We know that our energy infrastructure is out-of-date and customers are looking for varied and new services. However moving from the old model of simply supplying electricity to a burgeoning one of supplying energy-adjacent services and transforming the grid into a hacker-resistant infrastructure that also accommodates renewables isn’t inexpensive.
So how will utilities – many of whom are either under PUC regulation or being undercut on prices by new retail providers – afford to keep up in this changing market? By pivoting away from high-cost generation plants and providing a modern grid.
As the grid is modernized, two things will be top of mind for utility providers: fending off hackers and flexibility. In addition to replacing and repairing decades-old gas lines and transmission wires, it will mean updating software – as the Internet of Things expands, so do entry points for hackers. Likewise, the more interconnected infrastructure becomes, the more weak points there are for cyberattacks.
Updating software in a coordinated approach is where the smart money is going. Nearly 40 energy utilities spent $60 billion on grid improvements, while spending on new power plants fell to one-third of total capital improvements spending, according to the Edison Electric Institute. Even as investment in power plants shrinks, so does the demand for power – dropping to the lowest rate in a decade – and many utilities are shuttering obsolete plants instead of replacing them.
Some companies have already begun charging modernization fees, although some PUCs have disallowed them – for now. Several utilities have requested special ratemaking for grid investments, so this isn’t going away any time soon, but utilities will have to wait and see how it plays out in each PUC where they do business.
Although the reality is that rate increases will need to be made to make the grid safer and more resilient, some utilities are reducing increases to ratepayers by having third-party companies pay to offer new services to the grid.
As utilities work to make the grid safer, customers have begun to unplug. Even as the grid becomes safer and better equipped to deal with the surge and ebb of renewables, many utilities must find a balance in net metering between the wholesale rate they want to pay and the retail rate distributed generators want. Again, where PUCs fall on this issue will have an impact on utilities’ bottom lines – and their ability to modernize energy infrastructure.
Changing our country’s energy infrastructure won’t be quick, easy or cheap – nor will it extend to thousands of homes in need of electrical upgrades from weatherheads to service panels to wiring. As smart devices proliferate and renewables become more common, how will these systems fare?
HomeServe USA offers interior electric, hot water heater, HVAC and electric service line warranties that can keep your ratepayers safe from electrical hazards in their homes, protect them from unexpected expenses and give them peace of mind. For information on this turn-key program, contact us.
Evangeline G. of Yonkers noticed many of her neighbors were experiencing water line breaks, especially during the winter months, and began worrying about the line servicing her home.
“[The contractors] told us to get this [warranty] because all these lines were breaking,” she said.
Evangeline, a single mother raising two sons, was on a fixed income and didn’t want to be faced with the expense of repairing a water line. She saved for two and a half months until she had $204.76 – the cost of a year-long service line warranty – and sent it off in mid-March. A few days later, her check was cashed, and Evangeline relaxed. She only had to get through the required waiting period and she would be covered.
However, several weeks went by and she still hadn’t received her warranty paperwork, so Evangeline called her home warranty company in April to find out if she would be receiving her new customer packet soon.
Then, in early May, she received a notification from the city she had a leak. Not only did the line break near the main line, but it the line was lead, meaning the entire line would have to be replaced in order to bring it to code. Relieved that she had taken steps to secure a warranty back in March, she contacted her home warranty company.
“They said, ‘we have a record that you called two and a half weeks ago,’” she said. “‘You knew about this.’ I said, ‘no, I was calling about my paperwork.’ They didn’t believe me and they said they wouldn’t cover it.”
Despairing, Evangeline began looking for a plumber – otherwise, the city would be forced to turn off the water to her home to prevent the water leaking beneath the street from causing an issue – and she was still out more than $200.
“I hoped I could find someone who would take $50, $75 a month,” she said. “I thought I would be paying this off for 20 years.”
Evangeline’s sons began researching area plumbing companies and suggested their mother contact O’Grady Plumbing, operated by Josephine O’Grady.
“When I called, I was upset, crying, ‘please, can you help me?’” she said.
In addition to being based in Yonkers, O’Grady Plumbing is a HomeServe USA network contractor, and Josephine thought Evangeline might qualify for HomeServe Cares, a program that helps disadvantaged residents without a repair plan by providing free, emergency plumbing repairs to those who qualify.
“So we got a call from Evangeline, and she had a notice from the city that they were going to turn off her water,” Josephine said. “She was pretty upset. It was expensive, and her [warranty] wouldn’t cover it. I told her we would work with her.”
Josephine assured Evangeline they would figure out a fix for her, then contacted her HomeServe Regional Operations Manager, Mary Michell.
“O’Grady Plumbing contacted us to see if we could cover the cost through the [HomeServe Cares] program,” Michell said. “Evangeline qualified, so we made arrangements to replace the lead line from the main, across the street, to the house.”
When Michell contacted Evangeline, she was shopping.
“I was at the dollar store when she called, and when she said they would do the job, I started crying in the middle of the store,” she said. “People were asking me if I was okay, but they were tears of happiness.”
HomeServe dispatched O’Grady Plumbing to replace the entire line at no cost to Evangeline.
“I’m blessed to have this,” Evangeline said. “Thank you so much.”
HomeServe is committed to serving its partners’ communities. To this end, HomeServe Cares is a program to aid disadvantaged homeowners in communities it serves who are faced with a service emergency and don’t have a service plan or the funds to cover an emergency repair. HomeServe Cares leverages the company’s existing service infrastructure and financial resources to aid homeowners in need.
To find out how a partnership with HomeServe can benefit your customers, contact us.
Click here to view our Biannual State of the Home infographic.
HomeServe USA (HomeServe), a leading provider of home repair solutions, announced the findings of the summer 2018 edition of its Biannual State of the Home Survey. The twice annual survey, now in its seventh edition, reports on the financial impact of home repairs and the state of the American home. The summer edition of the online survey was conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of HomeServe from Aug. 27-29, 2018, among 2,012 adults age 18 and older, including 1,377 who identified themselves as homeowners.
The survey findings reinforced previously collected data that showed that emergency home repairs are an unfortunate reality of homeownership. The last Biannual State of Home survey, conducted in February 2018, found that 51 percent of homeowners reported having a home repair emergency just in the past year. The summer 2018 edition of the survey dug deeper into that data, finding that one in five Americans (20 percent) reported needing to repair or replace their heating or air conditioning systems (HVAC) in the last year. Supporting this result is that many homeowners have HVAC systems that are aging, including forty-two percent of homeowners reporting heating systems over ten years old, and 30 percent indicating that their air conditioning system is over 10 years old.
In addition to HVAC systems repairs, Americans reported over the past year needing repairs to their blocked and/or overflowing toilet (14 percent), leaking water pipes (13 percent), water heater repair/replacement (11 percent) and a faulty electrical circuit, switch, or outlet (10 percent).
When asked how they paid for home repairs, 69 percent of homeowners indicated that they rely on cash or savings to cover the cost. Given that the vast majority of homeowners depend on cash or savings for home repairs, the survey’s findings show that many actually have little savings set aside for a home repair emergency. The survey found that more than one in five (22 percent) homeowners have no money set aside for a home repair emergency. This is a jump from 18 percent reported in the winter 2018 survey edition. Americans with more limited financial means are the most vulnerable to the monetary impact of a home repair. Of those homeowners with household incomes of under $50,000 a year, 65 percent reported having $500 or less or even no money at all set aside for a home repair emergency. This figure is significantly greater than the 57 percent reported earlier this year.
“We see a trend, survey after survey, that many Americans are not financially prepared to shoulder the cost of an emergency home repair,” said HomeServe USA Chief Executive Officer John Kitzie. “Repairs or replacement of water or sewer lines or repairs to major home comfort systems can run in the thousands of dollars, yet one in four Americans have no savings set aside to cover these types of expensive repairs.”
American homeowners also reported problems with the home repair process with some (30 percent) experiencing concern about selecting a trustworthy contractor, while 28 percent said that the repair process took longer than initially expected. One of the benefits of a HomeServe emergency repair plan is that it takes the fear and hassle out of the process of finding a qualified, reliable contractor. One call to HomeServe’s 24/7 customer service hotline, which is open 365 days a year, including holidays, starts the process of dispatching a local, qualified contractor to your home.
Finally, for the first time, the survey examined attitudes toward and adoption of smart home technology. The findings make it clear that more and more Americans are turning toward these devices to make life easier. Fifty-two percent reported having a smart home device, including 23 percent who indicated they had a voice-controlled assistant (e.g., Amazon Alexa, Google Home). Thirty percent of those with devices cited convenience as the biggest benefit, followed by security/peace of mind (23 percent) and energy cost savings (19 percent).
The August survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of HomeServe USA from August 27-29, 2018 among 2,012 U.S. adults ages 18 and older, among whom 1,377 are Homeowners. The February survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of HomeServe USA from February 22-26, 2018 among 2,037 U.S. adults ages 18 and older, among whom 1,389 are Homeowners. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables and subgroup sample sizes, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
HomeServe USA partners with utilities across the nation to offer water, sewer and electrical service line and interior plumbing and electric warranties to their customers. HomeServe maintains a 400-seat, award-winning call center 24/7/365 and dispatches fully licensed and insured, local contractors after one call. To learn more about an affinity partnership with HomeServe, contact us.
HomeServe USA, a leading provider of home emergency repair solutions, now serving over 3.6 million customers across the U.S. and Canada, is celebrating 15 years of service in the United States. This year also marks the 25th year of operations for its UK-based parent company, HomeServe plc.
“I’m incredibly proud of the company we’ve evolved into over the last 15 years in North America and 25 years in the UK. Our people, our products and our customers have helped to make us the company we are today and the company we’ll be tomorrow,” said HomeServe’s Founder and Global Chief Executive Richard Harpin. “We’re committed to working towards fulfilling our vision to be the world’s most trusted provider of home repairs and improvements. And we look forward to growing our business in North America and around the globe as we aim to perform every job in every home.”
Over the past fifteen years, HomeServe USA has completed nearly 3 million repairs for its customers, saving them over three-quarters of a billion dollars in repair expenses as well as providing invaluable peace-of-mind in the face of a home emergency. Today, the HomeServe North American team includes more than 1,100 employees and 1,400 community based small businesses that collectively employ thousands of skilled tradespeople committed to providing exceptional service and value every day.
“We are so proud of what HomeServe has done over the past 15 years. Every day we hear firsthand from our customers about how a HomeServe repair plan has taken the hassle, stress and cost out of an urgent home repair,” said HomeServe USA Chief Executive Officer John Kitzie. “From an A+ Better Business Bureau rating and a near-perfect satisfaction score from customers receiving repairs to national recognition for our sales, marketing and service operations, HomeServe stands as a model of a company that always puts our customers and partners first.”
This year, the National League of Cities (NLC) renewed its partnership with Utility Service Partners, a HomeServe company, for the NLC Service Line Warranty Program, the only service line warranty program endorsed by the NLC. The partnership first launched in 2010, and today, more than 475 cities and towns across the U.S. participate in the program.
Earlier in 2018, HomeServe was named a winner of Contracting Magazine’s Residential HVAC Contractors of Excellence Award and recent HVAC acquisitions have continued to significantly grow this portion of HomeServe’s business. With more than 200 employed HVAC technicians, HomeServe provides reliable heating and cooling experts that service over 1,000 communities in 26 counties across New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New Jersey.
“While we are thrilled about what we’ve accomplished over the past 15 years, we are equally excited about where we are heading,” added Kitzie. “We’re innovating our product offerings and service delivery capabilities to deliver the very best service experience for our customers today and tomorrow.”