Skip to content

Akins, Tierney discuss AEP’s first quarter results on national business programs

AEP CEO Nick Akins (right) appeared on CNBC’s “Closing Bell” program April 23.

Nick Akins, AEP chairman, president and chief executive officer, appeared on CNBC’s “Closing Bell” news program April 23 and Brian Tierney, AEP’s executive vice president and chief financial officer, was on Bloomberg Radio to discuss the company’s first quarter financial results, the impact an interest rate hike would have on the industry, EPA regulations and more.

When asked about the cold winter weather boosting AEP’s first quarter revenues, Akins quipped, “The electric utility industry, we’re an odd bunch. We like the cold weather and we like the extreme heat, as well. The cold weather certainly contributed to the first quarter, there’s no question about it.”

Tierney expanded on the company’s strong quarter, telling Bloomberg Radio that: “All of our business segments were up for the quarter. In our regulated properties, we executed on our rate and investment plans, we exercised some of the cost discipline we have been talking about for years and benefited from colder weather. In our competitive businesses, we took advantage of the opportunities that were out there, from either the weather or the marketplace, and added to results from there, beating last year’s results by six cents on the competitive side. So all our businesses performed well and we’re off to a great start in 2015.”

Would the potential for rising interest rates this year dampen the spirits of the utility industry?

“There’s always concern about that, but the way Janet Yellen (chair of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System) has been dealing with the interest rate issue, some of that may already be priced in, so we’ll see what the ultimate effect really is,” said Akins. “There’s nothing much we can do about interest rates other than with the borrowing and insuring we do, and we’ll continue to do that wisely.

“So we’ll continue with the emphasis we have on investing in transmission, our regulated companies, infrastructure and wires to make sure we improve customer service. That’s what we’re about,” Akins added.

Turning to Environmental Protection Agency compliance, Akins expressed concern about the tight timeline proposed in the agency’s Clean Power Plan and Tierney discussed the company’s generation retirement plan with Bloomberg Radio.

“The industry and AEP are concerned about the 2020 target that was set out in the proposed rules by the EPA,” said Akins. “2030 is much more reasonable, but 2020, the states have to be able to look at their own resources, and then you have to have time to construct additional resources as a result. So that’s going to take some time and we need to make sure the EPA ultimately, in the final rule, observes that kind of requirement for infrastructure buildout and the state processes for approval.”

“There are a number of environmental regulations that go into effect at the end of May this year,” Tierney said. “In response to those, we are retiring about 5,500 megawatts of capacity, and it’s taken us years to get ready with transmission additions and other environmental controls we put on our other power plants to get ready for that event that’s going to happen at the end of next month.”

Picway Plant: retiring after 89 years of service

The coal-fired Picway Plant is located approximately 12 miles south of downtown Columbus, Ohio, along the Scioto River.

(Story by Rachel Hammer)

Picway Plant’s story is about steel, concrete and coal. It’s about boilers and turbines.

Most of all, Picway’s story is about its employees who, over the plant’s 89-year history, worked through innumerable challenges to provide Ohioans with a reliable supply of affordable electric energy. Indeed, their efforts have enabled industry, developed communities and provided families with comfort and convenience.

The plant’s last operating unit, Unit 5, will retire May 31.

               Picway Plant Key DatesOct. 24, 1926 – Picway Units 1 and 2, 30,000 kilowatts (kW) each, began operation to assure “the City of Columbus … an ample generating capacity in a plant advantageously located, designed in accordance with the latest power station practices and capable of producing power most economically.”

1943 – Unit 3, also 30,000 kW, finally comes on line. Its original service date was March 1942, “However, owing to the many priority problems growing out of the war emergency, the necessary materials were not received on time, therefore delaying completion of the project…” for one year. It is unconfirmed that the #3 turbine had been built for, but not used by, the Navy war effort.

1949 – 30,000 kW Unit 4 begins operation.

November 1955 — The plant reaches its full capacity of 220,000 kW with the addition of the 100,000 kW Unit 5.

1972 – 1981 – Units 1-4 retire.

May 2015 – Picway 5 retires.

The spirit and resourcefulness of Picway employees has kept Unit 5 operating as long as it has. They met challenges that would be significant at any time, but are particularly noteworthy because many occurred far into the unit’s operating life.

Picway employees clearly demonstrated their tenacity in the 1999/2000 timeframe when changes in the industry brought new approaches to generation dispatch and only the most efficient and cost-effective units would operate. They were challenged to adopt “new, competitive-type thinking” to find ways to keep the unit competitive and be able to respond more effectively to needs. And respond they did.

“Employees initiated numerous creative and aggressive actions to help the plant survive. Every one of them clearly demonstrated a commercial-like business approach to generating electricity,” said former plant manager John Mazzone, now managing director, Fleet Performance and I&M.

In this timeframe, Picway:

  • Became the first AEP plant to institute sub-minimum loading by achieving a 10 percent load, allowing it to stay online and dramatically reduce out-of-merit or off-peak cost operation;
  • Tuned its controls to achieve the fleet’s fastest load ramping, reducing startup and shut down times by several hours and allowing the unit to respond to system load conditions, strengthening its ancillary value;
  • Increased its versatility by making adjustments needed to be able to burn a wider variety of coals (low sulfur), which also provided the plant with valuable sulfur dioxide credits;
  • Minimized load curtailments due to pulverizer outages for rebuilds or repairs by revising operating mill motor amp limits; and
  • Improved processes to safely achieve a record-setting superheater tube repair — 13 hours from breaker to breaker.

 

As a result, in 2000, Picway Plant went from last in AEP’s dispatch order at ~$28 per megawatthour, to a middle-of-the-pack ~$16/MWh.

Early history: coal by rail

In its early years, Picway received its coal by rail. The plant’s extensive rail system included a rotary dumper to flip the cars to empty their loads.

Initially, electric locomotives provided coal and ash handling. One locomotive was powered by steam rather than coal. It could take a charge of steam directly from one of Picway’s boilers generally sufficient to operate for the rest of the day.

In 1955, the line was converted from steam to diesel.The company discontinued rail deliveries to Picway with the retirement of two units in 1972.

The rail system was called back into action briefly during the blizzard of 1978. Trucks could not get through the snow. Picway employees met the challenge with a creative solution: they rented a locomotive and again received coal by rail.

The tracks have since been removed; the ties sold. The railroad bridge over Route 23 also has been demolished.

On June 22, 1951, fire broke out in Picway Unit 3, taking the entire plant out of service.

1951: Unit 3 fire

At 1:59 p.m. on June 22, fire broke out in Picway Unit 3. The entire plant was disabled, representing a loss of 37.5 percent of Columbus & Southern Ohio Electric Company’s rated generating capacity.

Cyril Stickel, a 39-year employee, was taking his 2 p.m. reading in the turbine room and was about 20 feet away from the #3 turbine when the blast occurred. He ran to the office and yelled that the turbine was on fire.

According to the incident report, the fire occurred “when a thermometer-well worked loose in the bearing oil pressure line at the turbine floor near the governor mechanics, spraying the oil onto a hot surface of the turbine…The intense heat melted window glass, burned through a section of roof and warped roof trusses, inflicting extensive damage to the building by partial collapse of roof sidewalls. Practically all control cables and switchboards were destroyed.” There were no injuries.

Most interesting, according to a July 12 press release, “Service interruption was substantially minimized by the splendid assistance and cooperation of the Ohio Power Company. An interconnection with the company’s system west of Lancaster, Ohio, was completed within a few hours after the fire….” With temporary installation of “thousands of feet of control wiring and manually operated switchboards, one unit was restored to service on June 18, a second unit on June 30, and a third on July 8.”

Picway Plant also experienced much smaller switchgear fires in the 1990s.

Scioto River flooding

Picway Plant employees worked through at least two major flooding events.

1959 flood — Retiree Stickel was working the 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. shift in February 1959. Drenching rains falling on frozen ground created heavy runoff and flooding on the Scioto River and Big Walnut Creek.

“The power plant area was flooded and became isolated except for the rail system, which washed out later that night and was no longer useable. The water also washed out part of the rail trestle over Route 23, along with the southbound lanes.

“We were isolated for two days and unable to get any relief, help or even food.

“There was an employee with severe diabetes who needed his medication. The company contacted the Ohio National Guard and they used a helicopter to bring in the medication he needed.

“We (our shift) were able to go home two days later by riding a farm wagon through four-feet-deep water out to Route 23 and to our cars which had been moved before it flooded.”

In 2005, water from the Scioto River entered Picway through piping that had been retired but not capped.

2005 flood — Picway employees addressed a critical situation in 2005 when the Scioto River flooded. The water level rose to the point that water flowed into the plant through out-of-service piping that had not been capped, flooding the basement level.

Wet coal also challenged the plant, yet employees maintained the unit at minimum load with all four pulverizers in service. Employees later took the unit out of service as the water level approached the electrical panel. Had service to the fuel oil pumps been lost, operators would not have been able to stabilize the flames inside the furnace, creating a threat of explosion.

The blizzard of January 1978

The storm started Wednesday night and was in full force when Stickel arrived for the 7 a.m. shift. By mid-afternoon, only one or two workers were able to get to the plant, so most of the first shift stayed and worked through the next 16 hours.

“By Friday, we got minimal relief, but not enough for a full shift, so we had to nap and keep going through Friday and on to Saturday,” Stickel said. “We finally got a full shift relief on Saturday and could then go home, which was not easy because of the snow drifts.”

Stickel added that they used a bulldozer to go the nearest restaurant – LeMays in Shadesville – for food late on Friday. “Not exactly legal, but it worked,” he said.

Walnut peaking units

For many years, Picway Plant remotely managed the gas-peaking units located on the site of the old Walnut Steam Plant in Groveport, currently part of the Dolan Laboratories campus. The jet engines were black start units.

* * *

The dedication, focus and teamwork of Picway Plant staff, along with the size and location of the unit, supported Picway’s selection to host a number of process tests over the years.

                Picway 5 Construction

Unit 5 took approximately two years and $13 million to build. The project required 1,500 tons of steel and 11,600 cubic yards of concrete. In addition to expanding the plant’s main building, a 143-foot tall open steel structure was built to support the outdoor-type boiler. The turbo-generator weighed more than 400 tons.

Unit 5’s general contractor was Townsend and Bottum, Inc., of Michigan, and electrical work was by The Electric Power Equipment Company of Columbus.

The dedication, focus and teamwork of Picway Plant staff, along with the size and location of the unit, supported Picway’s selection to host a number of process tests over the years.

Picway AED project

In the 1980s, Picway was the test site for a coal-cleaning project that could “lead to an alternative technology for long-term utilization of Ohio coal.” It was the first in-line application of a dry electrostatic process developed by Advanced Energy Dynamics (AED). Approximately 10 percent of the coal burned was processed through the test tower built next to the boiler structure.

At this time, through AEP’s Energy Services group, AEP contracted engineering, design and, in Picway’s case, plant operations in a consulting role to outside parties. Plant staff members embraced this project and provided services in order to increase the plant’s operations usefulness. While the process was a unique technology application, the can-do attitude of employees was the biggest benefit of this project, noted Kevin Stogran, now manging director, Cyber Risk and Security Services.

On the selection of Picway for this project, Stogran said, “As the Energy Services project manager for the AED project, I knew Picway staff was willing and able to provide effectives services to AED.” He noted that Picway employees’ positive attitude carried on throughout the plant’s operational life.

Alternative fuel burns

Picway 5 also hosted two biomass co-fire projects. The purpose of the projects was to reduce fuel costs and emissions, as well as produce renewable energy. One test involved waste sawdust blended with coal. The second project fired a wood and grass “pellet” product.

The tests were successful. However, the economics were not favorable and the projects did not move to commercialization.

Picway also tested biodiesel to assist the company in the generation of Renewable Energy Credits.

Initial testing began in May 2010. The final technology demonstration was to start up the unit from a cold start. It was successfully completed on the first attempt in June 2010. Picway burned biodiesel until mid-2013.

It wasn’t exactly an alternative fuels burn, but in 1974, the Franklin County Prosecutor’s office called upon Picway to help destroy about 275 pounds of heroin, cocaine and marijuana with value of about $2.3 million.

Environmental stewardship

Picway Plant employees always went the extra mile for environmental compliance and stewardship. They established a good working relationship with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

For example, in the 1970s, while most power plants in the state were required to conduct a 316(b) fish impingement study, Picway was not required to do so.

Ohio EPA conducted several water quality/biological studies in the Scioto River at Picway over the years.

In the 1980s, EPA was concerned about the impacts of two City of Columbus sewage plants. As Picway is immediately downstream of the facilities, EPA conducted its water quality tests there. EPA concluded its studies in 1996, at which time it indicated that the river met all applicable water-quality standards.

In the 1990s, Picway Plant provided Class C fly ash as the key ingredient of the backfill material Flash Fill. When Picway (and other units) later added low NOx burners, the properties of its fly ash became less attractive for use in Flash Fill. AEP sold its Flash Fill business and trademark in 2011.

In 2004, Picway Plant hosted the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife and the National Turkey Federation’s annual wild turkey release. Approximately 30 wild turkeys, once considered endangered, were released at the plant site.

                 Why Picway?Picway Plant is located in Pickaway County, Ohio, so why is the plant’s name Picway? No one seems to know for sure. One explanation is that one of the firms involved in early design and construction was based in another state. Unfamiliar with the Ohio names, Picway may have simply been the result of a misspelling. Please comment if there is another explanation.

The Picway family

Through the years, it has been the spirit of its employees that kept the plant humming.

“This plant has improved the livelihoods of thousands of people,” said John Zyvonoski, control technician senior and one of two employees still on assignment at Picway.

“Picway has always been a family,” said Ted Greene, maintenance supervisor, also on assignment at Picway. “We have always been a close-knit team. Whenever an issue came up, we would work together and do our best to get around it.”

“There have been a lot of laughs, and a lot of crying,” Zyvonoski added.

“I can honestly say that my time and experiences at Picway Plant are some of the fondest of my career,” said Mazzone. “During the time I was at Picway, I believe there was more accomplished there than at any other facility I have ever witnessed.

“There were people who wanted us to close and employees could easily have just packed it in,” he continued. “Instead, they responded to the burning platform and blew everyone away. In my mind, their buy-in to our plan and their actions to execute it, bought Picway an additional 15 years of life and added significant load-following value to AEP’s grid management.”

“The few employees and contractors charged with operating Picway Plant toward the end were very dedicated. They were full of pride for all that they had accomplished over the years and what they were accomplishing in the last few days of operation, and appropriately so,” said Mike Zwick, who became Picway Plant manager following the passing of Mark Borman in 2011. “It was truly amazing watching the dedication of the employees, even as they knew the plant’s run days were limited.” The plant most recently operated through the summer and early fall of 2013.

“One employee told me, ‘We just want to go out of service in style,’ and in my eyes they achieved this goal at the highest level.”

Zwick concluded, “It has been a great honor to be a very small part of the plant life . . . with the credit of the great operational history going out to all the dedicated employees that have served Picway Plant over its life. Great job!”

Contributors: Claudia Banner, Joe Bittinger, Ted Greene, Jim Henry, John Mazzone, Vikki Michalski, Butch (Harold) O’Brien, Walt Raub, Robin Reash, Kevin Stogran, Cyril Stickel, Clinton Stutler, Mike Zwick, John Zyvonoski.

AEP River Operations sponsors visit by CNN’s Hero of the Year

Pregracke and Travis working to clean rivers and riverbanks of debris. Living Lands & Waters photo.

(Story by Rachel Hammer)

AEP’s daily activities rely on water – for cooling and processes and for transportation. Because the company relies so heavily on the water’s availability, the company makes a point of being a good steward of this essential resource.

AEP River Operations recently sponsored a presentation and discussion by Chad Pregracke, president and founder of Living Lands & Waters, for The Ohio State University School of Environment and Natural Resources’ Environmental Professionals Network. Approximately 250 students, faculty and other interested people attended the event. His presentation was both informative and entertaining.

“Chad is a dynamic and extraordinary individual. The values and objectives of his organization in aiding, protecting, preserving and restoring the natural environment and the nation’s major rivers aligns nicely with the environmental philosophy and mission of AEP River Operations,” said Andy Koch, director of Boat Operations Support.

Pregracke said that his mission is simple: to clean up the nation’s rivers one river and one piece of garbage at a time. Pregracke notes that when he says garbage, he doesn’t mean just pop cans, but items like tires, barrels and appliances, including televisions and vehicles.

Pregracke became involved in river cleanup as a teenager. He earned money for college by diving for mussels in the Mississippi River and was frustrated by the amount of trash he encountered. A 10-minute conversation with a local industry executive led to a small sponsorship. A local newspaper, and eventually other media, picked up his story leading to additional sponsorships.

Pregracke with Mike Rowe of CNN. Living Lands & Waters photo.

Pregracke also told his audience about feeling frustrated and defeated in his efforts. Managing fundraising, logistics and trash disposal was not easy. But he thought about the people who had thanked him and about making a difference. “It might be small in the grand scheme of things, but it’s tangible and you can see it,” he said.

He has big plans for Ohioans: he plans to remove 1 million pounds of garbage from the Ohio River by the end of next year.

Living Lands & Waters focuses on removing unsightly and toxic trash that has accumulated in rivers and along riverbanks. Since its founding in 1998, Living Lands & Waters has involved more than 80,000 volunteers in collecting 8.5 million pounds of debris from along the nation’s greatest rivers. Pregracke was CNN’s 2013 Hero of the Year.

The Environmental Professionals Network (EPN) brings together a broad range of professionals engaged in managing, protecting and using the environment and natural resources professionals to learn, share and collaborate on making the world a better place.

AEP previously has provided speakers to the EPN and has sponsored other events, such as a visit by Jack Hanna, director emeritus of the Columbus Zoo and host of the television show Wild Countdown.

AEP expo aimed at careers for military veterans

(Story by Stephen Ostrander)

AEP’s military veterans and other employees have an opportunity to help veterans seeking employment or considering a career change by reminding them about the AEP Career Expo for Military Veterans May 1 at the A. Ray King Transmission Training Center in Pataskala, Ohio.

“Veterans trust and respond to other veterans,” said Trevor Sthultz, an energy coordinator at AEP and co-chair of the AEP military veteran’s employee resource group. “That’s why we especially urge our veterans as well as other AEP employees to use their networks and contacts in their communities to reach veterans who may be interested in learning about careers at AEP.”

The career expo runs from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. (morning and afternoon sessions). Lunch is provided. Participants can register via email at workforce_diversity@aep.com. Please respond by April 24.

Directions to Transmission Training Center

From the east side of Columbus on I-270 take Broad Street exit and head east. Follow Broad Street until you come to Mink Street. Turn left on to Mink. The Training Center is on your right at 6501 Mink St. Travel time from I-270 is approximately 10 to 15 minutes depending upon traffic.

From the west side of Columbus, travel east on I-70, going through downtown Columbus. Travel north on I-270 north, then take Exit 39 to eastbound Broad Street.  Follow Broad Street east to Mink Street. Turn left on to Mink. The Training Center is on the right. Travel time from I-70 is approximately 30 minutes depending on traffic.

EPRI publishes two reports regarding AEP’s ReCreation Land

AEP’s and EPRI’s analysis identified 25 potential shale gas well pad sites that would have manageable ecosystem services impacts at ReCreation Land in Ohio.

(Story by Timothy Lohner)

One of American Electric Power’s best known symbols of environmental stewardship is the 60,000-acre reclamation project in Ohio known as ReCreation Land. The land was surface mined for coal beginning in 1947. AEP later remediated the site, planting more than 63 million trees and creating more than 600 lakes and ponds.

ReCreation Land is available for public use for various outdoor recreational activities. With nearly 380 campsites, the site also provides opportunities for horseback riding, mountain biking and hiking.

In addition, portions of the site have been leased for oil and gas exploration. Oil and gas companies have approached AEP about leasing ReCre­ation Land property for shale gas production, a technology that previously had not been used at the site.

With help from the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), AEP evaluated ecosystem service impacts caused by placing well pads on dif­ferent sites throughout the property. To map the site and assess the impacts, EPRI suggested a tool called Integrated Valuation of Envi­ronmental Services and Tradeoffs (InVEST).

In late March, EPRI announced the publication of two reports related to this evaluation:

ReCreation Land consists of 60,000 acres of formerly surface-mined land remediated for recreational use.

Ecosystem services are life-supporting services provided by natural systems, such as pollination, erosion control, carbon sequestration, rainfall and climate regulation. Without these services, societies would cease to thrive.

Detailed site and mapping information already existed from an assessment EPRI conducted in 2002 to consider possible revenue from establishing environmental market credits (endangered species, greenhouse gas and wetland mitigation credits). The ecosystem services analysis was conducted on more than 200 potential well pad locations for shale gas production. The goal was to evaluate potential impacts to biodiversity, carbon sequestration, nutrient and sediment retention and pollination.

The study found that the modeled ecosystem impacts were relatively small overall. It also found that those impacts could be mitigated within 30 to 40 years through active restoration to allow vegetation regrowth near the well sites. EPRI conducted further analyses to identify well pad locations that would be least impactful, and AEP used that information to identify 25 well pad sites.

Mike Williams, AEP Forestry supervisor, and his staff, were instrumental in performing this study. They provided mapping information and answered many questions regarding land use at the site. Tim Lohner, consulting environmental specialist, provided project oversight and noted that publishing the reports is a big step in sharing the results with the public and demonstrating AEP’s commitment to the environment. Their work also resulted in an [EPRI Technology Transfer Award ]to AEP.

The Nature Conservancy, Stanford University, World Wildlife Fund and other groups have received briefings on this effort. The results also have been shared with faculty members at The Ohio State University, who are using the project as a case study. The effort began in 2011 and demonstrates the value of multi-year, innovative, research projects.

Choosing a primary care doctor is an important decision

Finding a primary care physician who meets your needs is an important healthcare decision.

Choosing a primary care doctor is one of the most important healthcare decisions you can make. But it can be difficult to find reliable, easy-to-understand information about doctors or practices. You can talk to friends and family members, and check out online ratings reviews. Here are some additional strategies and resources that can help you find a new doctor, or take a closer look at one that you already have.

If you know a doctor, nurse, or health care professional, ask for the names of doctors or practices in your area they like and trust. You should also consider what kind of doctor you want – someone who can care for your entire family, or who focuses on women, children, or older people?

Then, use your insurer’s directory or search on its website for doctors in your network. Because doctors often add or drop plans, call the office to verify that the doctor still accepts your insurance. In addition, your choice of doctor can determine which hospital you go to, if needed, so find out where the doctor has admitting privileges. And be sure to find out how that facility compares with others in the area.

Video: How to choose a primary care physician – IU Health (1:42)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RfVVwWFSIWI

Editor’s Note: This video is from an external source and is provided for informational purposes only. AEP does not endorse any specific medical institutions or healthcare facilities, individuals, or specific medical recommendations noted.

Be aware of red flags. They include malpractice claims and disciplinary actions. Even a good doctor can get sued once or twice, but more than that raises serious questions. You can check state medical boards and other online resources to check up on doctors.

Consider compatibility. Most Americans focus on personality and compatibility when choosing a doctor, and why not? You hope this is going to be a long-term relationship. Use your first visit as a “job interview.” Does the doctor listen to you without interrupting? Does he or she display empathy and care? Does he or she fully answer your questions? Do they explain your diagnosis and treatment, and specify a date for a follow up visit?

Other factors to consider:

  • Office policies and staff. Ask how long it takes to make an appointment for a routine visit (it should be less than a week), whether same-day appointments can be scheduled, and how long patients can expect to wait in the waiting room. Look for a staff that’s friendly, efficient, and respectful. You will probably spend more time interacting with these folks than with your doctor.
  • Doctor-patient technology. Electronic health records let your doctor efficiently track your medical history. Online, secure access allows patients to view their health information, book and track appointments, request prescription refills and email questions to their doctor.

Source: Consumer Reports

AEP top-ranked company in 2015 J.D. Power utility website study

For the third year in a row, AEP was the top-ranked utility company in overall ease of use of utility websites, according to the J.D. Power 2015 Utility Website Evaluation Studysm (UWES) released March 19.

The UWES is based on evaluations from more than 14,500 electric and/or gas residential customers, with 5,235 of these customers providing feedback about their online experience using a mobile device. The 66 largest U.S. electric and/or gas companies are included in the study, which was fielded from December 4, 2014, through January 16, 2015. Note: This year’s study was completed before the launch of AEP’s newly redesigned utility sites, so customers were reviewing the old sites.

For the third year in a row, AEP was the top-ranked utility company in overall ease of use of utility websites, according to J.D. Power.

The study, now in its fourth year, was redesigned and this year combined mobile enabled/app and desktop/laptop/tablet (desktop) into one index.

The study explored the usability of utility websites by examining 12 tasks based on the type of utility: set up an online account; account log in; view consumption history; review account information; make a payment; research energy-saving information; update service; report outages; view outages; locate contact information; perform account and profile maintenance; and locate gas leak information.

Of the 66 U.S. electric and natural gas utilities included in the study, 57 of them, including AEP, currently offer an online mobile channel for customers either through a mobile-enabled website or mobile app. However, satisfaction among customers using their utility’s mobile website/app is lower than among those using the website from a desktop (410 vs. 426, respectively). With 12 percent of electric utility residential customers using their mobile device when interacting online with their utility, the underperforming mobile sites and apps lead to lower customer service satisfaction and, ultimately, overall satisfaction.

AEP’s utility company websites are:

IBEW Local 329 wins LIVE United Award

Lee Allred (center), Southwestern Electric Power senior line mechanic, and Todd Harris, line mechanic B (right) accept the LIVE United Award from Bruce Wilson, president and CEO of the United Way of Louisiana.

(Story by Carey Sullivan)

The United Way of Northwest Louisiana recently recognized the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 329 with its LIVE United Award. The award is given to a company or organization that demonstrated the LIVE United culture and spirit and is selected by United Way’s staff.

IBEW Local 329 was recognized for:

  • Raising more than $18,500 from its Southwestern Electric Power Company (SWEPCO) employee members during its first campaign in 2004;
  • Contributing more than $39,000 in 2013, a 210 percent increase over its first campaign; and
  • Giving more than $308,000 to the United Way over its 11-year partnership with SWEPCO.

 

SWEPCO has about 300 union employees working in Northwest Louisiana. They’re meter readers, troublemen, linemen, field revenue specialists and meter servicers. Some work in storerooms, fleet, the meter shop and in power plants.

In 2004, IBEW Local 329 and SWEPCO leaders partnered and ran their very first United Way campaign.In the 11 years since, SWEPCO and IBEW Local 329 have been recognized many times for coordinating one of the top campaigns in Northwest Louisiana, both in the number of dollars raised and the number of employees participating.

“Please join me in congratulating Local 329 for this wonderful recognition and for their commitment to help others,” said [Venita McCellon-Allen], president and chief operating officer of SWEPCO. “This has been a rewarding partnership that gets stronger every year.”

Employee writes book about earlier form of water power

AEP employee Ken Drenten (right) talks with visitors at an author book signing event at a Zanesville bookstore about his self-published book, “Waterwheelin': A Travelers’ Guide to Ohio Mills.”

ZANESVILLE, Ohio — Several years ago, AEP employee Ken Drenten wanted to find out more about Ohio’s mills in order to visit a few of them with his family. The Corporate Communications consultant, who lives in Zanesville, had visited several of them, and his wife’s interest had sparked his own further.

Drenten’s wife, Sandy, has a special interest in mills with waterwheels, such as the one at Ye Olde Mill in Utica, Ohio — where the couple was married — and at Rock Mill in Lancaster, Ohio.

“I couldn’t find what I was looking for — a single website or publication that had all the information I wanted in one handy place,” he said. “Over the years, I had taken a number of photos of old barns and mills for fun, and I had some source material at hand, so I thought, why don’t I just write something myself?”

Ye Olde Mill, in Utica, Ohio, the home of Velvet Ice Cream Co., is among the 27 mills featured in the book.Photo by: Ken Drenten

After more than two years of planning, visiting mills, taking numerous photos, talking with and corresponding with people, writing, editing, and designing, the result was a self-published, 101-page book, “Waterwheelin': A Travelers’ Guide to Ohio Mills.”

The book provides information about visiting 27 mills that are open and operating for people to visit.

Drenten recently appeared at an author book signing at the Walls of Books bookstore in Zanesville to talk about his work.

“I think that mills as a group are among Ohio’s best-kept secrets,” he said. “In the second half of the 19th century there were more than 1,000 mills across the state. Mills are part of the state’s history, and only a few of them are still here for us to enjoy.”

The book includes historical and visitor-oriented facts about mills that are now used as restaurants, museums, inns, wineries, antique shops, country stores, and more. Some are incorporated into public parks, and many are small businesses that support the local economy. A few continue to grind grain for flour and meal.

“Without a doubt the best time I had creating this book was the family time we had discovering these amazing places together,” he said. “That’s what I want to pass along to others. By far the most common reaction by people when they first see the book is that they didn’t realize Ohio had so many mills.”

New Albany Data Center building is complete; focus shifts to migration of servers and applications

Chris Crosby (left), chief executive officer of Compass Datacenters, hands the keys to the New Albany Data Center to Ram Sastry, AEP vice president – Infrastructure & Business Continuity. Photo courtesy of Compass Datacenters.

(Story by Tom Holliday)

AEP has formally taken ownership of the company’s new corporate data center building in New Albany, Ohio.

Matt Forshey, Workplace Project & Business Services manager, “received the keys” to the new building March 15 as scheduled in the project plan. “It’s taken a lot of planning and hard work to complete everything on schedule, but in the end, we were able to meet our commitments and finish the building on schedule,” said Forshey.

At this point, the building is now ready for the real work to begin – the migration of some 3,000 business applications and servers from the company’s current data center in the 1 Riverside Plaza building to the new facility. The migration will begin in late June and continue through the end of the year.

According to Pat Collins, director — IT Corporate, who is managing the program, some preparatory work is already under way. “We’ll actually start moving some foundational IT infrastructure and applications immediately to begin preparing for the core migration activities in the latter half of the year,” he said. The migrations are planned to take place over 10 weekends between June and December.

A change management team is already implementing a plan to share information on an ongoing basis with AEP’s business units about the timing and details surrounding the migration of their specific applications.

AEP broke ground ]on the new $19.6 million facility last August as one aspect of the company’s response to the power and data interruptions that occurred Feb. 28, 2014. The new 24,000-square-foot facility is designed to improve the reliability and resiliency of AEP’s IT infrastructure. Compass Datacenters, a Dallas, Texas-based firm that specializes in the construction of data centers for corporate customers, was engaged to build the new center.

Forshey indicated that before the major migration gets under way, plans are being developed to allow employees to tour the facility. “We are still working on the details but we’d like to give our employees in central Ohio an opportunity to see the building before we need to secure it for the migration activity,” he said.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 831 other followers