NEW HAVEN — In what it calls an effort to provide better and faster communications, the United Illuminating Co. (UI) has enhanced its social media presence. Customers, investors, stakeholders and members of the media can follow the company on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to learn the latest news from UI and get energy efficiency tips, storm center information, timetables for power outages and service restoration, financial filings by parent company UIL Holdings as well as updates on products and services, payment assistance programs, EnergyStar equipment recommendations, rebate offers and holiday closing reminders.
Customers can visit and click on the distinctive social media icons on the company’s home page; search Facebook for UIL Holdings Corp.; follow @UnitedIllum on Twitter for storm-related updates, alerts and safety tips; and follow @UILHoldings for information about the corporation and all its subsidiaries. New videos about electric, gas and energy-related topics are on YouTube channel .
The electric company asks that customers still use traditional customer care phone numbers to report outages or other issues.
Survey: Customer satisfaction plunges on New Haven line
NEW HAVEN — Riders of Metro-North’s New Haven line are decidedly less happy with their train service this past year than in recent years.
An annual customer satisfaction survey conducted by the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) showed that customer satisfaction across all train lines (New Haven as well as the Harlem and Hudson lines) was down to 89 percent from 93 percent last year.
But it was the New Haven line’s performance that took the most precipitous tumble, dropping seven percentage points, from 88 percent to 81 percent.
Riders on the New Haven Line have taken issue with the condition of aging rail cars, availability of seats (just 61 percent satisfied), and cleanliness of the restrooms (37 percent satisfied) on board. Sixty-nine percent were satisfied with on-board temperatures during the winter and summer.
Sixty-five percent of customers felt the train service was a good value for the money; down from 69 percent last year.
By comparison, there was 96 percent satisfaction among Harlem Line riders, and 94 percent satisfaction among riders of the Hudson Line, which have newer rail cars and equipment.
Metro-North spokeswoman Marjorie Anders said delays in manufacturing the new M-8 rail cars was expected to provoke the wrath of riders, as well as the less reliable older cars currently on the line, more than half of which were knocked out of service during last year’s harsh winter storms.
Currently just 32 of the 405 M-8 coaches on order have entered service, covering about 30 runs each weekday, and fewer on weekends.
Riders also voiced concerns for better onboard announcements, and improved electronic communication about last-minute service changes or updates. Seventy-one percent of riders on the East-of-Hudson train lines were satisfied with communication during service breakdowns. The railroad is already looking into improvements after a train breakdown between Southport and Greens Farms in July left more than 200 people stranded on the train in 100-degree temperatures for more than an hour with no power or air conditioning.
Riders were 78 percent satisfied with on-time performance, down from 85 percent last year, and behind the 96 percent approval from Harlem and Hudson line riders.
The 2008 customer satisfaction survey showed New Haven line riders were overall 90-percent satisfied with the service.
Retailer installing PV array on Elm City store
NEW HAVEN –– Ikea is increasing its solar footprint in the U.S., and New Haven is among its three latest three stores slated to install solar electric panels.
The Swedish retailer recently announced plans to put a 940.8 kW system on the roof of 450 Sargent Drive, with 3,920 photovoltaic (PV) panels producing 1,099,800 kilowatt hour (kWh) of electricity a year. The installation is expected to save 846 tons of C02, or the equivalent of reducing emissions from 149 cars or powering 92 homes.
Ikea’s Draper, Ut. store will get a 1,1013 kW system with 4,311 panels generating 1,487,080 kWh per year, and the Portland, Ore. store will have a 497.3 kW system, with 2,072 panels generating 568,900 kWh annually.
Ikea will own and operate the solar arrays in each location.
Gehrlicher Solar USA was hired for the New Haven installation, which (like the others) is scheduled for completion in spring 2012, according to Ikea. Part of Gehrlicher AG, the company is one of the world’s largest independent PV project developers and system integrators.
REC Solar will be installing panels on the other two stores.
These three projects raise the number of solar-powered Ikea stores in America to 23, or more than half of its 38 US stores.
Founded in 1943, Ikea has more than 320 stores in 39 countries.
“This initiative, part of the company’s never-ending list of sustainable activities, will lower the carbon intensity of the electric grid and the U.S. carbon footprint of Ikea,” said Mike Ward, Ikea U.S. president, in a statement.
“We are always looking for opportunities to expand our sustainability commitment and are very excited about furthering this commitment by installing solar panels on our building,” said Gail Franc, store manager of Ikea New Haven. “This opportunity will reduce our carbon footprint, improve our environment and contribute to our store’s vision for creating ‘a better everyday life for the many.’’’
Ikea regularly evaluates its locations for energy conservation opportunities. US efforts include recycling waste material, incorporating environmental measures into building construction such as energy-efficient lighting and HVAC systems and water saving restrooms. Nine Western stores recently added electric vehicle charging stations.
FAIRFIELD — “The American Dream: Celebrating Immigrant Entrepreneurs” is the theme of the annual auction fundraiser of the International Institute of Connecticut Inc., a Bridgeport non-profit which serves immigrants, refugees and their families. The event will take place at 5:30 p.m. November 15 at the Fairfield Café, 770 Commerce Drive, Fairfield. Keynote speaker Rafael Ostendarp Aparicio is a Peruvian native who is a founder and senior partner of Camelot Equity Partners, LLC of Darien, a private equity and advisory firm specializing in M&A and strategy in the consumer product, media and technology industries. To learn more, phone 203-336-0141 or visit iiconn.org.
NEW BRITAIN — On many college campuses, including Yale, the most “alternative” sport is Ultimate Frisbee. Now the sport has gone pro right here in Connecticut.
The Connecticut Constitution will begin play next spring in the American Ultimate Disc League (AUDL). (The league employs the generic “disc” in place of the Frisbee brand name.) During its inaugural season, the AUDL will include eight teams located in the northeastern U.S. in cities including Philadelphia, Providence, R.I., Buffalo, N.Y., Columbus O., Detroit, Indianapolis Ind. and Louisville, Ky. The team will play eight weekend home games between April and July on the campus of Central Connecticut State University. The league championship game will take place August 11 at the Silverdome in Detroit. Check out ctconstitution.com.
NEW HAVEN — The Gateway Community College (GCC) Foundation will hold its 14th annual Hall of Fame Induction & Reception beginning at 5 p.m. (induction ceremony 7:30 p.m.) November 16 at New Haven’s Shubert Theater. The event will honoring three individuals and a corporation for their exceptional contributions to the college community.
This year’s inductees include John Emra and AT&T (Corporate); Bishop Theodore Brooks, Beulah Heights First Pentecostal Church (Community); Edwin Martinez Jr. of New Haven’s Space-Craft Manufacturing, and Matthew Potochney of West Haven’s the Lighting Quotient (Alumni).
BOSTON — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is awarding more than $1.3 million in “Clean Diesel” funds for projects in the six New England states to reduce emissions and improve air quality. The EPA funds are part of a larger collaborative effort between EPA and New England states to leverage significant resources to reduce diesel emissions, improve public health, and promote clean diesel technology. This year they were able to leverage an additional $381,540 in state funding.
These grants bring a total of almost $6.2 million in federal funds and $2.3 million in state funds for State Clean Diesel funding to New England since the program’s inception four years ago. The funding is part of $12.6 million made available this year for State Clean Diesel programs nationwide, and is on top of prior Recovery Act funding of diesel projects.
In addition to funding for the states, nearly $2 million in FY 2011 funds have been awarded to New England organizations through the National Clean Diesel competitive program.
Saying the effort has failed to stop global warming, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has announced that his state will drop out of a regional cap-and-trade program to reduce greenhouse gasses and boost renewable energy.
"This program is not effective in reducing greenhouse gases and is unlikely to be in the future," the Republican said at a news conference. "The whole system is not working as it was intended to work. It is a failure."
The ten-state Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, of which Connecticut is a member, requires fossil fuel-burning power plants to buy credits to cover the carbon they emit. Such a cap-and-trade program essentially puts a market-based price on pollution and is designed to pay for renewable energy efforts through sales of the credits. The initiative aims to cut carbon dioxide emissions from utilities by ten percent over the next seven years.