Today, Anthem provided information on how to immediately enroll in credit protection services to all members who are potentially impacted by last week’s cyber attack.
Starting today at 2 p.m. ET/1 p.m. CT, current and former Anthem and Anthem Lumenos members can visit AnthemFacts.com to learn more about credit monitoring and identity theft repair services provided by AllClear ID, a leading and trusted identity protection provider. All services are available for two years. Details of the services, and instructions on how to enroll, are listed below:
- Identity theft repair services are available to Anthem members who feel they have experienced fraud. For members who have been impacted by the cyber attack, these services are automatically available and do not require enrollment. Please visit AnthemFacts.com to learn how to access these services. Members may access identity repair services by calling 877-263-7995.
- Credit monitoring services require a member to actively enroll because the member must provide their personal information and consent to have their credit monitored. Members can enroll at any time during the 24 month coverage period, and can learn how to sign up at AnthemFacts.com. Members who do not have access to the Internet may call 877-263-7995 for assistance.
The free identity protection services provided by Anthem include two years of:
- Identity repair assistance: Should a member experience fraud, an investigator will do the work to recover financial losses, restore the member’s credit, and ensure the member’s identity is returned to its proper condition. This assistance will cover any fraud that has occurred since the incident first began.
- Credit monitoring: At no cost, members may also enroll in additional protections, including credit monitoring. Credit monitoring alerts consumers when banks and creditors use their identity to open new credit accounts.
- Child identity protection: Child-specific identity protection services will also be offered to any members with children insured through their Anthem plan.
- Identity theft insurance: For individuals who enroll, the company has arranged for $1,000,000 in identity theft insurance, where allowed by law.
- Identity theft monitoring/fraud detection: For members who enroll, data such as credit card numbers, social security numbers and emails will be scanned against aggregated data sources maintained by top security researchers that contain stolen and compromised individual data, in order to look for any indication that the members’ data has been compromised.
- Phone alerts: Individuals who register for this service and provide their contact information will receive an alert when there is a notification from a credit bureau, or when it appears from identity theft monitoring activities that the individual’s identity may be compromised.
Members who have provided e-mails to Anthem and who have opted in to receiving communications may receive an e-mail directing them to visit AnthemFacts.com to sign up for services. This e-mail is scheduled to be distributed the week of Feb. 16. This email, sent due to state notification requirements, will not ask for personal information and will not contain a link to any websites other than AnthemFacts.com.
Phone lines will be open from 2 to 9 p.m. ET on Friday, and will be open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. ET Monday to Saturday.
(Story by Stan Whiteford)
The AEP Foundation will partner with Tulsa Community College (TCC) and the TCC Foundation to provide $3 million over five years to launch the Credits Countsm program, benefiting high school and middle school students in Tulsa Public Schools (TPS).
The announcement of the program, which focuses on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics), was made Feb. 9 during a special ceremony at Tulsa’s Will Rogers College High that was attended by local and state officials, including Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin.
Credits Count, a signature program of the AEP Foundation, will begin at Will Rogers College High School and expand to three additional Tulsa public high schools and include the middle schools that feed into them. TCC will work with students and their families to explore STEM fields, introducing students to careers they otherwise may never have considered as career options. Along the way, Credits Count will help students fill in learning gaps, so they are ready to study college-level courses while still in high school. By graduation, students will have earned credits that count toward a certificate in a STEM-related career or a college degree in fields that include engineering, biotechnology and information technology.
“I am very pleased to announce this innovative partnership between the AEP Foundation, TCC, and TPS to benefit students and their families in PSO’s headquarters city,” said Stuart Solomon, president and chief operating officer of Public Service Company of Oklahoma (PSO). “The Credits Count program is the largest gift that the AEP Foundation has ever made in the state of Oklahoma. This gift will help our students pursue STEM-related careers and college studies, and become the next generation of critical thinkers who will find solutions to complex challenges for businesses and communities.”
The four major components of the Credits Count program include:
- Dual Enrollment in High Schools and at TCC – allowing students to graduate high school with at least 12 college credits toward an associate degree or job ready certificate;
- STEM Experiences – expanding awareness at an early age of possible STEM careers through middle and high school exploration experiences;
- College Course Readiness Assessments – identifying gaps in writing, reading and math that may require tutoring;
- Summer Bridge Programs – providing remediation in English and math and improving skills prior to students’ participation in dual enrollment programs.
“This partnership will help with the STEM pipeline from middle school through the completion of a college degree. TCC, through its Tulsa Achieves program as well as EXCELerate, has a powerful model on providing access to higher education,” said TCC President and CEO Leigh B. Goodson, Ph.D. “Credits Count is designed to reach an urban, low income and diverse population by removing barriers so we can develop a competitive, educated and robust STEM-focused work force.”
TCC will facilitate the dual enrollment program in cooperation with Tulsa Public Schools. The program will reach nearly 1,000 students to assess college readiness. About 800 students will participate in the Summer Bridge program to improve math, science and English skills. About 3,000 middle school students will participate in a summer STEM college experience and up to 800 students will receive for-credit college-level course work, while completing high school.
Fallin expressed her appreciation for the leadership of all the partners involved, and added that initiatives like Credits Count will help set a standard for others to follow.
“One of the things that Oklahoma has to do to continue to grow our economy and create good career opportunities for our citizens is to increase educational attainment,” said Fallin. “Our businesses need a skilled, technically proficient work force, and that means producing more STEM graduates. The great work being done on that front by the AEP Foundation, the TCC Foundation and Tulsa Public Schools is a model I hope we can replicate across the state.”
TCC is the third college to receive funding from the AEP Foundation for a Credits Count program. The first two were Columbus State Community College in Columbus, Ohio, and Bossier Parish Community College in Bossier City, Louisiana.
“The Credits Count grant represents a significant financial investment in the Tulsa community,” said Lauren Brookey, TCC Vice President of External Affairs. AEP and its local subsidiary PSO are terrific corporate partners that will help shape the future of Tulsa students and their education.”
When asked how his day is going, Rod Griffin will often reply: “Living the dream!”
|On Feb.6, Rod Griffin was inducted into the Newark High School Athletic Hall of Fame for his many years of contributions to the Newark varsity boys basketball program.|
Griffin, a director of Transmission Accounting and a 14-year AEP employee, has earned the respect of his colleagues as a solid and dedicated contributor in AEP’s accounting organization. Another special component of his “living the dream” approach is Griffin’s passion for high school basketball. As a Newark (Ohio) High School alum, Griffin is the official scorekeeper of Newark’s varsity and junior varsity boys basketball teams. For the past 30-plus years, Griffin has never missed a Newark High School varsity game.
Newark High’s basketball resume is impressive to say the least: four state titles, six regional titles, 22 district titles and over 1,500 victories in all. When basketball fans around Ohio think of elite high school programs, they often think of the Newark Wildcats.
On Feb.6, Griffin was inducted into the Newark High School Athletic Hall of Fame for his many years of contributions to the Newark varsity boys basketball program and to the Newark athletic program in general.
Griffin’s efforts are recognized by many associated with the Newark High program.
“Rod’s commitment is invaluable to the Newark basketball program and to our entire athletic department,” said Jeff Quackenbush, former Newark High School basketball star and current athletic director and head boys varsity basketball coach. “Over the years, Rod has always been a very willing assistant in helping our athletic programs succeed, both in terms of our teams’ athletic events and our various fund-raising activities. As for our basketball program, Rod has been a role model for many of our players as he often talks to our players before and after games. I consider Rod to be an extension of my entire coaching staff.”
|For the past 30-plus years, Rod Griffin has never missed a Newark High varsity game.|
Gary Walters, who coached the Wildcats for 27 years, echoes many of Quackenbush’s thoughts when describing Griffin’s contributions. “Rod Griffin is a man with integrity beyond reproach,” said Walters. “From the time I met Rod when he was our student manager for our seventh-grade team, Rod has always been a high-caliber person and a terrific contributor to the Newark basketball program.”
While often an individual who deflects recognition, Griffin’s election to the Newark High School Athletic Hall of Fame recognizes many hours of dedication to helping people and programs succeed. His “living the dream” approach is reflected in his dedication and strong work ethic at AEP, as well as his commitment to Newark High School basketball.
AEP wants to let retirees know that the company has become aware that Anthem, Inc., the parent company of one of its health insurance providers, is the victim of a highly-sophisticated cyber attack. Anthem has informed AEP that Anthem member data was accessed, and that breached data could include that of AEP participants, including retirees.
Please note that this data breach is specific to current and former participants of Anthem benefit plans; retirees who have always been Aetna plan participants are not affected.
“We are working closely with Anthem to better understand the impact on its members,” said Brian Healy, managing director – Total Rewards for AEP. Here is what we do know, he said:
- Once Anthem determined it was the victim of a sophisticated cyber attack, it immediately notified federal law enforcement officials and shared the indicators of compromise with the HITRUST C3 (Cyber Threat Intelligence and Incident Coordination Center).
- Anthem’s Information Security has worked to eliminate any further vulnerability and continues to secure all of its data.
- Anthem immediately began a forensic IT investigation to determine the number of impacted consumers and to identify the type of information accessed. The investigation is still taking place.
- The information accessed includes member names, member health ID numbers/Social Security numbers, dates of birth, addresses, telephone numbers, email addresses and employment information, including income data. Social Security numbers were included in only a subset of the universe of consumers that were impacted.
- Anthem is still working to determine which members’ Social Security numbers were accessed.
- Anthem’s investigation to date shows that no credit card or confidential health information was accessed.
- Anthem has advised us there is no indication at this time that any of our clients’ personal information has been misused.
- All impacted Anthem members will be enrolled in identity repair services. In addition, impacted members will be provided information on how to enroll in free credit monitoring.
“We are continuing to work closely with Anthem to better understand the cyber attack and the impact on our participants,” Healy said. “We will continue to keep you updated as information becomes available.”
Anthem has created a website – www.anthemfacts.com — and a hotline, 1-877-263-7995, for its members to call for more information. The website includes an updated Frequently Asked Questions webpage that further explains the cyber attack. Anthem has already begun the process of notifying members of this cyber attack and the data affected.
AEP River Operations
David Blankenship, 65, AEP River Operations, died Oct. 22.
Randy Enriquez, 68, AEP River Operations-Paducah, died Jan. 2.
David King, 61, Elmwood Convent Fleet and Repair, died Jan. 1.
Richard Wolfingbarger, 70, retired, AEP River Operations, died Dec. 23.
AEP Service Corporation
Dean Coil, 73, Telecommunications, died Dec. 14.
Jerry Cornell, 42, AEP Headquarters, died Jan. 17.
Jane Harler, 90, AEP Service Corporation, died Dec. 26.
Kevin Moore, 57, Transmission Operations Center, died Jan. 30.
Delmont Shaller, 89, retired, AEP Headquarters, died Nov. 26.
Windsor Adams, 89, retired, Charleston Office, died Jan. 1.
Boyd Akers, 87, retired, Roanoke Main Office, died Dec. 9.
Estel Boggess, 87, retired, Ripley Service Center, died Nov. 20.
Glen Chaffins, 73, retired, Kenova Crew Building, died Dec. 18.
Robert Chafin Jr., 69, retired, North Charleston Service Center, died Jan. 5.
Pansy Cummings, 88, retired, Huntington Office, died Jan. 4.
Paul Elliott, 86, retired, Beckley Service Center, died Dec. 9.
James Eminger, 74, retired, Central Machine Shop, died Jan. 3.
James Hale, 93, retired, Pearisburg Service Center, died Dec. 5.
Michael Haynes, 75, retired, Roanoke Main Office, died July 28.
William Hensley, 66, Lynchburg Service Center, died Aug. 19.
Bernard Hoffman, 91, retired, Sporn Plant, died July 12.
George Knight, 67, Amos Plant, died Dec. 8.
Larry Lieving, 77, retired, Sporn Plant, died Dec. 14.
James Massie, 94, retired, Clinch River Plant, died Nov. 20.
Thomas Ould Jr., 59, Glen Lyn Plant, died Dec. 12.
Thomas Russ, 68, retired, Abingdon Service Center, died Nov. 23.
Judith Sanders, 67, retired, Clinch River Plant, died Sept. 19.
Donald Stanley, 58, Amos Plant, died Dec. 19.
Donald Williams, 74, retired, Rocky Mount Service Center, died Nov. 21.
Columbus Southern Power
Riley Crandell, 67, retired, Spring Street Garage, died Jan. 10.
Paul Hunziker, 91, retired, 850 Tech Center, died Dec. 12.
Stanton Kallies, 87, retired, Picway Plant, died Dec. 17.
Richard Leonard, 92, retired, 850 Tech Center, died Dec. 2.
Lawrence Linden, 67, Mound Street Service Center, died Dec. 4.
Rodney Matchett, 74, retired, Conesville Plant, died Dec. 11.
Margaret McCain, 95, retired, 850 Tech Center, died Jan. 1.
Thomas Snider, 87, retired, Hillsboro Service Center, died Dec. 1.
Joseph Solt, 91, retired, 850 Tech Center, died Jan. 4.
William Stockdale, 87, retired, 850 Tech Center, died Dec. 8.
Indiana Michigan Power
Drysdale Brannon, 84, retired, One Summit Square, died Dec. 7.
Edward Breault, 75, Cook Nuclear Plant, died Dec. 6.
John Brodhead, 83, retired, Muncie Service Center, died Dec. 5.
Robert Brown, 94, retired, Marion Office, died Dec. 1.
Edward Danapilis, 73, retired, St. Joseph Service Center, died Dec. 13.
Harold Daniel, 80, retired, One Summit Square, died Dec. 24.
Michael Horvath, 64, Cook Nuclear Plant, died Aug. 22.
Lowell Sowers, 87, retired, South Bend Service Center, died Nov. 18.
John Williams, 80, retired, Breed Plant, died Dec. 26.
D.H. Nickles, 63, Big Sandy Plant, died Nov. 22.
Wesley Younts, 93, retired, Hazard Service Center, died Dec. 14.
Cecil Christian, 72, Cardinal Plant, died Dec. 16.
Robert Coulson, 83, retired, Steubenville Service Center, died Dec. 11.
Janet Duffy, 80, retired, Southern Ohio Coal Company, died Nov. 22.
William Edwards, 65, Muskingum River Plant, died Nov. 15.
Harold Hamilton, 93, retired, Gavin Plant, died Jan. 6.
Daniel Harper, 76, retired, Lancaster Office Building, died Nov. 22.
Richard McNabb, 83, retired, Muskingum River Plant, died June 28.
Timothy Meeker, 68, Ottawa Service Center, died Dec. 18.
Raymond Mercer, 93, retired, Zanesville Office, died Jan. 3.
Lawrence Murray Sr., 64, Cardinal Plant, died Nov. 2.
Andrew Newsad, 87, retired, Muskingum River Plant, died Dec. 16.
Sophie Pergins, 87, retired, Canton Eastern Regional Office, died Dec. 13.
Ron Priest, 74, retired, Central Ohio Coal Company, died Jan. 2.
Neil Shaw, 74, retired, Lancaster Service Building, died Dec. 5.
Willis Tomblin, 85, retired, Southern Ohio Coal Company, died Jan. 6.
Public Service Company of Oklahoma
Ruth Baldischwiler, 90, retired, Tulsa General Office, died Dec. 2.
James Booth, 73, retired, Tulsa General Office, died Jan. 4.
Ray Casey, 96, retired, Tulsa General Office, died Dec. 3.
Bert Morphis, 89, retired, Tulsa General Office, died Nov. 23.
Marcus Wigginton, 92, retired, Tulsa General Office, died Dec. 8.
Southwestern Electric Power Company
Wallace Andrews, 86, retired, Shreveport General Office, died Dec. 18.
James Bissell, 84, retired, Shreveport General Office, died Nov. 21.
Norman Roberts Jr., 78, retired, Shreveport General Office, died Dec. 22.
Billie Ayers, 77, retired, Corpus Christi Office, died Jan. 7.
F.E. Bowen Jr., 87, retired, Corpus Christi Office, died Jan. 3.
Thedford Bowers, 82, retired, Corpus Christi Office, died Dec. 13.
Charles Erigan, 70, Electric System Operations, died Nov. 29.
Arnold Hogeda, 61, San Angelo Services, died Aug. 20.
Clarence Knight, 94, retired, Corpus Christi Office, died Nov. 29.
Weldon Land, 90, retired, Corpus Christi Office, died Dec. 24.
Graciela Mata, 83, retired, Corpus Christi Office, died Nov. 17.
Hollis Stevens, 96, retired, Corpus Christi Office, died Jan. 4.
Roger Mills, 70, retired, Childress Office, died Dec. 24.
J.C. Pitts, 80, retired, Abilene General Office, died Dec. 5.
Leonard Battise, Ironton Service Center, retired Jan. 31 after 25 years of service.
Rodney Burton, Canton General Service Center, retired Jan. 1 after 36 years of service.
AEP River Operations
Sheila Bebb, AEP River Operations, retired Jan. 3 after 11 years of service.
Michael Gheorghiu, AEP River Operations, retired Jan. 1 after 29 years of service.
Roger Rougemont, AEP River Operations-Paducah, retired Jan. 9 after 18 years of service.
AEP Service Corporation
Robert Clapper, Canton South Service Center, retired Dec. 1 after 47 years of service.
Carolyn Divers, HR Service Center-Roanoke, retired Jan. 1 after 36 years of service.
David England Jr., Renaissance Tower, retired Dec. 16 after 34 years of service.
Gerard Le Fevre, AEP Headquarters, retired Jan. 1 after 11 years of service.
Cynthia Harvey, HR Service Center-Roanoke, retired Jan. 1 after 24 years of service.
John McDaniel, AEP Headquarters, retired Jan. 1 after 32 years of service.
Richard Mueller, AEP Headquarters, retired Jan. 10 after 30 years of service.
Nicholas Popa Jr., AEP Headquarters, retired Jan. 3 after 35 years of service.
Linda Rice, HR Service Center-Roanoke, retired Jan. 1 after 35 years of service.
Maryanne Sweeney, HR Service Center-Roanoke, retired Jan. 1 after 28 years of service.
Janet White, AEP Headquarters, retired Jan. 17 after 41 years of service.
Stephen Deahl, Amos Plant, retired Jan. 17 after 36 years of service.
Gerald Garbin, Central Machine Shop, retired Jan. 17 after 25 years of service.
Douglas Jones, Amos Plant, retired Dec. 20 after 35 years of service.
George Knight, Amos Plant, retired Dec. 1 after 20 years of service.
Randal Robinson, Beckley Service Center, retired Jan. 24 after 34 years of service.
Don Anderson, Gavin Plant, retired Jan. 1 after 36 years of service.
George Conder, Cook Coal Terminal, retired Dec. 31 after 38 years of service.
Kenneth Cummons, Gavin Plant, retired Jan. 1 after 21 years of service.
Johnny DiGiacinto, Cardinal Plant, retired Jan. 31 after 45 years of service.
Jack Garner II, Cook Coal Terminal, retired Dec. 31 after 38 years of service.
Deborah Hickel, Gavin Plant, retired Jan. 1 after 34 years of service.
Jerry Johnson, Cook Coal Terminal, retired Dec. 31 after 33 years of service.
Kenneth Johnson, Gavin Plant, retired Jan. 1 after 32 years of service.
Kevin Kelley, Cook Coal Terminal, retired Dec. 29 after 36 years of service.
Dennis Pace, Cardinal Plant, retired Jan. 14 after 32 years of service.
David Rachall, Dolet Hills Lignite Company, retired Jan. 10 after 18 years of service.
James Snyder Jr., Cardinal Plant, retired Dec. 31 after 26 years of service.
Mitchell Story, Cook Coal Terminal, retired Dec. 31 after 38 years of service.
Indiana Michigan Power
Robert Brown, Cook Nuclear Plant, retired Jan. 31 after 24 years of service.
Wayne Freehling, Cook Nuclear Plant, retired Jan. 8 after 30 years of service.
Public Service Company of Oklahoma
Howard Ground, Oklahoma City State Affairs, retired Dec. 2 after 33 years of service.
David Miller, Lawton Office, retired Jan. 8 after 20 years of service.
Bobby Mouser, Tulsa General Office, retired Jan. 8 after 35 years of service.
Mark Radzinski, Tulsa Power Station, retired Jan. 1 after 24 years of service.
Southwestern Electric Power Company
John Bishop, Flint Creek Plant, retired Jan. 14 after 27 years of service.
W. M. Carter, Texarkana Operations, retired Jan. 8 after 42 years of service.
Randy Drennan, Longview Operations, retired Dec. 1 after 40 years of service.
Gary Fitzsimmons, Pirkey Plant, retired Jan. 8 after 22 years of service.
Jane Hawkins, Longview Operations, retired Jan. 10 after 26 years of service.
Brenda McIntosh, Longview Operations, retired Jan. 1 after 26 years of service.
Glenn Nelson, Longview Operations, retired Dec. 16 after 44 years of service.
Howard Robinson, Texarkana Operations, retired Jan. 3 after 14 years of service.
Susan Stewart, Shreveport Office, retired Jan. 10 after 13 years of service.
Oliver Walker III, Wilkes Plant, retired Jan. 5 after 26 years of service.
Dennis Wise, Arsenal Hill Plant, retired after 37 years of service.
Ofelia Bauer, Harlingen Service Center, retired Dec. 25 after 38 years of service.
Gary Brosh, San Angelo Services, retired Jan. 15 after 32 years of service.
Morris Grayson, Childress Office, retired Jan. 9 after 40 years of service.
Robert Holland, Abilene Distribution, retired Jan. 29 after 31 years of service.
Ronnie Short, North Charleston Service Center, retired Jan. 30 after 22 years of service.
Gary Tredeau, Alsuma Meter and Substation, retired Dec. 10 after 36 years of service.
Nick Akins, AEP chairman, president and chief executive officer, and Brian Tierney, executive vice president and chief financial officer, responded to questions on two separate media outlets Wednesday following AEP’s fourth-quarter and year-end 2014 earnings announcement.
Akins appeared on CNBC’s “Mad Money” with host Jim Cramer, and Tierney appeared on Bloomberg Radio’s “Taking Stock” with Carol Massar and Michael McKee.
Cramer congratulated Akins and AEP for being among the top five performers in the utility sector for 2014, and noted that AEP’s stock more than doubled the performance of the S&P for the year. “You have done a fabulous job . . . I know your reputation, and you have been doing everything right,” Cramer said.
Cramer asked about the impact of shale gas and oil markets on AEP’s sales, fuel supply, and on the overall economy within AEP’s footprint.
“The shale gas counties have been a big producer for us from a revenue perspective, and also when you think about the growth there, other parts of our business (customers), which are pretty diversified, also benefit from lower coal, oil, natural gas and gasoline prices, so other parts of the economy are starting to pick up the slack,” Akins said.
“We’re finally seeing growth in all three sectors — commercial, industrial and residential — on the order of 3.1 percent overall . . . we’re seeing construction and job creation occur, and the economy is rebalancing in many respects,” Akins said.
Fuel costs are becoming more favorable, Akins said. “Fuel costs certainly will reduce for customers because you’re starting to get into territory where coal and gas are competing . . . we have plenty of coal and plenty of gas, and we have the flexibility to take advantage of that on behalf of our customers.”
Tierney told Bloomberg that AEP is experiencing load growth in all customer classes — residential, commercial and industrial. “It was positive right up to the end of last year and we believe that’s continuing into this year,” he said.
He explained that AEP’s fourth-quarter earnings were impacted by about 5 cents per share by the disallowance of fuel costs by the Kentucky Public Service Commission, announced late last week. “That disallowance of fuel costs in Kentucky really was the difference that ended up bringing us below consensus for the quarter,” Tierney said.
AEP’s sales in the oil and gas extraction market were “the highest in December, even with crude being under pressure the way it was . . . sales to the pipeline transportation segment were up 61 percent in the fourth quarter, and our sales to oil and gas extraction were up 11 percent in the quarter,” he said.
Tierney briefly outlined AEP’s capital expenditure plan for 2015, stating the company plans to spend about $4.4 billion this year, much of it transmission and distribution. “We continue to invest in our wires business in response to EPA regulations that will come into effect in May and June of this year,” he said, adding that the regulatory action provides an opportunity to invest in the wires business.
He said AEP is strategically evaluating its merchant generating fleet “to see if it fits in with the rest of our businesses, and if it doesn’t, what’s the best way to extract the most value. We haven’t made any decision on that yet, we have hired an investment bank to help us make that decision, and we’ll be bringing those thoughts and analysis to our board later on this year.”
Photo above: Nick Akins (back row, third from right), presented the AEP Chairman’s Life Saving Award to Welsh Power Plant employees: Kneeling, left to right: Joe Powell, Jody Edwards, Cheston Wilson, Ronnie Wilson and Kirk Cochran. Standing, left to right: Gilberto Ortiz, Sammy Harding, Jamie Nelson, Ricky McLeroy, Keith Hill (holding award), K.C. Craig and Lee Jordan. Not pictured: Kenneth Bates.
Story by Scott McCloud
PITTSBURG, Texas — Nick Akins, AEP chairman, president and chief executive officer, recently presented the AEP Chairman’s Life Saving Award to Welsh Power Plant employees who responded in an emergency when a fellow employee in the control room had a heart attack.
“There is nothing more important than this group award as we recognize real heroes who worked to save another life and had the skills to do it,” said Akins. “The whole Welsh team worked together, using their training tools and proper communications when time was critical in this life or death situation.”
Control Center Operator Kirk Cochran was working his normal shift May 20, 2014, when co-workers noticed he was in medical distress. They immediately moved him to the floor and began chest compressions and rescue breathing, which regained his pulse. Electricians called 911 and led the paramedics from the plant gate to the control room, saving time on the response. Cochran returned to full-time duty in late July.
After the recognition lunch, Akins addressed plant employees on a number of current topics, including safety, the recent AEP culture survey, the lean project, Power up and Lead program, financials, cyber security, future generation and the EPA.
“AEP has operated three years without a fatality and every day is a new day. This year we are focusing on a new level to prevent slips, trips, falls and sprains. We are concentrating on eliminating the small things that can cause accidents,” said Akins.
As a company, AEP “likes” the major growth it continues to see in its social media channels.
AEP’s main social media channels are Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, and the year-over-year statistics show that customers, fans and other individuals are increasingly finding those channels valuable.
For example, AEP added 15,537 fans of its Facebook pages (AEP and each of its operating companies have Facebook pages) during 2014, increasing its total fans to 61,530. Of the seven operating companies, AEP Ohio gained the most fans (2,841), followed by Appalachian Power (2,305), Southwestern Electric Power Company (1,098), Indiana Michigan Power Company (895), Public Service Company of Oklahoma (784), Kentucky Power (438) and AEP Texas (309).
On Twitter, AEP gained over 7,000 new followers on its Twitter handles during the past year, and the company now has 29,196 total followers. AEP Ohio again led the way among the operating companies with 1,433 new followers, while Appalachian Power followed close behind with 1,100.
In addition, AEP’s corporate page on LinkedIn grew by 6,111 followers and now has over 21,000 followers.
A list of all of AEP’s social media channels can be found on AEP’s website.
“In the past, when our customers needed information, they had to rely on newspapers and local television stations to inform them,” said Josh Polk, AEP social media manager. “Now they can get the message directly from us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. They can ask questions and even share the information with their circle of online friends.
“When your power is out, the easiest thing to do is check Facebook or Twitter on your phone for information,” Polk added. “Social media allows better communication with customers and the ability to be proactive in addressing customer service issues.”
In 2014, AEP started posting safety tips on Facebook and Twitter every Saturday with the hashtag #SafetySaturday. Polk said AEP also offers weekly energy efficiency tips, company news, community involvment (Habitat for Humanity, local 5k race listings, holiday parade information, reading to students, etc.), historical photos, job openings and much more.
“We also try to answer anyone who posts a question on our Facebook pages or to our Twitter accounts,” said Polk. “We see it as an opportunity to turn a negative into a positive. When we have extended outages or a significant number of customers out of power due to a storm, we have our most traffic and gain the most followers/fans.
“We try to be very proactive in communicating outage information, estimated restoration times and providing safety tips.”
Polk said AEP’s social media efforts mainly focus on the following opportunities:
- Communicating about outages;
- Educating about energy efficiency;
- Improving employee understanding;
- Assisting customers online;
- Sharing AEP’s community involvement;
- Communicating about innovation and the environment;
- Engaging policymakers;
- Communicating during a crisis;
- Attracting new employees; and
- Educating the public about rate cases.
For its efforts, AEP once again was ranked among the top 10 utilities nationwide in its innovative use of social media by E Source, an energy-focused marketing and research consulting firm.
E Source surveyed 57 utilities to discover the latest trends and best practices in utility social media use. Utilities that participated in the Social Media Survey 2014 were asked to identify which utilities they consider to be industry leaders in social media. AEP was ranked eighth overall.
Nick Akins, AEP chairman, president and chief executive officer, fielded questions about a wide variety of industry and strategic topics Jan. 14 in Columbus as part of the “Fueling Ohio’s Future” luncheon series sponsored by the Columbus Metropolitan Club and AEP. The moderator of the question and answer session was Tom Knox, a reporter for Columbus Business First newspaper.
Knox: You’ve not been shy about voicing concerns about brownouts or other issues from retiring coal-fired generation the next couple of years. A lot of your opponents think AEP is just crying wolf. Can you address that and explain why you think there will be issues with reliability?
Akins: Two years ago when the (U.S.) EPA went down the road that required the retirement of a large amount of generation in this country, the question became, “Is it being done too quickly?” Two years ago, we (AEP) were the first out of the blocks saying there was going to be an issue with the grid itself, particularly in times like we had last winter with the polar vortex. That generation is depended upon to run 24/7 and is a critical component of keeping the grid as reliable as it is. Fast forward to today, and the regional transmission organization (RTO) is asking units if they can run longer because they see issues coming up, particularly in the summer and winter next year. We’re retiring about 6,000 megawatts of coal-fired capacity in May of 2015. Overall, the country is retiring about 25 percent of its coal-fired generation. You can’t retire that much generation that quickly and not have impacts on the system. It takes years to put transmission facilities into place. It takes years to get through the regulatory processes of the state jurisdictions to get approvals to build (generation).
Then you add the Clean Power Plan, which has very aggressive timelines for compliance. There are 2020 targets for reductions of CO2 emissions and there are 2030 targets for reductions. Our big issue, as well as that of the industry and 26 states, is that we don’t have time to meet the 2020 targets, and that will force more retirements in generation. In fact, our studies show that the utility system will not be able to operate. That’s a very hard thing to say because we have had a reliable grid for decades and decades, and the American economy is built on the ability to flip the light switch and the power and energy is there. That is at risk.
Knox: One of the bigger stories in energy (in Ohio) last year was the passage of Senate Bill 310, which put the freeze for two years on the state’s renewable standards. American Electric Power was one of the bigger vocal supporters of that bill. Why did AEP support that bill?
Akins: We have pretty substantial energy efficiency programs that we’ve been working through, and we’ve worked very positively on them with the commissioners and our customers. We would like to continue that, but the real issue is, “How do you evaluate the cost of energy efficiency components relative to other resources?” What we were really arguing was for the commission (Public Utilities Commission of Ohio) to determine the right approach. I don’t mean to be pejorative here, but we have a lot of states and a lot of legislators during election season that like to outdo each other. If one state comes up with 25 percent (renewables), then another state’s going to be 30 (percent), and now you have California that wants to go to 50 (percent). There’s a limitation to renewables and there’s a limitation to energy efficiency. It has to be a balanced energy approach that includes energy efficiency and renewables, but also recognizes the value of the other resources that are being brought to the table, and the commission is in the best place to be able to evaluate those issues. So, yes, we were supportive of it but I don’t think we were the lead company. At the same time, we want to make sure there is adequate analysis and review so we are making wise decisions.
Knox: How does AEP as a giant company co-exist with incoming renewables and alternative forms of energy?
Akins: There’s an assumption out there that utilities aren’t doing anything on renewables when, in fact, utilities are building more renewables than anyone else. AEP has 2,000 megawatts of renewables, and we provide the Purchase Power Agreements (PPA) to make those renewables possible. We are not the developer of them — we actually outsource to contractors and others to build the facilities — but we have the Purchase Power Agreements that allow them to go to the banks and get the financing for these projects. We also have a PPA for centralized solar at one facility in Ohio, and another in our Indiana-Michigan territory. We are very focused on the transformation that needs to occur (in the utility industry) but there must be some sense of balance associated with it.
Knox: Oil and gas drilling has helped the eastern part of the state, and it’s helped with gasoline prices for everyone. Can you talk specifically about the impacts of shale gas on AEP? How is that going to change American Electric Power in the coming years?
Akins: Historically, the reason AEP was predominantly coal-fired in the eastern part of its service territory — its Midwestern states — was because natural gas wasn’t very prevalent. All of a sudden, we have major pipeline capacity coming in from different parts of the country, and then we have the shale gas revolution that enabled natural gas to be prevalent in this part of the country. It became a bonafide resource that we can start to transition to, and we have added about 5,000 megawatts of generation assets and put that natural-gas-fired capacity in place over the last decade, and it’s running today. We started that transformation and it enabled us to continue to retire coal-fired units and put natural gas facilities in place.
Today, you have a lot of natural gas that’s available at very cheap prices. The question is, can you depend upon it 24/7 because the pipeline system has not caught up with the shale gas activity. It’s important for us to get the infrastructure in place so it becomes a substantial resource for us in the future as we make the transition from coal to other resources. It’s a positive for Ohio and, in my opinion, one of the travesties is that we haven’t been able to take advantage of it. If there were adequate price signals to build new capacity here in Ohio, more generation would get built here, but that’s not happening. Ohio is sitting like the hole in the middle of a doughnut. Other states around us are primarily regulated, they have integrated resource plans, they know what they are going to invest in, they have the price signals through regulations to tell them what they can build, but that doesn’t exist here in Ohio, and that’s unfortunate because the Utica Shale is significant for Ohio like the Eagle Ford Shale has been for Texas in terms of economic and industrial growth.
Knox: Talking about deregulation, I know you have various issues with it here in Ohio, and Ohio is one of your bigger sources of revenue. How do you operate in that this is your home state but you prefer to operate in a regulated market?
Akins: An unregulated market can work if you have the proper construct in place to support it, and that doesn’t exist (in Ohio). That doesn’t mean it won’t exist at some point, but it doesn’t exist today. We continue to invest heavily in our transmission and distribution here in Ohio, and I think it’s important for us to continue to focus on that infrastructure development and the customer experience. Not spending on generation in Ohio is a problem for the future, and it’s something we’re trying to fix, but there are challenges with that effort. We do not have enough capacity in the state of Ohio to serve AEP’s load, and that’s not a good place to be. That means you’re importing energy from states around you. That’s something that needs to be fixed. If we were still in a regulated market here, we would be investing in natural gas, but that’s not the case.
Knox: What’s the biggest issue for AEP in 2015?
Akins: The biggest issues for AEP in Ohio are our purchase power arrangement and the disposition of our competitive generation. Those are the two key issues, and we need policy direction from Ohio to understand which direction we’re going to go. It’s very important for us to know how to invest, particularly in the generation part in Ohio. Transmission and distribution will continue to flourish in Ohio. Ohio is a big part of AEP, and AEP will continue to be a big part of Ohio.