Featured guest blog post by Carol Obando-Derstine, regional affairs director, PPL Electric Utilities
The power grid of today is changing right along with the energy landscape and PPL Electric Utilities is keeping pace by using new technology to help keep the grid reliable for everyone.
One example is our new battery project in the Harrisburg region. In a distribution line right of way in Perry County, we’ve taken the concept of battery backup and meshed it with the grid of the future.
The result? A 50-kilowatt battery will soon be operating on a power line serving a small number of customers who have experienced prior outages. In the event of an outage on the line serving their homes, the battery can automatically provide up to six hours of power to the customers on the line. It also can help regulate line voltage, another plus for reliability.
It’s the first of its kind on our grid and we’re exploring other locations to use this same system.
In addition to the battery project, I can tell you we’re also working on ways to allow more and more customers to install renewable energy like solar panels and to better manage that power when it comes onto the grid. These kinds of energy sources, also called distributed energy resources (DER), are gaining in popularity as they grow more affordable and efficient.
There are more than 8,000 customer owned or third-party DER systems currently connected to our grid, the vast majority of them solar. And we typically get 1,000-1,500 new applications a year.
Lastly, we’ve implemented a system that alerts our grid operators to downed power lines and gives us the ability to cut power to those downed lines. That’s a big plus for safety. We still want customers to report downed wires, to stay away and always treat any downed line as energized.
We’re doing all this because we know that if you wait to see what the future holds, it’ll pass you by. These advancements show we’re ready for a future that uses technology like never before to keep the grid reliable, resilient and safe. We’re working toward industry-leading solutions that work for the long term.
Millions of people in central and eastern Pennsylvania depend on us every day and we’re proud to power their lives.
Featured guest blog post by Sara Chaparro, ServiceMaster of Bethlehem
A disaster can happen at any time and affect your business operations. Do you know what to do if you experience an emergency and need to close?
According to a study by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), up to 40% of small businesses never reopen after a natural disaster strikes. Take steps now to prepare your business to reopen in the event a disaster strikes.
Create a Natural Disaster Plan
Include locations for evacuation, employee emergency contact information, and protection of vital business records. Print and complete the Emergency Contact Sheet from ServiceMaster of Bethlehem (Link: http://smofbethlehem.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Emergency-Contact-ListB.pdf)
Keep Lines of Communication Open
Stay in contact with customers and employees about what is happening with the business, and when you will re-open.
Check Your Insurance
Make sure you are covered for any type of natural disaster that could occur in your region.
Steps to Recovery
Develop a plan to recover after a disaster. Prepare now and list steps to rebuild before a disaster strikes.
Contact ServiceMaster of Bethlehem to secure a pre-loss plan for emergency response. Count on our experts to assist throughout the recovery process, and get your doors open. Call us today at 800-253-7366.
Featured blog post by Carol Obando-Derstine, regional affairs director at PPL Electric Utilities
Did you know that an underground utility line – power line, water line, sewer line – is damaged every nine minutes in Pennsylvania? And every time someone digs into an underground power line they’re risking serious injury.
That’s why it’s so important to call 811 before digging. The call is free. Once it is placed and information about the dig area is provided, a surveying crew will visit the site to mark areas where underground utilities exist.
So, whether you’re installing a fence or mailbox post, building a deck, installing a pond or patio, planting a tree or grinding a tree stump, ensure the safety of everyone involved by calling 811.
If there’s construction going on in your neighborhood involving digging and you’re unsure whether an 811 call was placed, it never hurts to make that call just to be safe.
State law requires an 811 call before digging with any power equipment in Pennsylvania. That call must be placed three days prior to a dig. Once the call is placed, a crew will be sent out to survey the area and mark with spray paint, flags or other markers where underground utilities – power, water, sewer and gas lines and other utilities – are located.
Each year, PPL receives reports of about 60 to 75 digging incidents in which the person doing the digging failed to call 811. The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission says that there are about 6,000 hits each year on underground utilities in the state.
PPL Electric Utilities recommends that an 811 call be placed for any digging activity, whether it is an old-fashioned shovel or a powered machinery, to ensure the safety of everyone involved with or living near the excavation work.
When calling 811, be prepared to share the following information:
Once you make the call, you will receive a serial number that should be kept as proof that you’ve provided the required notification prior to excavation. For more information on safe digging, visit www.pa811.org or www.pa1call.com.
Featured blog post from ServiceMaster of Bethlehem
One of the most commonly asked questions ServiceMaster of Bethlehem receives is, do I have mold? Often times, a home or business owner will ask our experts how to determine if they have mold, and how to remove it.
Signs of mold:
Mold negatively impacts your health and can lead to structural damage. It should be treated right away by trained professionals. If mold is discovered, do not try to clean it yourself. Sprays and chemicals can often worsen the issue.
At ServiceMaster of Bethlehem, our restoration professionals will respond to your home or business and take air samples. These samples are immediately sent out to a lab to be tested for mold spores present. When the data is returned, our team reviews the results and reports back to you, fast.
If harmful mold is identified, we will develop a comprehensive mold remediation plan to clean any affected areas and carefully remove any mold-damaged materials that cannot be saved. After clean-up services are provided, an independent certified industrial hygienist takes final air samples and tests them to confirm that your spore count is back to normal.
Don’t know what to do next? We do. If you believe that you may have mold, contact ServiceMaster of Bethlehem at 1-800-253-7366 to set up a mold test site visit. Your local restoration professionals have the right tools and training to assist with mold damage, and get you back into a clean, healthy home.
Featured blog post by Carla Binder, Creative Framing by Carla
Custom picture framing is basically a package that to enhances, protects and displays your art or cherished mementos. Although the definition makes it sound simple enough, there are many things that must be taken into consideration. Don’t be mistaken, there’s a big difference between just “putting something in a frame” and choosing a custom frame.
So what exactly makes custom picture framing so different? Well, it’s the custom part that really makes the difference. A custom frame is specifically designed for you and the item being framed, it’s not a “one size fits all”. We all have different styles and different reasons for having something displayed in a frame. Considering all of this is just one part of ensuring the custom framing is a success.
This is my personal approach.
What, Where and Why?
Visually, combining the colors, textures and styles of the various framing materials is the process of designing a frame that enhances your art. Technically, the design involves knowing if the frame is sturdy enough to display your art or objects. Or knowing if the frame is deep enough or if the materials used are safe and will protect your items.
There are many different designs and combinations of materials that will work nicely for every framing project. Although it may seem overwhelming at times, I will guide you through the best solutions as you make your final decision on the framing materials.
Building Your FrameThe next step is the actual handcrafting of your custom framing. The frame is chopped and joined, mats cut, your art or objects are mounted securely, the glass is cut and all are neatly fitted together. It’s ready for you to display in your home or office.
So, what is custom picture framing? It begins with a love of art or a cherished memory. You take it on a creative journey. At the end of the process your custom framing, specially handcrafted for you, is as unique as you and what you’ve had framed.
Creative Framing by Carla offers custom picture frame solutions for your art, photography and cherished items. Preserve your memories. Carla will walk you through the process step by step to design the custom framing package and delivery a quality product for you to display in your home or business. Let’s get started on your project, set up an appointment or stop by today.
Guest Blog Post by Carol Obando-Derstine | Regional Affairs Director, PPL Electric Utilities
Making a few small lifestyle changes can add up and help you decrease your energy bills. With heating being the single biggest contributor to a home’s energy expense, these changes may make a significant difference in your costs as the temperature drops. We recommend starting with these tips:
Water temperature can also affect your energy costs. Lower the temperature in your water heater from the typical 140 degrees to 120 degrees. Most people don’t realize that the largest cost related to running a washing machine is heating the water. Try to do a few loads in cold water and air dry your clothes in the warmer months.
Another issue you may not realize or think about is something called standby power or vampire power. This relates to the power used by appliances when they are plugged in but not in use. So while an appliance may be turned off, it continually draws electricity all day. Consider these two options to decrease your energy use.
Lighting accounts for 20 percent of your monthly energy use. You can get immediate results by switching all of your bulbs inside and outside of your home from incandescent to LED bulbs. An added bonus to using LED bulbs is you are helping the environment. Every 60 watt bulb replaced with an LED bulb saves you $4 a year. That’s $160 per year for a home with 40 bulbs.
Finally, you can take a free online energy assessment on our website. Go to www.pplelectricsavings.com/onlineassessment. We provide you with an assessment and energy saving recommendations and offers customized to your home. You can even receive a free energy efficiency kit! And those with a qualifying income, we will perform an in-home audit and provide free energy improvement recommendations. Some homes even qualify for a new refrigerator, water heater and heating and cooling system repairs or replacement.
Remember saving money on your energy costs doesn’t have to be difficult or uncomfortable. We invite you to try these simple ways to save money and reduce your daily power consumption.
Guest blog post by C
Guest blog post by Carol Obando-Derstine, regional affairs director, PPL Electric Utilities
“Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower” is an often-repeated quote attributed to Steve Jobs. But how is this playing out and helping to create the grid of the future?
Innovation requires all of us to make honest and, at times, difficult assessments of disruptive trends in our industry. Looking at the horizon and adapting to a changing landscape is essential.
So, what do we think the future has in store as we prepare for 2019 and beyond? Key highlights from the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s Annual Energy Outlook 2018 with projections to 2050 are helping to bring this picture into focus. The report notes that although there were decades of slow—even negative (in 2017) growth— in electricity demand, use is projected to increase albeit at a lower rate than in the past because some of the growth continues to offset by energy efficiency gains.
Projections show that through 2050 wind and solar generation will take 64% of the total electric growth in renewables generation. Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Energy announced the availability of millions to support new technologies for long-duration energy storage on the grid.
At PPL Electric Utilities, we recently announced a partnership with GE to develop and test software to manage electricity from renewable and stored energy sources. This initiative will enable both companies to learn more about the impact of this type of power—called Distributed Energy Resources (DER)—on grid management and accelerate the advancement of technology to support it.
This project illustrates how PPL is responding to a changing energy sector.
We are constantly modernizing our grid to better serve our customers safely and reliably through:
Nicole Lacouve, an R&D engineer at PPL Electric Utilities, has firsthand knowledge of all the ways in which our corporate culture embraces innovation. She said:
“In the past, innovative thinking may have been encouraged; but now, it’s required. The grid itself along with customer expectations and services are changing. As the technical curators and long-term asset planners of the grid, our teams must have the vision to support this new energy future. Our success depends on it, and we know it.”
All of this is certainly energizing us. If I had one wish for 2019 at PPL, it would be to continue pushing the boundaries on what is possible. Because, just like Steve Jobs also said, “Innovation is the ability to see change as an opportunity—not a threat.”
Featured Blog post by Carol Obando-Derstine, regional affairs director, PPL Electric Utilities
Kids playing in the snow, sipping hot cocoa under the glow of twinkling lights, and cuddling up by a fire, December and the holidays can be a happy and magical time.
But for some people this time of year can bring on significant worries, as December also means it’s getting cold, sometimes very cold. At PPL, we realize that frigid temperatures can put a strain on some customer’s budgets and we want you to know about the programs that can help.
We also encourage you to help spread the word to friends, family or neighbors who may be in need this season.
The first program is called LIHEAP, which stands for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. LIHEAP is federally funded and helps people pay their heating bills – whether electric, gas or oil – during the winter months.
You don’t need an overdue bill or to be on public assistance to qualify if you’re within the program’s income guidelines. LIHEAP’s application period opened in November and ends at the beginning of April, or when the funds expire, so we encourage you to apply soon by calling the LIHEAP hotline at 1-866-857-7095 or visiting your county’s assistance office.
To help make your home more comfortable and lower that number on your bill every month, PPL offers the Winter Relief Assistance Program, or WRAP.
Under this program, an energy educator will visit your home and teach you how to use electricity more efficiently, and conduct an energy survey. Based on the survey results, we’ll install free energy-efficient appliances, light bulbs and other items, helping you save into the future. Both homeowners and renters are eligible with landowner permission. Call visit www.pplelectric.com/WRAP or call 1-800-DIAL-PPL to see if you qualify or to apply; it’s already helped more than 100,000 families.
Additionally, if you find yourself falling behind on your bills this winter, please call us. You may be eligible for our On-Track program. Administered by non-profit community agencies, On-Track offers you a lower monthly bill amount and some debt forgiveness along the way.
Another program is Operation HELP, which offers cash grants for heating bills. Operation HELP is funded by donations from PPL employees, retirees, generous customers and the company.
From December 11- 26, we encourage you to help spread some holiday cheer, and the word about Operation HELP, (link to the Stories blog post about the initiative), by sharing a picture of something or someone that brightens up your holidays on social media with the #PPLLightUpTheHolidays. For every photo posted on Twitter, Instagram or our Facebook page, PPL Electric will donate an extra $10 to the fund, up to a total of $2,500.
And, please contact us if you believe any of these programs would be able to help you. Everyone deserves to have a happy, warm and bright holiday season.
Guest Blog Post by Kyle David, president & CEO, KDG
Outsourced call centers. Representatives who constantly say “no.” Hold times of over an hour. Are we seeing the downfall of customer service?
Since the 1980s and the publication of Competitive Advantage by Michael Porter, we have seen one important facet of business disappear: the customer. The very individual who keeps a business in business has practically been eliminated from the supply chain in favor of inbound logistics and operations. In his book, Porter delegates service to the far corner of his supply chain, yet never even mentions the word “customer” in its definition.
What’s resulted has been over thirty years of Porter’s theory being put into practice: thirty years of outsourced call centers and of business schools teaching students that the customer is only a cost to be fit into the supply chain. When will customers stop being looked at as an operational cost and start being looked at as an investment?
Saving Expenses at the Customer’s Expense
In a chain consisting of inbound and outbound logistics, operations, procurement, and technology development, it’s all too easy to decide that “service” is the step to cut back on.
Starting in the 1980s, businesses started to look for ways to make customer interactions as cost-effective as possible. Gone were the days of one-on-one service, of customers interacting with shopkeepers over a narrow counter. Instead, there were call centers staffed with hundreds of individuals who recited a trained routine practically impossible to stray from. Conversations were kept brief and robotic. Interactions with customers were no longer defined by satisfaction, but by numbers: minutes on the call, cost of their interaction, revenue of their purchase.
Adding Value to the Chain
Improving customer experience may require a change in perspective on the part of executives. Customer interactions aren’t a cost. In fact, they have the potential to add an immense value to the company.
Improving customer service develops goodwill between companies and their customers. Interactions don’t become something customers come to dread, but something they come to look forward to. Hence, there are more of them, which means sales and profitability increase.
But that’s not all that improves. Customers start to trust the business. Look at L.L. Bean. Call centers aren’t outsourced, customers are connected with human representatives, shipping is free, and returns are accepted with no questions asked. While some business owners may see these features as added expenses, L.L. Bean sees them as the key to its $1.6 billion in annual net sales. They’ve offered a customer experience that’s hard to find at other retailers and have seen trust and profit skyrocket as a result.
Your Return on Investment
Return on Investment, or ROI, is everywhere in business and one of the most important metrics you measure. You measure the ROI of your marketing campaigns, of your new technology, of your employee training. But what about the ROI of your customer service? The results may surprise you.
Look at European airline Ryanair. Its cheap flights didn’t stop it from being named one of the “most hated airlines” and worst brands in the world. Stewards were rude. Space was limited. Claiming refunds was hard. Finding out about accessibility for disabled passengers was harder. Ryanair was fined over a half a million pounds and, in 2013, issued two profit warnings. Not investing in its customers wasn’t saving Ryanair money. It was threatening to put to the company out of business.
This all changed in 2016. Ryanair employed a new customer service team, increased cabin baggage sizes, and introduced the personalization tool MyRyanair. Seat occupancy rose to 92% and the company was named “the best-performing airline on virtually every measure of margin.”
Costco is another company that has been lauded for its customer service and has seen profits increase as a result. The store has a multi-year return policy, retains employees who then build relationships with customers, and hasn’t raised its popular fast food prices in over three decades. By investing in their customers and their needs, Costco is seeing customers return the favor and continue to invest in them. In the spring of 2018, Costco saw a sales increase of 10.8% and a profit increase of 36%.
Treating Customers as Humans, Not as Costs
It’s time for a change of thinking in business. Gone should be the days of seeing customer service as another link in the supply chain or another cost to figure into the budget. Customers aren’t “buyers,” they’re human beings. Become an experience-based company: respect customers’ time, listen to them, talk to them, and surprise them.
When you treat customers how they want to be treated, they’ll return the favor. Customers hold the future of your business in their hands. Isn’t that worth a little investment?
Featured blog post by KDG, Kyle David Group
Feature Blog Post by Shelley Jaye, co-owner, Jim Thorpe Massage & Wellness Studio
1. the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.
2. a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.
“Mindfulness Moments,” is a monthly addition to The Jim Thorpe Current. Shared here you will find tips on short practices moving you toward a more energetic and mindfulness way of life. Learn to maximize your energy by experiencing living in the present moment. These are intended as practices, not lessons.
As we have hopefully adjusted to the end of daylight-saving time, Thanksgiving has been celebrated and we move toward winter and our religious and spiritual celebrations in December. Much to think about relative to time. We can fully embrace time in a different way. What if we still get up in the morning at the same time as we did before daylight savings? We could use this hour to do some meditation, or quietly contemplate our day, week and month ahead; perhaps in a different way. We can use this time to tune in to our body. How can time help us to focus on our wellness? One way for us to be present in our life is to listen to what our body needs. Your body will tell you exactly what it needs. Does a vigorous walk sound appealing? Go for one. Do you want to curl up on the couch with a book instead? Are you craving dark chocolate? Eat some. Maybe today you want fresh juice.
Being present is creating awareness in the moment, each moment. Much easier said than done. Imagine a practice of the simple act of paying attention to what is going on without changing anything. When you achieve being present you find increased happiness in the moments of life. The chaos and hectic times feel less stressful and recovery from trying times become effortless.
All responses received in December will be eligible for a drawing for a $15.00 gift certificate at Jim Thorpe Massage & Wellness Studio. This is good for a chair massage or can be used towards any service with me, Shelley.
If you have questions or would like to share your experience feel free to email me atJimThorpeMassage@gmail.com. Please