How We Engage
We held or participated in six formal stakeholder meetings or calls in 2012. We also changed the scope and format of our meetings. Traditionally, we held larger meetings that focused on several issues with diverse stakeholders. Over time, that process matured and, based on feedback from stakeholders and the conclusions of a stakeholder research project we participated in, we now conduct smaller, more issue-focused engagements. This type of engagement allows our stakeholders to be more personally involved with our subject matter experts. Many of our discussions are focused on energy efficiency and demand-side management. We also had discussions on environmental issues, coal, supply chain, climate change and water risk issues.
In February 2012, we held a multi-stakeholder meeting with AEP’s leadership team, led by President and CEO Nick Akins. We met with more than 40 customers, analysts, investors, environmental organizations, trade groups, coal suppliers and labor leaders. It was Nick’s first stakeholder meeting as CEO. He emphasized the importance of these types of discussions and encouraged stakeholders to come forward with their ideas and concerns. The dialogue focused largely on AEP’s business transformation in response to EPA’s environmental regulations and Ohio deregulation.
Many of our operating companies conduct local stakeholder meetings that generally focus on energy efficiency and demand-side management. In March 2012, AEP Texas led the first Texas Energy Efficiency Summit – a collaborative effort that included other utilities, regulatory staff, market participants and energy efficiency service providers. This day-long event provided an educational forum that was attended by approximately 65 stakeholders. We also participate in statewide energy efficiency collaboratives, working closely with public utility commissions, non-governmental organizations and other interested stakeholders. For example, in Arkansas, SWEPCo participates in a group known as the Parties Working Collaboratively, or PWC, which has been working together on energy efficiency rulemaking since 2006.
There is nothing as important or effective as developing relationships face-to-face, but the pace of change requires us to find other ways to engage with our stakeholders and to stay in touch more generally. Social media plays a significant role in this evolution, although it will never replace the personal connections we value.
We regularly connect with stakeholders using tools such as email, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn and blog posts, among others. We can engage those who have an interest in our business, and we can see what people are saying about us, our activities and our industry. This engagement helps us to understand the perceptions some may have and gives us the opportunity to respond or engage if we so choose.
Social media has become a critical tool in our ability to communicate with customers, and they with us, especially during storm restoration efforts. On June 29, the AEP system endured a widespread, straight-line windstorm leaving more than 1.4 million customers, about 26 percent of AEP’s 5.3 million customers, without power in five states. It was one of the most severe storms AEP has ever seen, leaving customers in the dark for days during a summer heat wave. During that time, social media proved to be a lifeline for many customers, allowing us to connect them with real-time information and updates on restoration efforts. AEP used Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to share information such as:
- Estimated restoration times and maps
- Public safety messages
- Photos and videos of the damage and of crews making
During the restoration effort, Twitter followers and Facebook fans more than doubled for AEP Ohio and Appalachian Power, two of the hardest hit operating companies. AEP and its operating companies were mentioned more than 140,000 times. We also saw a dramatic increase in website visits, with the majority coming from mobile devices. Almost 67 percent of AEP Ohio’s Web visits were conducted through mobile devices.