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    After utilities' operations were put to the test during a stormy six months in the latter half of 2011, electric utility customer satisfaction has declined for the second year in a row, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2012 Electric Utility Residential Customer Satisfaction Study.

    The study assesses the satisfaction of customers based on several factors, including power quality and reliability, electricity rates, billing and payment, corporate citizenship, communications and customers service.

    On a 1,000-point scale, residential electric customer satisfaction came in at 625, lower than last year's 628. The most important factor was said to be power quality and reliability, satisfaction with which has dropped by 13 points from 2011's survey.

    "Power quality and reliability is an area where electric utility companies do not always have control, as weather events and storms play a major factor in the quality and reliability of the services provided," said Chris Oberle, senior director of the energy and utility practice at J.D. Power and Associates. "Hurricane Irene in August and the Halloween Nor'easter in October significantly impacted satisfaction in the East region."

    In states with energy deregulation laws, such as Pennsylvania, Texas, Ohio and New Jersey, residents have the opportunity to switch retail energy providers to find the lowest rate.