Going Face-to-Face With 800-Pound Sea Lions

While just about any 800-pound wild animal is pretty interesting, getting into an enclosed Arielle - Outlet Photopen with one is bound to get your attention. But not only did Arielle Romero share space with sea lions at the Moss Landing Marine Labs near Santa Cruz, she actually trained the agile beasts in behavior that helped them.

Arielle’s path to her position as an SVP Key Customer Representative was hardly ordinary. The Livermore High School graduate studied political science with an emphasis on energy and environment at U.C. Santa Cruz while also fulfilling a love of marine mammals with her work at Moss Landing.

“Often I was not only responsible for my life but also for another person’s life when supervising someone doing a training session in an enclosure with a 700- or 800-pound animal,” says Arielle, who trained co-workers in the care and training of the sea mammals.

“The sea lions couldn’t be released into the wild so we did some rehabilitation and used them to help us research their marine environment for the university,” Arielle says. “We also had educational programs teaching kids who came to our facility the importance of marine conservation, and the sea lions really got their attention.”

“We trained the animals in medical behaviors such as having them lay down so we’d be able to examine them. It’s beneficial to be able to give commands like ‘let me see your flipper’, ‘let me see your back flipper’, ‘open your mouth’. Unless you train a sea lion to do that you’d have to manually force them, and you can imagine how that would turn out with a wild animal.”

Her work at Moss Landing and U.C. Santa Cruz studies led Arielle to the conclusion that the biggest threat to sea life and the environment in general was climate change. “It wasn’t difficult to see that energy use based on fossil fuels was a negative factor, while renewable energy and energy efficiency are helpful.”

Pursuing a career in the energy industry, Arielle worked for two years with us as an energy conservation intern, then was hired by the local Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee to help electrical apprentices successfully complete training. Taking the Key Customer Representative position with us this year was a natural next step.

“Our customers are ahead of the curve when it comes to energy efficiency and respect for the environment,” she says. “Working with them is very rewarding.”

High Electric Bills This Winter?

This is the time of year when we receive the most calls from customers concerned about high electric bills.  Temperatures have been colder; people were home for the holidays; and a lot of cooking, baking and entertaining occurred. When the bill arrives a month later, you may not associate these things with the higher energy use.

Herb Marshall Enery Audit
Herb Marshall

According to Herb Marshall, our Energy Conservation Coordinator who performs most of the in-home energy audits, he finds that portable space heaters and electric baseboard heat are the biggest culprit for higher bills in the winter. That’s why we developed a Space Heater Guide to help customers select the best space heater option for their needs.  Many customers don’t realize that space heaters cost about $0.15/hour to operate, but that can easily add up to an additional $30-$40 per month in cold weather!

Year round, we offer customers a free in-home energy audit to help identify ways to save energy and lower your electric bills, but this service is especially popular this time of year. We offer a number of other resources to help you save money and energy, as well as improve comfort in your home.  Check out our Energy Saving Tips and download one of our guides today!

Standing Up for Customers Yields Standout Award

It was great to be ranked at a record high level for customer satisfaction in a customer survey earlier this summer. The independent research firm that does these surveys, RKS Research of New NN7_3461-01York, also asks customers what they appreciate or want to see from their utility. Along with low cost and reliability, our customers always ask that we keep communications high on our list of priorities.

So we were delighted when an industry award for outstanding customer communications was given yesterday to our top customer services executive, Larry Owens.  The Northwest Public Power Association gave Larry its lifetime achievement award to recognize his work here for the past 20 years. The award honors remarkable work in the areas of marketing and communication and lifetime commitment to the public power industry.

Larry has driven us to develop strategies that have won widespread community support for the City’s electric utility. He makes every effort to deliver what our customers need or want to know in a timely and effective manner. The results are remarkable. Customer satisfaction and solid trust in SVP have been repeatedly and dramatically validated in independent surveys.

All of us value communications with our customers. Not only do we try to let you know what’s happening with your utility, but we welcome your feedback too. If you have a suggestion or a question, let us know at info@siliconvalleypower.com.

You Spoke, We Listened!

We pride ourselves at staying in touch with our residential and commercial customers and making sure that they know what’s going on, whether it’s tips for saving energy or information about new power resources. And we like to be responsive to customers’ needs. So we occasionally have an independent research company conduct customer surveys to find out how we’re doing with our customers.

One of those surveys this summer showed we set a record for high satisfaction ratings among our residential customers compared to other utilities in California.

Among other questions, customers were asked about their overall satisfaction, their opinion about our rates and whether or not they trusted us to act in customers’ best interests.

The latest results found:

  • Overall, 82 percent of customers surveyed said they were very satisfied with us, a full 15 points above the statewide utility average.
  • Customers are pleased with rates, giving us an average of 7.8 on 0-10 scale, compared with 6.7 statewide.
  • The value of electricity service for the price paid rated 8.2, a full 1.0 above the statewide average.
  • Trust in us rated an 8.4 compared to average ratings between 6.9 and 7.1 statewide for other utilities.
  • 89 percent of customers consider their relationship with us to be “excellent” or “pretty good.”

Our customers also gave us some very constructive feedback, such as a need for us to enhance our online customer service process and improve e-billing services.

We’re working on it! We’re working to update the current version of our e-billing service with a new release that fixes operational bugs and includes usability enhancements, while at the same time, searching the market for a better product.

RKS Results

Legend: Muni – other California public power utilities; IOU – California Investor Owned Utilities