We understand that most customers are primarily concerned with the affordability and reliability of the services we provide. Even as we continue to modernize our infrastructure and bring more renewable energy onto our system, we have managed to keep rates competitive. Our retail electricity rates have been and remain below the national average across our service territory.
Lower natural gas prices help to keep rates down. Within our company operations and processes, we also are focused on better managing costs by increasing productivity and becoming more efficient. Over the past four years, improvements to our customer care billing processes have helped us avoid operating cost increases, which allows us to dedicate more money to system improvements without dramatically raising rates for consumers. And to make energy bills more affordable to our at-risk customers, we contribute a significant amount of money each year to energy assistance agencies that serve our communities.
We published our first corporate responsibility report (formerly known as the Triple Bottom Line report) in April 2005, with the contents covering the 2004 calendar year, and we have published a similar report in each following year. Our report is based on Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) G3 Sustainability Reporting Guidelines, the most widely used sustainability reporting framework in the world. Additionally, we incorporate the GRI’s Electric Utilities Sector Supplement indicators wherever possible.