Orcas Power & Light Cooperative is listening to its members. A web-based member satisfaction survey was recently offered to all 11,281 members in exchange for a $5 bill credit. Participation was great: 2,172 surveys were completed between May 3rd and June 20th, representing about 20% of the membership. The full results are linked here:
The results show that the large majority of our membership (91%) are satisfied (or very satisfied) with their electric co-op, and 81% trust OPALCO to run efficiently. The most frequently cited areas for improvement included how the co-op communicates, increasing member participation in energy savings programs and addressing Internet services in San Juan County.
Member participation in the survey was proportional to the islands population: San Juan Island – 40%; Orcas Island – 36%; Lopez Island – 19%; and other islands 5%. Respondents also reflected the demographics of the islands: 50% were retired and 50% working either at home or outside the home; 75% identified as full-time residents and 25% as part-timers.
The survey measured general satisfaction and trust, and also in three targeted areas: communication, energy savings and Internet services. Below is a summary of key findings:
Communication – Most members (80%) rated OPALCO’s communication efforts highly. Most people stay in touch through bill inserts (53%), newspapers (51%) and OPALCO’s website (37%). The topics of greatest interest to members for future outreach are: Internet service (72%), Energy Efficiency and Conservation (54%), Power Supply and Rates (53%) and Local Renewable Energy (49%). In response, we will update our website to maximize its effectiveness, continue with bill inserts and newspaper pieces, and use public meetings (12%) and social media (8%) channels accordingly.
Energy Savings – We can put more money in members’ pockets. A large majority of respondents (84%) perceive that there are not a lot of potential energy savings to be achieved in their homes. However, almost half (41%) report they are “likely” to take energy savings measures if it would save energy and money. Our 2013 Conservation Potential Assessment shows that there is much to gain through weatherization measures in San Juan County. This tells us we are on the right track in partnering with the San Juan Islands Conservation District and Islands Energy to educate our members in energy savings practices – and to increase awareness about OPALCO’s rebate programs.
Internet Services – Improving Internet service is a key issue. Overall, 35% or respondents are dissatisfied with their current Internet service and a majority (68%) would like OPALCO to make its infrastructure available for Internet services. Member satisfaction with current Internet services varies by island with Orcas leading with the greatest dissatisfaction, followed by “other” islands (Shaw and outer islands), San Juan, and Lopez being the most satisfied. These findings confirm OPALCO’s direction to offer our grid-control network as a platform to connect members to Internet services based on member demand and member ability to pay for connection and service.
Narrative Comments – Of the 2,172 completed surveys, 657 (30%) left comments and most (48%) of those were on the topic of Internet services followed by General Interest (23%), Energy Savings / Renewable Energy (11%), Power (9%), Transparency (5%) and Communication (4%). A complete list of narrative comments is available online at www.opalco.com/news.
OPALCO management is very grateful to our membership for their participation in this survey. It is often the case that the majority voice remains silent—until asked. It is our goal is to improve service to the entire membership. OPALCO’s leadership will be using these findings to inform policy and decision making going forward and we will regularly report on concrete progress made in addressing this member feedback.
This survey was the first in what OPALCO plans to make a regular feature of our co-op culture. The
Co-op will ask members to take comprehensive member satisfaction surveys periodically, but will also be offering shorter surveys on targeted topics, such as how our rebate program is working for those who use it, and how much of a priority local distributed power should be for the Co-op.