Seattle City Councilmember Bruce Harrell

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Dec 06 2009

City Light Reaches Elite Status: 2009 Accomplishments

Our Energy and Technology Committee recently reviewed City Light’s key milestones for the 2009 year. I am very pleased to report that City Light has been rated as an “Elite Utility” in terms of customer service by J.D. Power and Associates.

Customer Service: City Light continues to improve their customer service. From a base of 84,000 streetlights, in 2008, 19,067 were reported out. In 2009, 12,799 were reported out, which is a 6,268 reduction. The reduction is even greater when we look back to 2004 where there were 23,367 outages. Based on our policy directives, the Utility is on track to achieve a 10-14 day turnaround on streetlight repair in 2010 and outages have been significantly reduced. In addition, phase two of a group re-lamping scheme will be completed by the end of 2009, with phases three and four on track for completion in 2010 and 2011. We have seen great improvement on the streetlight issue and our plan calls for City Light to improve even more. Also, our push for E-billing has become a reality and to date, 26,000 customers have signed up so far. In 2010, I have added “Customer Service” to the ETC committee’s responsibilities as a means to examine City Light, Seattle Public Utilities and the city’s Customer Service Bureau to conduct a “best practices” approach to customer service.

System Reliability. System reliability continues to significantly improve. The average number of outages per customer has fallen below the Utility goal of one per year. We continue to examine the problem areas in our City with an aging underground system and have allocated substantial budget dollars toward their repair. We are also addressing this by injecting gel into the cables. This strengthens the integrity of the cable and extends its life at a lower cost than replacing.

We all remember the Hanukkah eve storm of 2006. City Light‘s outage management system will be in place for the storm season of 2010. The goal of this system is to improve customer communications and the accuracy of estimated outage duration. Since trimming trees effects outages, tree trimming continues to be a priority of the Utility and in 2009, 250 line miles were trimmed.

In 2009 we saw Standard & Poor’s (S&P) upgrade City Light’s bond rating from A+ to AA- and Moody’s Investors Service upgraded the Utility’s rating from Aa3 to Aa2. This is an outstanding accomplishment and had not been achieved since 2001. Its debt to capitalization ratio has been lowered from a high of 85% in 2003, to 63% today. This downward trend is outstanding.

City Light is on the cutting edge of environmental stewardship. For the fifth straight year City Light has achieved the status of being carbon neutral and as of August 2009, customers were already saving 6.81 average megawatts. Other environmental accomplishments include the purchase of nine acres along the Skagit River to protect fish and wildlife habitat; the Diablo Wastewater plant was recognized as an “Outstanding Wastewater Treatment Plant” from the Department of Ecology; and two hybrid lift trucks have been added to the fleet. This addition will result in 25% fuel savings and 60% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to a similar diesel truck.

In the end, it is the people who make City Light stand out. The utility boasts a diverse workforce where 32% of people in management are of color and 40% are women. In the skilled trades, 29% are people of color and 11% are women. City Light has also won 14 prestigious awards for excellence in communications.

I am proud to conclude that City Light continues to be positioned as a reliable source of power, an environmental steward and a publicly-owned asset in which we can all take pride.

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