PPL Corporation earns top ranking from national publication

By LVEDC Staff on December 17, 2013

PPLPPL is such a fixture in the Lehigh Valley that sometimes we take this truly great company for granted. Fortunately for us, PPL never took the region – especially downtown Allentown – for granted.

PPL Corporation got its just due this past week when it was named the Utility of the Year by the editors at Electric Light & Power magazine. It’s the second Utility of the Year award for PPL in the past five years, and third overall.

“PPL won the Utility of the Year award in 2008, and it is unheard of for a utility to win the award again so soon,” said Editor in Chief Teresa Hansen. “This year my team of researchers and I even examined additional metrics to see if other utilities could be contenders. We quickly realized the winner could be no other utility than PPL this year. It was that clear.”

Known as the voice of the electric utility industry since 1922, Electric Light & Power is the authoritative source of electric industry business news for electric utility executives and management.

William H. Spence, PPL chairman, president and CEO, appears on the cover of the November/December issue of Electric Light & Power magazine. PPL and he will be honored on Jan. 28 at the POWERGRID International awards in San Antonio, Texas.

“Selection as Utility of the Year is an honor recognizing the great work that 17,000 employees of PPL companies in the United States and United Kingdom are doing every day to satisfy customers, provide competitive returns to investors and serve as a positive force in the communities where they live and work,” Spence said.

“PPL continues to grow and evolve, but we never lose sight of the fundamentals on which our companies have been built: employee and public safety, world-class customer service and solid corporate citizenship.” Spence said.

As the powerful locally based utility takes its accolades in stride, its relationship with the City of Allentown remains unique and unwavering.

“Allentown and the Lehigh Valley is our home,” said George Lewis, PPL director of corporate communications. “It’s been our home since General Trexler convinced other directors of the newly formed company in the 1920s to locate the corporation’s headquarters here.

“We are the only Pennsylvania-based Fortune 500 company that has its headquarters in the downtown of a mid-sized city. For that reason we have a strong interest in a thriving downtown and region.”

PPL also has a strong interest in delivering solid and consistent earnings to shareholders. But the company isn’t afraid to be bold when the situation calls for it.

“The acquisitions we made in Kentucky in 2010 and the United Kingdom 2011 fundamentally changed our business,” Lewis noted. “They more than doubled the number of customers served by PPL companies and increased annual revenues by about 70 percent.”

The additions enhanced the stability of PPL’s earnings, dividend and credit rating – the very things that tend to enamor investors.

In 2012, the company posted $12.3 billion in revenue, while assets totaled $43.6 billion and their total customer base topped 10 million in the United States and the United Kingdom. PPL boasts some 19,000 MW of generation capacity, employs nearly 18,000 people and maintains 200,000 miles of power lines.

Utility of the Year judges at Electric Light & Power gave PPL high marks in many areas, especially customer satisfaction.

“It starts with the recognition that PPL companies provide an essential service to customers,” said Lewis. “The focus on customers is part of PPL’s mission and values because we know that in our business, providing best-in-class customer service is essential to success.

“We listen to customers, seek their comments and make improvements based on what we learn. We monitor and study the attributes of customer satisfaction. We look to recognized leaders – inside and outside of the utility business – for best practices. Then it comes down to execution and in that regard PPL employees are second to none.”

Case in point: PPL drew raves for its response to Hurricane Sandy.

“We learn from every storm we experience. In 2011, Hurricane Irene and a rare October snowstorm provided lessons that helped us improve operations, logistics and communications,” he recalled.

“For Hurricane Sandy, we applied those lessons before the storm hit. We made outbound phone calls and sent thousands of emails to forewarn customers. We pre-staged support from other companies, including crews from PPL-owned companies in Kentucky. We used new approaches for housing and feeding all of the visiting line crews, and fueling and stocking the hundreds of trucks involved in the restoration.

“We also expanded customer communications, made greater use of social media and conducted daily conference calls with municipal leaders and elected officials to stay on top of the most urgent community needs.”

PPL isn’t about to rest on its laurels.

“We’re still making improvements based on our experience with Hurricane Sandy,” Lewis said. “We invested more than $1 billion in upgrading our lines and equipment in 2013. We’re refining mutual assistance agreements with other companies. We continue to improve the PPL Electric Utilities website and social media presence.

“These actions are consistent with the shared objective of all PPL companies: to provide superior customer service and a safe, reliable grid that is more resilient to storms.”

PPL, a longtime investor and partner of Lehigh Valley Economic Development, is deeply involved with many worthy community initiatives and organizations.

“The world now knows what the Lehigh Valley has always known – PPL is second to none,” said Don Cunningham, president and CEO of LVEDC.


A Year in Review: The Lehigh Valley’s business scene

It was a very good year for Lehigh Valley and its business community. There were a total of 23 new arrivals or expansion projects in various states of development during 2013.[...]

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