies, energy efficiency, renewable energy, and the evolution of our business model. In 2017, we held one large group meeting and followed up with additional one-on-one meetings or conference calls throughout the year.
These are important touchpoints to ensure we understand their issues and they have accurate information about AEP. For example, in 2017, we facilitated a tour of the Mountaineer Plant in West Virginia for the Ohio Environmental Council. Seeing first-hand the complex process of producing electricity can be informative and spark productive dialogue and potentially lead to collaboration.
From hosting open houses to launch new transmission projects to developing a resource plan that meets a community’s energy and capacity needs, AEP is committed to being open, accessible, honest and responsive. AEP Transmission’s project outreach team is an example of the type of proactive outreach we engage in across our business. Community outreach is very important to AEP’s transmission business unit, where significant construction impacting the public is under way. AEP Transmission’s project outreach team uses open house events, interactive project websites and other tools to gather input and work with the public, land owners, government agencies, regulators and siting agencies. This proactive approach promotes transparency and two-way communication; ensures compliance with laws and regulations; and gives affected individuals and communities a voice throughout the process. In 2017, project outreach specialists supported 308 AEP projects and hosted 82 community open house events, inside and outside of our traditional service territory.
Community Outreach for Other Projects
Outside of the AEP system, we use similar principles to engage the community and evaluate feedback. In 2017, Transource’s Independence Energy Connection project in parts of Pennsylvania and Maryland presented hundreds of miles of route options for communities and landowners to review during two rounds of open house events. Through mailers and public notices, Transource publicized the events, and more than 1,000 people attended the 10 open houses, providing more than 2,500 comments. We make every effort to be responsive.
Another avenue of stakeholder engagement occurs in our integrated resource planning (IRP) process. Most of our states have formal stakeholder processes for developing these resource plans, while others are more informal. In all cases, the intent is to be inclusive, listen to stakeholder ideas and concerns, answer their questions and consider their input as we develop resource plans for our jurisdictions.
What We Learn from Stakeholders
Through ongoing dialogue with our many different stakeholders, we learn about what is important to them, what they think of AEP and where the potential opportunities for collaboration exist. Key learnings are:
- Awareness of AEP’s transformation progress is not as high as we would like, making proactive engagement valuable for AEP and our many stakeholders.
- Increasingly, there is greater interest in the “S” in ESG – social issues.
- Engaging the public is critical to a project’s success; people want to be included, informed and heard.
- Stakeholders want a voice in determining their energy future.
- Outreach and transparency are important to building trust.
- Customers appreciate AEP’s commitment to a clean energy future and want to collaborate with us to help them achieve their sustainability goals.
- Social and governance issues are increasingly important to many different stakeholders.