Environment Local News

Independent Audit Finds LG&E, KU Customer Service Lacking

An independent review ordered by the Public Service Commission has found Kentucky Utilities and Louisville Gas and Electric’s customer service falling short of what is expected. The report was released today.

The review found that satisfaction with the utility’s customer service has steadily declined since 2008, and that call centers around the state aren’t meeting internal goals for answering calls quickly.

PSC Spokesman Andrew Melnykovych says there aren’t actual numeric standards the companies have to meet in terms of customer service, but:

“It’s a standard in the sense that utilities under Kentucky law are required to provide an adequate level of service and that includes things such as addressing customer complaints in a timely fashion and so forth,” he said.

The independent audit company will work with the utilities to develop an action plan. LG&E spokesman Chip Keeling says his company has faced several stressful events over the past few years that may have affected customer service and call volume, like major storms and a rate case. He says another factor might have been relying too much on new technology. “I think we were expecting our investment, and we did make significant investments in technology, would be picked up by our customers and they didn’t subscribe to the technology that we were driving as quickly as we thought they might,” he said.

But the audit mentions significant problems with the technology on LG&E’s end, like computer systems that are difficult for call center workers to use and computer malfunctions with meter reading and discontinuing accounts.

Keeling says the company will follow through with the report’s suggestions to improve customer service.

Local News

Two Dead In Shooting At LG&E Facility-UPDATE

Louisville police say a Louisville Gas and Electric Co. employee fatally shot his supervisor at a service center in Louisville before turning the gun on himself.

Authorities tell the Courier-Journal that 52 year old Jeremy W. “Billy” Davis opened fire on 53 year old supervisor Andre Johnson, then took his own life.

Sgt. Robert Biven says the men worked in “close proximity” to each other at the center on Jennings Lane, but police have not said what may have led to the shooting.

The center in southeast Louisville is used to dispatch crews for work at substations and some gas operations.

Police were also investigating the fatal shootings of two men in the Smoketown neighborhood Tuesday morning in an unrelated case.

Local News Next Louisville

LG&E, KU Sale Complete

The sale of Louisville Gas and Electric Company and Kentucky Utilities to Pennsylvania-based PPL is complete.

PPL acquired the two companies from parent E.ON U.S. for $7.6 billion. The deal was approved by the Kentucky Public Service Commission last month.

Company spokesperson Chip Keeling in Louisville says there’s not much noticable local impact from the deal.

“Our employees and customers and stakeholders really won’t see any change. It’ll be the same service we’ve always provided,” he said.

Under the terms of the deal, PPL has agreed not to raise base utility rates for three years. It will also keep the two utilities at the current headquarters for at least 15 years.

Local News

PSC Holds Hearing On Proposed LG&E, KU Sale

The Kentucky Public Service Commission held a hearing Wednesday on the proposed sale of Louisville Gas and Electric Company and Kentucky Utilities to Pennsylvania-based PPL Corporation.

During the public comment portion of the hearing, several people, including Ike Thacker, spoke against the sale, instead urging public ownership of the utiltiies.

“Because, even with regulated private utilities, a fair rate of return is allowed, and that is profit, folks, which public owned ones don’t have to have,” Thacker said.

The commission also interviewed executives from PPL about the proposed $7.6 billion sale. Company officials have agreed not to raise base rates before 2013 if the sale is approved.

The PSC is expected to decide by month’s end whether to approve the deal. The utilities are currently owned by E.ON U.S.

Environment Local News Next Louisville

U of L Gets $373,000 Energy Rebate

The University of Louisville has received a $373,000 rebate from Louisville Gas and Electric Company for reducing electricity consumption on the school’s Belknap Campus.

The money comes from an incentive program that encourages commercial customers to replace older, less
efficient equipment.

Officials say U of L’s electric bill has dropped about 23-percent since it began an energy-saving project last fall with the Siemens company.

University Vice-President of Business Affairs Larry Owlsley says the rebate will be put back into the project.

“When we entered into the program, we estimated how much savings we might get from the rebate. We calculated that in the cost of the equipment we purchased, the $21 million we spent, part of that will be paid for through this. It’s a good thing we got the check because we were counting on it,” he said.

U of L plans to expand its energy saving program to its Health Sciences and Shelby campuses.

Local News Next Louisville

Group Pushing For Local Ownership Of LG&E

A Louisville civil rights organization continues its push for local ownership of Louisville Gas and Electric Company.

The proposed sale of the utility by E.On U.S. to Pennsylvania-based PPL will be the focus of a hearing by the Kentucky Public Service Commission in early September. The PSC is expected to rule later in the month on whether the sale can proceed.

Clifton English with the Kentucky Alliance against Racial and Political Repression wants local officials to have another opportunity to purchase LG and E.

“We call on the commission to reject this proposed sale because who owns LG&E will affect everyone in this community,” he said.

The alliance says public ownership would keep costs down.

Mayor Jerry Abramson says the city made a competitive bid for the utility in April, but hit a snag over a multi-million dollar ‘break-up’ fee that would have been forefeited if the sale had fallen through.

Local News Next Louisville

Proposed LG&E Coal Ash Dump Discussed

A proposal by Louisville Gas and Electric Company to build a new coal combustion waste dump at its Cane Run facility in west Louisville was the focus of a Metro Council informational hearing Thursday.

LG& E is asking state regulators for permission to build the dump on 60 acres adjacent to its current disposal site, which is running out of room.

The current containtment dam has been classified as “high hazard” by the EPA, but the utility company’s Mike Winkler told the Metro Council’s Energy and Environment Committee that the term can be misleading.

“It has nothing to do with the structural integrity or the likeliness of that dam to fail,” he said. Under those guidelines, the structural integrity of the dam was excellent, it got the highest rating that the EPA could possibly give. So it’s just the hazards associated with a dam failure, not the likelihood of a dam failure.”

Environmental groups and people who live nearby say they’re worried about, among other things, the possibility of heavy metals and other hazardous materials leaking into groundwater and the nearby Ohio River from current and future dumps.

Arts and Humanities Local News

Library to Get Computers with Grant from E.ON U.S.

By Elizabeth Kramer

The Louisville Free Public Library’s main branch will soon be getting nearly 100 computers its purchasing with a new grant.

The $150,000 grant from E.ON U.S., which owns the Louisville Gas and Electric Company, is helping pay for the computers. They’ll be installed into three areas of the library’s main branch that were constructed after the severe damage from last summer’s flood.

Craig Buthod is the library’s director.

“We’ll be putting in touch screen, large screen, computers,” Buthod says. “They’ll go into teen library and the children’s library and they’ll be used for access to the Internet, access to homework materials.”

Buthod says computers will also equip a new adult education center.

“The adult center will have classrooms for teaching basic literacy and intermediate literacy, for GED preparation and for college-bound classes all taught by Jefferson County Public Schools,” Buthod says.

The adult education center is slated to open in October.

Local News

LG&E Customers Weigh In On Rate Hike Proposal

By Rick Howlett

Louisville Gas and Electric customers lined up Monday evening to comment on rate increases requested by the utility.

The hearing at Male High School was conducted by the Kentucky Public Service Commission, which is holding meetings across the state on rate hikes proposed by LG&E and its sister company, Kentucky Utilities.        

The utilities say they’re needed to pay for infrastructure improvements and for damage caused by recent weather disasters. 

Louisville resident Vernon Cook says he understands the need to meet those expenses, but the hikes should be based on energy consumption, rather than imposed uniformly on all customers

“This allows fair competition with other forms of energy and it puts the economic burden on customers that consume the most energy, thereby avoiding an unfair economic burden on the poor,” he said.

LG&E is asking for an increase of about 12-percent for residential electricity. It’s also proposing a monthly natural gas rate increase of about $4.65, plus a hike in its monthly gas meter fee.

The rate case is not affected by the companies’ pending sale to PPL Corporation.

A ruling from the PSC is expected this summer.

Local News

PPL Chief: Utilities Purchase "Transformational"

By Rick Howlett

The chairman of PPL Corporation is calling his company’s pending purchase of Louisville Gas and Electric Company and Kentucky Utilities a transformational event.

James Miller says the acquisition will bring together three of the best utility companies in the United States and turn PPL into a more geographically diverse operation.

“Most importantly, it rebalances our business mix. it does it in one step. It improves our financial stability, it improves our credit profile, Miller told reporters in a conference call Thursday morning.

He says with the purchase, Pennsylvania-based PPL will serve nearly five million electricty customers in the U.S. and Great Britain.                            

The sale is expected to become final at the end of the year.