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Brandt’s claim that APS is widely loved doesn’t jibe with reality

By: - September 4, 2019 3:15 pm

Don Brandt, CEO of Arizona Public Service and its parent company, Pinnacle West Capital Corp., appears before the Arizona Corporation Commission on Sept. 4, 2019. Photo by Tom Tingle/The Republic | Pool photo

During his appearance this morning at the Corporation Commission, Arizona Public Service and Pinnacle West CEO Don Brandt gave an answer that warrants some examination.

In response to questioning from Commissioner Sandra Kennedy, the lone Democrat on the five-member panel, Brandt said the utility company he runs has an “exceptional” reputation among Arizonans.

Later, Brandt said that APS prizes customer satisfaction, and he personally gets stopped and thanked all the time.

“People around this state love APS. I go out and the kudos that are thrown at me are kind of embarrassing,” he said in response to another question from Kennedy.

Polling data released earlier this year indicates otherwise.

Back in January, a poll commissioned by Arizona Public Interest Research Group on environmental issues also gauged voter sentiments toward the three major electric companies in the state: APS, Salt River Project and Tucson Electric Power. 

APS and SRP aren’t exactly competitors – we have a regulated monopoly power system in Arizona, one that SRP isn’t subject to – but they are birds of a feather, in that they both provide power in large swaths of the metro Phoenix area, and their actions are often compared against the other.

So it was just a bit surprising to see just how divergent views are of the two companies. The pollster, WPA Intelligence, asked the 504 voters surveyed whether they held favorable or unfavorable views of APS and SRP. 

Both companies were widely known to the public, as 88% had heard of each one. Almost half – 49% – of voters saw SRP in a positive light, compared to only 36% for APS. But the real story is in those who said they viewed the companies unfavorably: Only 11% did for SRP, but a whopping 30% did for APS.

SRP had a plus-38% favorability rating, compared to a plus-6% rating for APS. If the two companies were running for office, you’d have to give a significant advantage to SRP for being so well-liked.

Another question in the poll asked voters how trustworthy different entities were as sources of information for energy-related issues, including clean energy. Academic institutions were deemed the most trustworthy, with an average score of 6.2 out of 10, with 10 being the best. 

The least trustworthy, with an average score of 4.2, were “utility companies such as Arizona Public Service.”

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Jim Small
Jim Small

Jim Small is a native Arizonan and has covered state government, policy and politics since 2004, with a focus on investigative and in-depth policy reporting, first as a reporter for the Arizona Capitol Times, then as editor of the paper and its prestigious sister publications, the Yellow Sheet Report and Arizona Legislative Report. Under his guidance, the Capitol Times won numerous state, regional and national awards for its accountability journalism and probing investigations into state government operations.