At AEP, understanding the needs and preferences of our customers is critical to our ability to deliver safe, clean, reliable and affordable energy. We are working to meet and engage with customers through their channel of choice while expanding programs, digital capabilities and clean energy offerings that are inclusive and accessible to all customers. This includes personalized engagements and enhanced self-service options that deliver a modern, convenient and customer-friendly experience. We are also being mindful that our clean energy transition doesn’t leave our customers behind. It’s important to put mechanisms in place to avoid creating energy inequality and provide our customers equal access to clean and modern energy options.
We continue working with our state regulators to offer creative solutions that help customers manage their energy use as well as pay their bills. This includes providing flexible payment options to help them maintain electric service without building up large past-due balances that they would have to pay all at once. We have been communicating with customers facing disconnection using different methods, including email, letters, texts, voice mail messages, social media and door hangers, encouraging them to contact us if they need help paying their bills. Previous standards for payment plan arrangements and extensions have been adjusted, including self-service options, so more customers can get the help they need. Disconnecting customers is always our last resort, and customers who work with us on a payment plan will not be disconnected.
Energy Affordability & Assistance
It is our responsibility to deliver electric service to every customer within our service territory. We understand financial hardships can make it difficult for some of our customers to pay their energy bills, especially within our geographic footprint where 96% of our customers live in counties where the median income is below the national average. At AEP, we are committed to keeping our customers connected and providing access to additional assistance if needed. In addition to payment assistance, we offer flexible payment options, including pre-pay and basing required customer payments on their previous year’s energy use to help customers better manage their energy bills.
As the COVID-19 pandemic headed into its second year, its impact continued to be felt by our customers. In 2021, we received more than 31,000 pledges totaling more than $15 million in energy assistance from our self-serve agency websites. The funding available to support our energy assistance programs comes from a variety of sources, including the government, social service agencies and voluntary customer contributions. Income guidelines determine eligibility. In addition, government-sponsored energy assistance programs provided approximately $135 million in federal and private energy assistance to our customers across our service territory in 2021 – a 47% increase compared to 2020.
Throughout our service territory, we help customers gain access to energy assistance. Our success rests on building strong partnerships with community action agencies, community-based organizations, faith-based organizations and food banks. For example, through Home Energy Aid Month, Public Service Company of Oklahoma teams up with The Salvation Army, City of Tulsa and other local utilities to raise awareness and support for area residents who need temporary assistance to pay their home heating or cooling bill. This annual event helps thousands of qualified customers across Oklahoma facing financial hardships to pay for their energy bills, which is administered through the Salvation Army.
Learn more about AEP’s customer assistance programs: