All of us use the services of a group of businesses called public utilities. Private homes and commercial enterprises depend on the availability and uninterrupted flow of electricity, natural gas, water, and telecommunications services. So how do these companies provide a standard of service and insure that interruptions are kept to a minimum? In New Jersey, an organization called the New Jersey Utilities Association (NJUA) links together the various utilities and provides a forum in which they can share business practices and trade solutions to problems that are unique to their industry.
History, Mission, and Membership
The NJUA was founded in 1915 after former Gov. Woodrow Wilson created the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities in order to regulate all the public utilities in the state. Several turn-of-the-century utility magnates—including John Riggins and Clarence Geist - convened the NJUA to represent investor-owned electric, natural gas, telecommunications, water and sewerage utilities in New Jersey. The utilities came together as a group so that New Jersey's utilities could speak with one common voice and provide a forum for best practices.
The mission of the NJUA hasn't changed since its inception in 1915, says Ernest Cerino, Jr., who serves as the current director of legislative and regulatory policy for the NJUA. "It was and is a place where the state's utilities can come together to share efficiencies among commonalities in a forum setting, and to speak as a common voice." What does this mean to us, the consumers? According to the NJUA website, "Innovative ideas andcritical information are shared among member companies. This exchange benefitsthe membership by increasing its ability to supply consumers with the highestquality service at the most affordable prices."
There are several member companies that belong to the NJUA, supplying the committee members and various experts in the field. The list includes: Atlantic City Electric, First Energy, Public Service Electric & Gas Company, Verizon-NJ, Elizabethtown Gas Company, New Jersey-American Water Company, New Jersey Natural Gas Company, South Jersey Gas, Rockland Electric Company, EMBARQ, United Water New Jersey, Middlesex Water Company, Atlantic City Sewerage Company, Aqua New Jersey, Gordon's Corner Water Company, Shorelands Water Company, and Pennsgrove Water Supply Company.
CommitteesThe most important segment of the NJUA's programs is the roster of committees that serve the interests of the member companies.
"The committees are the backbone of this organization," says Cerino. "From customer service to safety, environment, finance, governing policy, and human resources, here you have committees made up of the brightest in their field, all coming together in a shared forum to exchange information on the best practices in the industry." The committees meet quarterly and represent each of the member companies. They cover common problems and offer solutions. For example, a recent customer service committee meeting dealt with call-ins—people who are having difficulty paying their bills or experiencing service interruptions. Companies offered working solutions for each item on their agenda, in a way that promotes better business practices.