One of the important reasons to follow WV PSC cases is that there is a lot of information that comes out in the discovery process where power companies are required to provide factual information. This requirement that the companies deal only in facts is in stark contrast to their press releases and media campaigns.
So last Friday, the PSC put up FirstEnergy’s responses to questions posed by the WV Consumer Advocate in the Mon Power/Potomac Edison billing investigation. The CAD made a simple data request: “Please provide the number of Mon Power and Potomac Edison employees, by job title, as of December 31, 201 0, 201 1, 2012, and for the most recent month available.” Here is a link to FirstEnergy’s response.
If you extract the numbers of meter readers on staff at Mon Power and Potomac Edison from 2010 to June 2013, there is a clear answer to why FirstEnergy’s WV companies have been illegally estimating bills at very high rates for the past year. The companies have cut the number of meter readers they employ. Here’s the tale:
- 2010 – 60 total meter readers
- 2011 – 58 total meter readers
- 2012 – 47 total meter readers
- June 2013 – 52 total meter readers
- 2010 – 17 total meter readers
- 2011 – 19 total meter readers
- 2012 – 15 total meter readers
- June 2013 – 15 total meter readers
So the merger of Allegheny Energy and FirstEnergy in 2011 has resulted in the elimination of 8 Mon Power meter readers and of 2 Potomac Edison meter readers. That’s a drop of 13% for Mon Power and a drop of 12% for Potomac Edison.
The other merger development has been the requirement that meter readers use their own vehicles on the job, with cheesy magnetic company stickers, and FirstEnergy no longer provides them with uniforms or visible identification as power company employees. The fact that meter readers now appear in our communities as unidentified stalkers or burglars casing houses can’t be good for employee morale.
It’s pretty simple. The numbers tell the story. If you don’t have enough meter readers, you can’t meet the WV legal requirement that meters must be actually read at least every other month. And this certainly wasn’t the improvement in service that FirstEnergy told the PSC would result from the Ohio company’s swallowing of Allegheny Energy.