As the start of the new fiscal year approaches in July, utilities across North Carolina will be preparing to enact new water and wastewater rates in their communities. Rate increases can be perceived as negative to the general public, though they are necessary for financial sustainability, and ultimately to protect the public health of the communities they serve. How can utilities convey the important decisions that go into what many just see as an increase in their bill?
That’s where the resources from our 2019 North Carolina Water and Wastewater Rates Survey can help, providing easy to understand visuals, key takeaways from aggregated, statewide data, and the numbers behind it all. Continue reading
In the course of conducting our statewide utility rates surveys, we here at the Environmental Finance Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill examine thousands of rate structures each year. We’ve seen it all, from the especially complex to the most basic. One thing we have noticed is that sometimes utilities create complicated rate structures when the same outcomes could be accomplished in simpler ways. We internally deem these “special cases.”
Everyone wants to be special, right? But when it comes to rate structures, special often means needlessly convoluted. One of the most important objectives for utilities should be to communicate their rates clearly to their customers. When rate structures are complicated, communication with customers also becomes complicated. Simple rate structures can have the same desired outcomes as more complex ones, while making communication with customers more straightforward and billing easier. It can pay to be plain. Continue reading
Many of you know us for our Financial Sustainability and Rates Dashboards, but you may not know that these are not just limited to water and wastewater rates: there’s also stormwater! In recent years stormwater has perhaps not received the attention it deserves. Five years ago the EFC created stormwater fee dashboards for North Carolina and Georgia, and this year we’re taking them to a whole new level. For 2017 we are unveiling new stormwater dashboards for both Georgia and (eventually) North Carolina with a host of new features. The new dashboard comes at a time when stormwater has been catapulted into the limelight as the hot topic of the moment in Georgia environmental legislation.
Here at the Environmental Finance Center we work with a lot of data, but all the data in the world is useless if you can’t convey the story of the data to people who need to understand it. In line with our mission to support informed financial decision-making, we produce Utility Financial Sustainability and Rates Dashboards and Excel-based tools to help local governments and stakeholders visually decode complex data. Since I joined the EFC last year as a Data Specialist & Project Manager, I’m happy to say that it is my job to make sure that the visualizations we produce get the message across as efficiently and accurately as possible. Based on my experience I’ve put together some tips on how to give your charts a makeover to give your viewers the biggest impact.
However, you don’t have to be a data nerd to benefit from these makeover guidelines (although, welcome to the club if you are!). Anyone can use the following tips for more effective visualizations, whether you’re presenting at a board meeting or reviewing your own personal budget.