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Allegheny Power 2nd in survey of customers

| Saturday, March 22, 2003

Despite its parent's growing financial problems and sliding stock price, Allegheny Power in 2003 maintained an above-average service satisfaction level with mid-size businesses, according to a J.D. Power and Associates customer survey.

For the second time in the study's four-year existence, the power delivery unit of Allegheny Energy Inc. took second place among electric utilities doing business in the survey's east region, which includes the New England and mid-Atlantic states and Washington, D.C. Allegheny Power serves some 600,000 customers in Pennsylvania.

Allegheny Power's satisfaction level for this year was 102, tying it for second place with Potomac Electric Power Co., Washington, D.C., and Public Service Enterprise Group Inc., Newark, N.J. A score of 100 points in the Powers' survey is considered the industry average. Greensburg-based Allegheny Power since 2000 has recorded scores of 104, 101 (tied for third in the East), 104 (again tied for third place) and this year's 102, according to Powers' findings. Utilities were graded on such things as power quality and reliability, company image, price and value, billing and payment, and customer service.

Despite its above-average scores, Allegheny Power could not overcome the survey dominance of Allentown-based PPL Corp., which has taken the East's top survey spot three of four years, finishing second in 2002. PPL in 2003 had a score of 109.

"In the business study, we found companies like PPL and Southern Co. (the Atlanta-based energy giant which led the country in the Powers' study three of four years) have extensive billing and pricing programs for their business customers," said Alan Destribats, executive director of Powers' utility practice. "Business customers tend to have a closer relationship to their utility than residential customers have."

Another utility with western Pennsylvania ties did not fare as well in satisfying its mid-size business (firms spending between $1,500 and $25,000 monthly for electricity) customers as Allegheny Power. The FirstEnergy-GPU merged entry tied for 10th this year, with 91 points, matching the score of another Pennsylvania utility, Exelon Corp. subsidiary PECO of Philadelphia. That finish, however, was an improvement over FirstEnergy-GPU's 2002 rank, when it graded 13th.

Pittsburgh-based Duquesne Light Co., which serves most of Allegheny County, was not part of the Powers' study, according to Destribats, because the cutoff for being included was having no fewer than 90,000 commercial customers.

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