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Editorials

Excel Energy Is A Crock
By Editors
Apr 6, 2009, 4:02pm

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Denver, Colorado: Without electricity and heat for 36 hours in sub freezing temperatures. Blown off by customer service. Even after locating the problem electrical pole with blown fuses - still disregarded. Insulted. Time for a revolution!

Denver in the early spring is in many cases worse than the dead of winter, as last weekend showed. The anticipated story blew in on Friday night and by 8 AM Saturday morning the power was fluctuating and finally went out completely. Then within minutes it was back on stayed on for an hour or so. Then disaster struck totally down, zip, zero electricity. And the temperature outside into the twenties with snow expected.

The usual call to Excel customer help was disturbing, more than 14,000 homes out with an expected power return to our location by 1:30 PM.
Not so bad if you could believe it.
(Oh, and one of the houses in the 14,000 was never without power at all. We checked!)

Excel in this area is known for blowing off customers, especially on the weekend.
Not enough crews. Short sighted management - poor allocation of resources
We've had problems over the years with power failures and the actual working guys are fine once they show up. Even they had stories of being pulled off to work other jobs and problems inside the company.

So nothing worked at 1:30, a new time of 4:30 PM came and went.

By nighttime and no electricity it forced us to abandon our post and seek dinner.
When returning we noticed that partial power was reinstated. (One phase out of three resulting in some electricity but no heat.)

Note: This location also houses two companies - one of which contains this ezine - The Fountain of Light. Also servers support other web sites.

The next morning (Sunday) the Excel representative insisted that full power was restored and just as forcefully we insisted it had not. We even checked all the fuses on the incoming lines and for sure the power was very limited. In some ways having one leg is even more of a problem because many circuits were partially powered with 80 volts and motors tried to turn on so we had to turn off everything not properly powered.

So began our frequent contact with Excel customer service.
And here it gets weird, too.
Nobody from Excel telephone outage lived in Colorado.
Some were in Kansas and some were in Wisconsin. One lady told us we were lucky since she herself had gone through four days without power in Wisconsin in the dead of winter. And that was Excel, too.
Did not give a warm fuzzy.

At the same time trying to be helpful we went around the area and traced our electrical lines back to the fault. About 150 yards away on our feeder line we found two poles with blown fuses (two on one and one on the other). You can tell the fuses are blown because they drop down from their position and can be plainly seen. We even got the number of the pole and called Excel with it.

Unfortunately the customer support line refused to believe us.
"Are you sure you know the difference between a telephone pole, a cable line and the electrical feed."
"Why yes, I can describe it for you."
"No - we still have 1400 people out of service and we are working on that. There are only 14 homes on your line."
"Does it count for anything that we are senior citizens?"
"We're not interested in knowing the particular circumstances."
"What about putting more crews to work
"Well we have to manage the crews - you don't want your bills to go up from paying for people to sit around
"Sit around - this is an emergency, what about a new time frame for service?
" Yes, 1:30
"Well that was yesterday
"Hmmm - we haven't been very accurate with our times.
"We think you work for a company that sucks
"What would you have us do?
"Well you could do preventive maintenance when the weather is good
"There is no preventive maintenance for 65 mile per hour winds
"What about the Sierras in California - they routinely have 65 mile per hour winds
Silence...
We hung up and waited.

Finally around 5:30 PM a truck showed up in the yard and we told him where to look for the problem. He seemed to know the location but said he had to check the lines nearby first and drove off. Within 45 minutes the power was restored.
Yes, the fuses we described on the pole were fixed.
Heat. Light. Relief.

Lessons learned:
The infra-structure really is crumbling.
Telephone support in some other state does not appear to consider your state a priority.
Also giving explicit directions to the problem spot is lost on someone from another place.
Under a public utility the citizen has some say, but under this situation the customer can twist in the wind

Whoever allowed or supported taking a public utility and turning it into a company only responsive to its stockholders - should forced to sit through a storm without heat and electricity for 36 hours minimum. Or perhaps tried for crimes against humanity.

Problem: Excel is the same energy provider that has a solar rebate program which required a 20 year contract for solar service in order to recoup its rebate (mandated by state law). Also the system must tie into the grid and therefore would not do you any good if the power went down.

Partial Solution:
Getting off the grid is an increased priority!

Power to the People!

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