If you’ve ever been responsible for initiating and constructing a new or expanding industrial facility, you probably experienced one or more of these issues in working with your utility: slow response time, generic service solutions, costly infrastructure build-out and impersonal customer service.
This is what happens when estimating and planning teams at large utilities are swamped with requests from their broad customer base. A new project waits in a crowded queue, and then the development of the energy solution doesn’t get all the resources it could use.
Entergy recognized that these service issues have both near- and long-term impacts on the customer’s business: They may cause a delay in your project schedule and an increase in project CAPEX. They may result in project risks that shake investor confidence and delay project approval. Ultimately, they may erode your company’s ability to create or sustain a competitive advantage in today’s global marketplace.
Based on these insights, Entergy changed the process for supporting new or expanding industrial customers throughout our service territory in Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, and Mississippi. In 2014, we expanded the Utility Sales and Development Services workgroup to include Large Project Services, and today we’re one of the only utilities in the United States to offer this kind of dedicated project management.
When an RFI comes in for a new industrial project, it’s immediately assigned to our team, and without any delay, we begin working on it from a big-picture perspective, including the customer’s business goals, priorities and requirements. We represent these interests from the very first steps in planning until the project is placed in service.
I’ve been the manager of this new team since it was formed, and it’s a great opportunity for me to use experience I’ve gained working in different areas of the company over 17 years – in engineering, project management, customer service and heavy transmission construction. Members of the Large Project Services group are degreed engineers with diverse utility backgrounds and credentials, including Professional Engineer’s licensing and Project Management Professional certification. In 2016, we supported 139 RFIs for new or expanding industrial customers with electrical loads ranging from one megawatt to 350 megawatts.
Because our service territory is in one of the largest industrial corridors in the United States, we know from experience that the three most critical drivers in a company’s energy choices are: speed to market, cost and electric reliability. We work with every customer to weigh these priorities and energy solutions in the context of competitive advantage and profitability. Then we follow the project through internally to be sure the electric service contracting strategy aligns with the customer’s needs and drives top-line profit.
For example, when cost is a top priority, a customer may choose to use an alternate voltage source to reduce the expense of infrastructure. Or if reliability is critical, a customer may choose the most robust transmission solution we can offer. We also coordinate internally to support customer choices on the financial structure – some prefer to include applicable utility infrastructure costs in the total CAPEX of their project, while others prefer to include them over time as an operational cost.
Whatever their priorities, all customers benefit from Entergy’s competitive industrial rates, which are approximately 20 percent lower than the national average. They also benefit from the added value provided by our Large Project Services group – preliminary engineering studies with no out-of- pocket costs and long-term business value resulting from our strategic approach to energy planning.
I can speak for my team members and say that we enjoy the opportunity to work closely with customers and frontload their projects with our best technical and business thinking. It’s rewarding to play a role in a customer’s business success and contribute to the overall economic development of our communities.
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