Traverse City Record-Eagle

March 14, 2013

Recommendations will impact Light & Power customers

Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Traverse City Light & Power customers could see dozens of small changes to make the utility more user-friendly and less tolerant of late payments.

A report from Hometown Connections offers 77 separate recommendations, of which almost half will have a direct bearing on customers. The suggestions range from more web links between the city and its utility to regular studies to determine if TCL&P’s low rates are sufficient.

“It’s meaty, it’s actionable, its going to be useful,” John Taylor, TCL&P board vice chairman, said about the report.

The report questioned how TCL&P sets it rates, and if some users, such as commercial rate payers, are overly subsidizing residential customers.

The recommendations include:

• Creation of a formal rate policy that identifies factors that trigger rate increases and completion of a rate and cost of service study every three to five years to better align rates with the cost of delivering the service.

• Replace mailed late notices and hand delivered shut-off notices with automated phone calls.

• Evening hours one day a week, the same day as utility shut-offs for non-payment.

• Encouraging more customers to move to the least costly payment form, such as automatic bank drafts.

• Evaluate charges for late payments, shut-off and reconnect fees, which are currently below industry averages.

• Better information on the TCL&P website regarding bill payment options and resources for energy conservation and efficiency.

• Better display of TCL&P’s electric rates compared to neighboring utilities and TCL&P’s contributions to the city and community.

• More information on utility bills to show customers how their electric usage has changed over time.

• Improve communication with its commercial customers who provide 78 percent of the utility’s revenue, with particular attention directed towards key customers.