EPB Vice President of Strategic Communications and Marketing J. Ed Marston gave the board of directors an overview of the utility’s annual report at the September meeting on Friday. It has been 10 years since EPB launched its gig speed fiberoptic network and it is continuing to stay on the leading edge with a six-year upgrade plan. Recent upgrades have already increased the capacity to handle 10 times more network traffic from when it was started in 2009.
EPB has a mission to enhance the quality of life for people it serves and one way it does this is to put customers first, Mr. Marston said. This has partially driven the increased use of the utility’s fiberoptics side of the business. The Internet service now has 126,086 customers, including residential and commercial. This year EPB tied as the number one ranked electric residential utility in customer satisfaction in the U.S. in the annual consumer survey by J.D. Powers. And it was ranked as the best mid-size utility in the South for the sixth year in a row.
The business provides personalized customer service to help customers save money related to energy use. Assistance is offered, such as giving a customer guidance for their energy needs. Consultations are available about shifting to electric vehicles and business are being encouraged to install charging stations. During the pandemic, when kids were unable to be in classrooms, the Hamilton County Ed Connect program was developed with EPB giving free internet access to K-12 Hamilton County students in need. Today there are 1,600 students enrolled in the program and that allows 28,000 people to use the internet when family members are included.
The Energy Pro Program helps customers to save money while they conserve energy by providing home check-ups that show homeowners ways to cut energy use. This program provided 1,100 consultations in the past year. Another program, Home Uplift, actually makes upgrades to residences that lead to energy savings for customers in need. There were 600 homes that got improvements through Home Uplift in 2022. The “Cut the Cord” campaign has encouraged customers to switch to more cost-effective ways to watch TV by streaming instead of watching through the cable. The company has support people to help customers make the switch. There are now just 34 percent of fiber optics customers that buy TV services. EPB will also provide information about the use of solar energy.
EPB is supporting local companies and growth for small businesses in the area that are owned by minorities and women. As COVID restrictions were relaxed, EPB partnered with River City Company to hold community events that encouraged people to get out and to return to patronizing local businesses which has helped lead to job creation.
And they are delivering solutions for sustainability by leading the shift from gas powered vehicles to electric vehicles. There are already free charging stations in the EPB parking deck and more fast charging stations will be built on the first floor of the garage. The company is assisting the government in the effort to place fast charging stations every 50 miles along interstates.
To head-off the loss of electricity during times such as bad storms, EPB is building “microsites” that will be battery storage sites for emergency power outages. And it is working with a partner to develop technology to protect America’s electric grid.
"This has been an extraordinary year coming out of COVID," said Mr. Marston, while highlighting accomplishments by EPB during 2022.