May 28, 2009 (San Diego) – Sempra Energy’s California utilities, Southern California Gas Co. (The Gas Company) and San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E), rank No. 1 in customer satisfaction among the largest U.S. investor-owned energy utilities, according to a recent survey by the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI). But some local ratepayers expressed shock at that report, citing popular uprisings against Sempra’s proposed Sunrise Powerlink and planned shut-off of power to backcountry areas, as well as admissions by Sempra that its power lines have been linked to 167 fires in the past five and a half years.
“We take great pride as the highest-scoring utilities in the ACSI survey,” said Debra L. Reed, president and chief executive officer for SDG&E and The Gas Company. “This extraordinary accomplishment is a testament to our employees’ hard work, dedication and commitment to deliver a consistently high level of service, day in and day out, to our nearly 6 million California customers.”
But Diane Conklin, spokesperson for the Mussey Grade Road Alliance which represents wildfire victims and residents in the Ramona area, expressed skepticism over the survey’s methodology. "I have no idea who was surveyed for these results,” she said, “but I imagine it was not people living in the backcountry who were burned out during 2007 in no less than three huge wildland fires in which San Diego Gas & Eclectic equipment was involved, along with a broad range of folks around San Diego County who resent Sempra Energy's heavy handed tactics to shove through a boondoggle and profit-generating transmission line that all Californians will pay for. Maybe the economic sectors, industries and companies surveyed live on the moon."
Laura Cyphert is co-founder of the East County Community Action Coalition, a grassroot citizens’ organization established to halt Sunrise Powerlink, SDG&E’s proposed high-voltage transmission line. “I find it almost comical that a utility company that is proposing to shut-off energy to its customers during certain predictably occurring weather conditions would be boasting about its reliability,” Cyphert told East County Magazine. “That is almost as absurd as a Company that is being sued for negligence for its improper maintenance of its transmission lines and causing catastrophic fires being voted top in customer satisfaction. I shudder to imagine what the low ranking utility companies are doing to their customers.”
The quarterly nationwide University of Michigan survey gauges customer satisfaction across 10 economic sectors, 44 industries and more than 200 companies, and federal and local government agencies. As subsidiaries of Sempra Energy, SDG&E and The Gas Company scored the highest in residential customer satisfaction of the 29 largest investor-owned utilities in the first-quarter 2009 survey. For the energy utilities sector, the ACSI survey uses a uniform system to measure customer satisfaction, quality of service, value, reliability and the ability to restore power after an outage. More information about the ACSI survey and a complete list of measured companies and scores are available at www.theacsi.org.
The Gas Company and SDG&E are subsidiaries of Sempra Energy, a Fortune 500 energy services holding company with 2008 revenues of nearly $11 billion. The companies serve ratepayers in the San Diego and Orange County regions.