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Question

Energy Central Community Deep Dive: COVID19 and the Utility Industry—What Are You Doing?

The current situation unfolding with respect to COVID19, or Coronavirus, is impacting every facet of normal daily life. Every industry and institution has seen the need for adjustment, preparation, and reassurance, and the utility industry is certainly no exception.

We’ve already seen a handful of posts to the Energy Central community discussing a variety of connections between the current situation with pandemic preparation and response and what that means for the utility sector:

These articles represent just a sampling of the relevant submissions the Energy Central community has seen. Given that this situation is poised to be a lengthy one with many fast-changing and ever-evolving elements, I wanted to set up this Question within the Energy Central community to serve as a central hub where you can report what your utility is doing, questions your utility has, and connect with your esteemed energy-sector peers on this extremely critical topic.

So let’s let this Q&A question be a living document for all big topics on Coronavirus and utilities. Here’s how it can work—if you have a new topic or a top-level question in this category, start a new comment thread by clicking the “answer this question” button below. And if you want to continue a discussion that a fellow community member already started below, press on the “comment on this answer” button below their comment/question.

I’ve started it off with a few questions of my own to kick off the dialogue. While most of us are working remotely from home and adjusting to this new but temporary normal, let’s make sure the necessary conversations are happening—just in this type of virtual conference instead of the in-person ones (no layovers on the way to these conversations either!).

 

Matt Chester

Energy Central Community Manager

 

Some starting questions to get the conversations going (which are pasted below for your direct response):

  1. What are your utilities doing to ensure that your workers are staying safe and healthy? For workers that are working from home the first time, what tips are there to make sure work is completed effectively and efficiently? For workers whose jobs can’t be completed remotely, what precautions are you taking?
  2. The in-person conference is a stable of the utility industry, allowing high-powered experts and professionals across the energy sector to connect, share ideas, and nudge forward progress in the industry. What measures are you taking to make sure those conversations can still happen amid the necessary cancellation of in-person events?
  3. What sort of questions are you getting from your customers related to the coronavirus? Have there been any particular challenging hurdles to ensuring there isn’t interruption in the customer experience?

Answers

Best Answer

What sort of questions are you getting from your customers related to the coronavirus? Have there been any particular challenging hurdles to ensuring there isn’t interruption in the customer experience?

Dominique Allen's picture
Dominique Allen on Mar 19, 2020 2:32 pm GMT

As a vendor in this industry, our suppliers want to know that our billing and EDI services will continue while our employees have transitioned to working from home.  Luckily everyone in our Retail team is setup to work from home with full VPN capabilities so our transition was fairly seamless.  I believe the companies who had these things in place already will fare the best during these times.  I know many suppliers are playing catch up because they were resistant to remote working. 

Karen Marcus's picture
Karen Marcus on Mar 20, 2020 10:10 pm GMT

As I posted in a recent article Utilities Have a Solid Starting Point for Facing the Coronavirus Crisis, utilities are well-positioned to serve customers in the event of a pandemic because (1) they have prior planning in place, (2) they understand how to put community first, and (3) they excel at communication.

Louis Fairfax's picture
Louis Fairfax on Mar 23, 2020 1:25 pm GMT

As an energy consultancy based in the UK one of the main questions/concerns seem to be focused on what to do in order to protect their business against the potential market increase when normal service resumes? 

I have written an article covering this subject and a couple of other concerns raised by customers. https://energycentral.com/c/pip/covid-19-and-energy-markets 

Allan Drury's picture
Allan Drury on Mar 23, 2020 2:12 pm GMT

Con Edison has told customers we're putting safety first. 

To reduce unnecessary risk of exposure of coronavirus (COVID-19) to our customers and the public, Con Edison has temporarily shut down its customer service walk-in centers located in each of the five boroughs and Westchester County.

Con Edison has expanded its efforts to support New Yorkers as they face the challenges of the coronavirus and is committed to helping New York get through this difficult time. Con Edison will:   

  • Not shut off electric, natural gas or steam service due to payment difficulties resulting from the health crisis.
  • Waive new late-payment charges for all customers.
  • Suspend the fee usually charged to a customer who is unable to grant access to their property. Of course, we will continue to shut off service when there is a safety issue.
  • Meter readers will not enter customers’ homes to read meters. Customers with indoor meters can report their usage online. Click here to find out how.
  • The company has paused energy efficiency service visits to all residential customers’ homes in both New York City and Westchester County. In addition, energy efficiency visits also have been suspended to businesses in Westchester County.

To get the most recent information about the help Con Edison is providing to our customers visit our Coronavirus webpage.

Allan Drury's picture
Allan Drury on Mar 23, 2020 5:20 pm GMT

As a follow up, Con Edison would also like to share that our focus is on maintaining safe, reliable service:

In its continuing effort to protect customers and employees from the coronavirus (COVID-19), Con Edison has halted all meter reading and installation of smart meters.

The decision builds on steps the company took previously to support public health and safety.

Con Edison is always ready to respond to every emergency. The energy company’s managers and crews are committed to keeping New York safe and the service reliable.

“Nothing is more important than health and safety,” said Tim Cawley, the president of Con Edison. “We want to protect everyone while providing the safe, reliable service our customers need. While many of our work activities have been put on hold, we are focusing on system infrastructure work that ensures safety and reliability.”

Con Edison will enter a customer’s home only for emergencies, safety-related inspections and customer-requested service connections and enhancements.

Con Edison employees who need to enter a home for one of these reasons will carry proper identification. Our workers are following U.S. Centers for Disease Control and New York State and City guidelines.

The workers will ask if anyone in the household is ill and discuss how they may carry out their tasks with everyone’s safety and comfort in mind. If you have an appointment with us, please let us know if you or anyone in your premises is quarantined by calling 1-800-75-CONED (1-800-752-6633).  All company employees and contractors are advised to follow social distancing guidelines.

Other steps Con Edison has taken include:

  • Stopping shutoffs of electric, natural gas or steam service due to non-payment resulting from the health crisis.
  • Waiving new late-payment charges for all customers and suspending the fee charged to a customer who is unable to grant access to their property. We will continue to shut off service when there is a safety issue.
  • Pausing energy efficiency service visits to homes and businesses in New York City and Westchester County.

Con Edison is also having administrative employees work from home, field personnel conduct pre-job briefings in smaller groups, and dividing workers into teams. The company instructs employees to follow the CDC guidelines, including hand washing and social distancing.

To get the most recent information about help Con Edison is providing to our customers visit our Coronavirus webpage.

 

Dr. Amal Khashab's picture
Dr. Amal Khashab on Mar 26, 2020 9:33 pm GMT

Very active response. Great effort.

Eric Durdov's picture
Eric Durdov on Apr 2, 2020 9:19 pm GMT

We've surveyed utility customers about how they feel about the COVID-19 situation and how it relates to their power providers. See the results here: https://energycentral.com/c/cc/electric-utility-pulse-survey-results-how-do-utility-customers-feel-about

Jodi Baker's picture
Jodi Baker on Apr 17, 2020 8:25 pm GMT

Omaha Public Power District knows our customers are facing challenges as our communities cope with COVID-19 and related issues. Whether working remotely, in quarantine, or helping children learn from home, we want to ensure power is there when you need it most.

Senior management recently approved a series of short-term Customer First Solutions, shared with the OPPD Board of Directors during their virtual committee meetings Tuesday. OPPD leadership recommended waiving late payment charges for all customers until 30 days after the expiration of the last COVID-19 directed health measures of any of the 13 counties within OPPD’s service territory. In today’s monthly meeting, held via video conference, the board voted to approve waiving late charges for that time frame.

More about the OPPD response can be read at this post we submitted to the Energy Central Customer Care community. 

What are your utilities doing to ensure that your workers are staying safe and healthy? For workers that are working from home the first time, what tips are there to make sure work is completed effectively and efficiently? For workers whose jobs can’t be completed remotely, what precautions are you taking?

Ben Ettlinger's picture
Ben Ettlinger on Mar 18, 2020 12:42 pm GMT

The New York Power Authority has responded brilliantly to the situation. Pandemick Planning was always in the back of our minds. Back in 2014 when I was managing NYPA's IT PMO in resonse to an Operations request we developed an application to detect big swings in daily attendance based on entry card swipes. In fact that was my first encounter with algorithms and analytics. We borrowed a mthematician from what is now our Commerical Operations group to build a model and develop an algorithm. IT has an Resiliency and Technical Compliance Group formed a few years ago and went into high gear a few weeks ago. The groups director has a seat on the company wide task force. Within the two years desktops were beging replaced with lap tops copany wide. The entire IT Department got lap tops when we moved back to our redesigned floor five months ago. All non essential employees are working from home for the next two weeks. Most employees who do not have lap tops are able to log into the netork via home desktops. All plants are running as normal. Thats the most important thing in times like this. That's what we are here for, to keep the power flowing.  

Peter Key's picture
Peter Key on Mar 20, 2020 10:17 pm GMT

I recently posted an article on this topic, Power Companies Taking Steps to Protect Workers, Customers from Coronavirus. Here's what I found:
 

To keep their customers safe, electric distribution utilities occasionally remind them that if someone shows up at their door and says he’s a utility worker, they should ask for his identification.

These days, unfortunately, there likely will be another way for customers to validate that he works for their utility: if he does, he’ll stay six feet away from them unless he’s wearing protective equipment.

“Employees traveling for customer calls are taking precautions through use of protective equipment, if needed, as well as practicing social distancing by keeping six feet from themselves and customers,” Delmarva Power & Light Senior Communications Specialist Tim Stokes told the Delaware Business Times.

Utilities also are reducing the number of customer calls their employees make. Tampa Electric and Duke Energy Florida told The Tampa Bay Times they plan to limit physical interaction with customers by rescheduling non-essential visits.

Electric power companies are also having their employees who work in the field take precautions to limit the likelihood they transmit the coronavirus to each other. Delaware Electric Cooperative told the Delaware Business Times it is keeping the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendations for social distancing and washing hands in mind when it sends workers out to service equipment.

Like their counterparts in many other industries, companies in the electric power industry are encouraging employees who can work from home to do so. That can create some security risks, so companies need to be sure the employees are following whatever policies they have in place for telecommuting.

NBC News Better asked some digital security experts what precautions they think first-time telecommuters could take. The results, which probably weren’t anything that electric companies’ information technology departments haven’t thought of, included using equipment issued by their employer when possible; following the procedures specified by their employer to log on to their employer’s network; and using communications platforms designated by their employer.

Peter Key's picture
Peter Key on Mar 23, 2020 4:15 pm GMT

One thing I wanted to add to this answer is that Delaware Electric Cooperative isn't alone in keeping the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendations for social distancing and washing hands in mind when it sends workers out to service equipment. Since I wrote the post this answer was taken from, I've seen a number of articles and press releases in which utilities say they're following those guidelines.

Dan Yurman's picture
Dan Yurman on Mar 23, 2020 6:30 pm GMT

Nuclear Industry in EU Begins To Isolate Key Operational Staff

The operators of nuclear power plants in Europe are taking steps to minimize the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. Actions include isolating key staff and stockpiling items workers might need if they are unable to leave a site.

In Europe, Nuclearelectrica, which operates the Cernavodă nuclear power station in Romania, has already isolated about 400 essential operating and production staff at Cernavodă. A spokeswoman told wire services that the measure, based on established emergency plans, will remain in place as long as necessary. The staff are isolated in a specially designated area within the Cernavoda plant site.

France, the world’s most nuclear energy dependent nation, announced staff reductions at its Flamanville nuclear station. EDF said that due to high regional infection rates it was reducing the staff at the plant from 800 to 100.

A spokesman for the Flamanville plant told Reuters that “we have decided to only keep those in charge of safety and security” working while the coronavirus crisis runs its course.

Vattenfall, which owns 10 nuclear reactors in Sweden and Germany, said measures are in place to deal with the outbreak.

”We are well equipped to carry out our yearly outage season and plan to continue to supply fossil-free electricity to our customers, both in the short and long term,” the company said in an email statement.

Full report here: https://energycentral.com/c/ec/covid-19-news-nuclear-industry-eu-begins-isolate-key-operational-staff 

 

Nevelyn Black's picture
Nevelyn Black on Apr 3, 2020 12:22 pm GMT

I shared about this very topic in a post elsewhere on Energy Central, but Following the 2003 SARS outbreak and the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, these Colorado utilities devised a plan.  Now they are implementing strategies already in place.  Each of them have a significant number of employees working from home.  Xcel is also performing “enhanced cleaning” at its facilities and limiting visitors.  Tri-State has issued health directives and limited travel and visitors and any Platte River Power Authority employee who isn’t feeling well has to report to his or her supervisor and HR before coming to work. 

Colorado’s lights, broadband must stay on during coronavirus. Here’s how utilities are keeping their workers safe.

The in-person conference is a stable of the utility industry, allowing high-powered experts and professionals across the energy sector to connect, share ideas, and nudge forward progress in the industry. What measures are you taking to make sure those conversations can still happen amid the necessary cancellation of in-person events?

Dominique Allen's picture
Dominique Allen on Mar 19, 2020 2:35 pm GMT

I know that several conferences planned for April are being cancelled.  I received notice yesterday from the Gulf Coast Power Association that theirs was cancelled.  I hope these organizations look for ways to facilitate video conferencing, virtual town halls, etc. but I have not seen it thus far. 

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Mar 19, 2020 8:51 pm GMT

It's definitely throwing a lot of the Spring-time conferences for a loop. Online forums (conferences and places like Energy Central where people can discuss digitally) are going to be important in the short-term. I wonder how it also impacts how people plan for doing business in the long-term-- will priorities end up changing?

Dominique Allen's picture
Dominique Allen on Mar 19, 2020 2:56 pm GMT

Update - Energy Marketing Conference just announced a discussion on COVID and our industry.  Our CEO will be one of the panelists.  https://www.linkedin.com/embed/feed/update/urn:li:share:6646389841279893504

Up to 40% absenteeism from work per EEI?  Wow....that’s significant.  As I prepare to board a flight this evening, my plan is:  wash hands often, avoid the wet coughers, wipe down my seatbelts, head rest and tray tables (I do this sometimes already), make sure I drink Vitamin C and protect my immune system.  When the weather warms and this health crisis passes, we need to be ready to examine the lessons learned.  One lesson will be that we need to bring back to the US mainland the manufacturing of key pharmaceuticals, equipment and components so our supply chain for important (and in some cases strategic) materials is not dependent on others.  Thanks ....Mike

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Mar 18, 2020 3:35 pm GMT

At first I thought you meant 40% work from home, which is a strain but should be manageable. But no, it's saying at it's worst we could see 40% of utility workforces out sick and not working. Wow-- what downstream effects do you think this could cause? Will customers notice any of these impacts? 

And yes you're right, an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure-- so hopefully all industries, utilities included, will be able to push through this and then really self-evaluate how prepared they were and what they need to do to prepare for such unexpected events in the future!

I'm interested to know how Covid-19 is affecting the Wind Energy Sector and if we can learn any lessons or share best practice? We are a small team of technical recruiters with a strong background in Offshore wind (Engineering & IT).

Thank you in advance & Stay safe all

 

Dan 

dbenson@tecpartners.co.uk 

Audra Drazga's picture
Audra Drazga on Mar 24, 2020 4:50 pm GMT

I have seen a few articles recently that some of the new projects for wind have been put on hold or delayed until we get through this "hump". I have not heard of anything being canceled.

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Mar 24, 2020 9:33 pm GMT

I received the following press release from the American Wind Energy Association which may help answer some of your questions:

American Wind Energy Association Releases COVID-19 Outlook

Virus to impact workforce, investments, rural communities 

 

Washington, DC – COVID-19 will pose significant challenges to the American wind power industry, which represents the largest source of renewable energy in the U.S. and over 114,000 jobs in the U.S. economy. The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) today released its initial estimate for how the virus will affect the wind industry, noting the virus could put over 35,000 jobs at risk and jeopardize $43 billion in investments and payments to rural communities. AWEA is working closely with government officials to ensure that wind power will continue building on its success in delivering clean, reliable, and affordable energy to consumers across the country. 

 

“We’re assessing the many hurdles our members are facing in mitigating the disruptions from COVID-19. Protecting American jobs and economic investment and ensuring the safety of the wind workforce remain our primary objectives,” said AWEA CEO Tom Kiernan. “The COVID-19 pandemic is harming the wind industry’s ability to build the wind farms envisioned by Congressional legislation and putting at risk 35,000 wind energy jobs.  To best protect these jobs and the health of our existing workforce, we are asking Congress to immediately extend the schedule and improve the liquidity of our existing tax credits.”

 

According to AWEA analysis, COVID-19 is putting an estimated 25 GW of wind projects at risk, representing $35 billion in investment. This includes the potential loss of over $8 billion to rural communities in the form of state and local tax payments and land-lease payments to private landowners, as well as the loss of over 35,000 jobs, including wind turbine technicians, construction workers, and factory workers. The economic losses will have an outsized impact on rural America, where 99 percent of wind projects are located.

 

To protect the industry and these workers, AWEA is asking Congress for flexibility in allowing existing policies to continue working for the industry through this period of uncertainty. Wind developers have made investments and planned projects based on what appeared the safe assumption that their projects would qualify for the federal production or investment tax credits, which reduce costs to electricity consumers. 

 

“There is a record amount of wind projects under development. Delays caused by COVID-19 will make it difficult for some U.S. wind projects to come online in time to meet financial and economic obligations, putting projects at risk of cancellation,” said AWEA Vice President of Research and Analytics John Hensley. “Decisive government action in the short term can do much to soften the virus’ effects and protect the over 100,000 workers that count on the U.S. wind industry for their livelihood and the consumers that count on wind power for safe, low-cost, zero-carbon electricity.” 

 

Congress can eliminate the uncertainty created by expected delays and allow investment and hiring to move forward by providing two additional years of safe harbor for projects commencing construction after December 31, 2015, letting them receive the tax credits as originally envisioned. This will help address the scheduling issue created by COVID-19. Additionally, by allowing developers to receive direct pay equal to the value of the credits, Congress can address potential decreases in the availability of tax equity and can help mitigate the economic issue created by the virus. 

I was also advised that more info and resources would be placed here: https://www.awea.org/resources/news.

Here at GenCell Energy we are optimistic about the impact of Coronavirus. At the beginning we issued travel restrictions and cancelled our participation at large events. As things got tougher, we banned F2F meetings and distributed alco-gel and anti-bacterial wipes to our employees. Then following instructions announced by our Ministry of Health, we sent all employees on a month-long leave of absence while management and key employees continue to work remotely from home. We established a company-wide Whatsapp group where we share critical information, documents and the odd joke. We hold online conference calls and video meetings with customers and partners around the world. And we hope for the best.

More importantly, we follow news reports such as the one today from the BBC entitled “Coronavirus: Air pollution and CO2 fall rapidly as virus spreads” and from USA Today asking “Could the coronavirus actually be saving lives in some parts of the world because of reduced pollution?” or Carbon Brief’s Analysis: Coronavirus has temporarily reduced China’s CO2 emissions by a quarter. Coronavirus is reducing greenhouse gas emissions and helping us slow the climb in the world's temperature.

Of course no one thinks that a global epidemic is a good way to reduce pollution. But at the same time, humans seeking to be resourceful are finding many ways to manage despite the restrictions and are seeing a silver lining under this crisis – a way to be more humane one with another, to enjoy being in one place for longer time, to reduce perhaps superfluous expenses on travel and excessive consumerism, to have time to read an entire article on-line rather than having to skim through twenty before the next staff meeting.  

We all hope that the crisis will soon be resolved, but many of us will aim to continue some of the changes in our lifestyle even after we go back to “normal”.  Let’s hope that these changes will include a significant reduction of unnecessary energy consumption and carbon emissions, ways to take advantage of technology to cut down on excessive use of transportation and increased personal involvement in and widespread support for climate action.

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Mar 19, 2020 8:52 pm GMT

The long-term energy/climate impacts won't be about the reduction in pollution this year, but rather the rethinking of the norms that have previously been established. Telework options, online conferences, etc. The long-term impact of this silver lining, as you note, can be huge. Hopefully these are lessons people hang onto!

This has been a great time to do some heads-down coding on the Software Assurance Guardian™ software in prep for FERC Order 850 compliance for software object integrity and authentication verification. It's always a good feeling when I see an idea turn into working code. I'm a little surprised by the IP addresses that are showing up as BLACKLISTED during the comprehensive background check process. Hoping to have my alpha release ready by May 1, 2020.

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Mar 19, 2020 8:53 pm GMT

I imagine a  lot of people are similarly seeing time from projects previously put on hold-- will be interesting to see what arises. In the meantime, glad that when life gives you lemons you're able to make lemonade/code!

In the last two weeks we saw, all over the World, important actions to avoid the spread of the corona virus. The actions involve most of the developed countries and we, the laity in medicine, understood that the situation is serious. Nowadays it is difficult for common people to know if something is true or false. The amount of fake new in Internet made credibility to become rare. Reading information from WSO is useful and help common people.

So, it would be welcome that the WHO authorities bring us some data, in an easy format, that we could understand and trust. When people percept that the information is true it is easier to follow the health instructions as "stay at home".

My feeling is that we will need this kind of credibility and knowledge in more impacting events and viruses in the near future . The recent problems like Cholera, Ebola, H1N1 and this Corolla virus are possibly equipping the crazy and seek bad minds around the Planet about how viruses act.

Observing the way that we, the humans, have been doing the things, bring me the feeling that movies as “Contagion” and “Outbreak” or books like “End of Days” or “The Eyes of Darkness” are not anymore just fiction. These ones are not light histories with a happy end, as in my book “The Cosmic Engineers in the Country of Trans amazon”.

Transmitting knowledge to the countries, to deal with these situations, is a must, because now, we realize that the health systems, even in the developed countries, are not sufficient to deal - in a fast way - with new viruses. The economies are stopped and, possibly, only some few privileged people is earning money or advantages with the big oscillations in the capital stock exchanges, oil sales or even the momentary deviation from the focus of local political issues .

For the common people, all over the world, things are worst now, for example not being possible to earn money because cannot go to the job or a restaurant.

Searches in Internet show that about 140 thousand people die per day in the World and around 210 thousands per day are born. So, the WHO could start an information process disclosing, in a site updated each 3 months, key numbers about this theme. I refer to something like:

  1. What is the criteria to state that we have a serious world health problem or pandemic (using comparable numbers like the percentage of additional deaths, above the normal expected ones)
  2.  what are the expected percentages of additional deaths for this corona virus crisis, per continent (additional to the usual “140 thousand”)
  3.  Which were the numbers, one year before and during the Cholera (1989), Ebola (2014) and H1N1 (2010) ?

I suppose that WHO and our main politicians use numbers like this to take decisions f high impact. So,Earth population need to see and understand these numbers. To mention the numbers of deaths is not enough to make us to understand. We need to be able to compare with a "normal" situation. 

By the way, using the opportunity of this post, how much people were now infected by the Corona Virus in Africa? . I could not find information in Internet.

Thank you very much for the answers

Sergio Feitoza, from Brazil

I just posted a full article about this exact subject with the Energy Central Community: 

5 things Utilities are doing to help customers navigate Covid-19

Utilities have certainly faced their fair share of the “unexpected” over the years. Major storms, wildfires and other natural disasters have repeatedly gut-tested Utilities' operational resiliency and, at times, even the viability of their organizations. But in the face of these challenges, Utilities invariably respond big, stepping up their collective game when it really counts.

While it may not be as visible in the midst of these crises, how Utilities mobilize and act "during" these events can have big impacts on customer perception and brand long after the dust settles. In fact, it's after crises like these that we’ve witnessed some of the largest turnarounds in brand identity- both positive and negative. Since Utilities often operate in the background, it's what they do when customers are watching that has the biggest and most lasting impact on their perception.

What does this all have to do with Corona?

Of course, COVID-19 is not just another storm where Utilities have highly routinized processes for mobilizing resources, "rolling trucks" and stabilizing (and ultimately rebuilding) infrastructure. This is a new challenge for Utilities, as it is for most businesses operating today.

But it is still an opportunity for Utilities to step up once again, and find new ways to help customers navigate these coming weeks- identifying those things that can visibly show customers you understand them at an intimate level, and providing some immediate solutions to ease the burden.

Here are 5 things Utilities are already doing to make a difference during these tough times:

  • Addressing Shifting Demand – The biggest impact on Utility customers from COVID-19 will be a spike their energy bill. Big shifts in demand (i.e. decreasing energy demand in office locations/ increasing demand in customers’ homes) have already been observed in the past week by Utilities actively monitoring interval usage. Innovative Utilities are now getting ahead of this by helping customers understand the effect of this reality, and providing tips and recommendations to help avert potential bill shocks.
  • Increasing Digital Engagement – The increase in “social distancing” has dramatically reduced walk-in center traffic (for Utilities who still provide this service) and has already materially impacted call center staffing and availability. New digital channels implemented by Utilities over past few years will no doubt gain more traction in the coming weeks and months as our legacy channels decrease in availability. For some customers, this may be their first experience digitally engaging with your utility. What a great opportunity to really leverage what these new channels and technologies can deliver!
  • Pricing and Rate Flexibility – The effects of this shifting demand will be exacerbated for customers on time-of-use rates which, by design, penalize peak usage. To address this, we're seeing some Utilities and retail energy providers temporarily revert rates to non-TOU alternatives as well as allowing customers to modify their energy plans mid-cycle.
  • Modifications to Disconnect Policy – Many Utilities have already adjusted their disconnect policies to support customers whose income is being affected by the temporary closing of their work locations- a costly but necessary step to help customers navigate what could be a few weeks of total shutdown.
  • Enabling their own Remote Workforce – Most Utilities have already implemented various forms of social distancing in their organizations, from reducing meeting sizes to fully closing down work locations. As a result, IT functions are working around the clock on their network and communications infrastructure to ensure continuity of business is maintained for this sudden shift to a remote workforce.

This list will grow in the coming days as Utilities do what they do best- look for new ways to help their communities get back on their feet during a crisis. It's one of the things that I’ve most enjoyed watching and participating in over my 30 year career in energy.

This is perfect opportunity to show customers that you understand them at an intimate level, and provide new and creative sources “smart value” that will create lasting impressions with your customers long after the dust from this event clears.

Peter Key's picture
Peter Key on Mar 20, 2020 10:15 pm GMT

Based on the research I did, and published in a recent article U.S. Grid Operators Have Seen Little Load Change From Coronavirus Restrictions, it seems that U.S. transmission grid operators have yet to seen a major change in power demand from the actions being taken to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus responsible for COVID-19, but a few are spotting small differences.

Of note:

“Regarding load, we don’t have a complete picture yet of what the impacts are, but we can tell you that the shift in work patterns and business closures is likely behind subtle shifts in electricity use,” Jeff Shields, PJM’s media relations manager, said in an email.

In countries that have severely clamped down on everyday life to slow the spread of the coronavirus, the shifts in power demand haven’t been subtle.

French grid operator RTE said March 19 that the demand for electricity was down by 15 percent from normal for this time of year, according to a Reuters report. The French government put the country on lockdown on March 17 in response to the coronavirus.

Italian grid operator Ferna saw an 11 percent drop in power on its network in the week through March 18, according to a Bloomberg report. Italy has been under a total lockdown since March 9.

In Japan, the slowdown in industrial activity as a result of measures taken to contain the coronavirus has reduced demand for power in the country, the chairman of Japan’s federation of electric utilities said on March 13.

“We are closely watching development of the pandemic as further reduction in corporate and economic activities would lead to serious impacts,” Reuters quoted Satoru Katsuno as saying.

Responses across the U.S. have varied, although they’re getting more uniform as more people are diagnosed with COVID-19. Generally, they’ve been strongest in the areas within the footprints of New York Independent System Operator; PJM, whose territory includes all or part of 13 Mid-Atlantic and Midwest states and Washington, D.C.; and California Independent System Operator. Texas and the plains states, which fall in the footprints of Electric Reliability Council of Texas and Southwest Power Pool, respectively, haven’t put in place as many restrictions, although they’re catching up.

Those variations have yet to show up in major differences for power demand on the grids of the regional transmission organizations and independent system operators, although some have seen small drops in power demand as well as shifts in the timing of their peaks.

Rami Reshef's picture
Rami Reshef on Mar 23, 2020 9:30 am GMT

Hi Peter and thanks for sharing your interim findings on this interesting research. I'm curious, has this small reduction in power consumption also impacted the need (or lack thereof) in activating peaker plants? Has it impacted the energy mix in terms of how much energy is coming from renewable sources vs fossil fuels? 

How do you think the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on our economy will impact the longer-term shift in the energy sector business model to move from one-to-many monopoly-utility-to- consumers to DERs-to-prosumers?  I don't know if you see a connection but you have shared some interesting ideas so I'd be keen to hear your thoughts on these topics even if your research doesn't really touch on any empiric evidence in this regard.

Thanks,

Rami

 

 

Henry Craver's picture
Henry Craver on Mar 23, 2020 1:24 pm GMT

I also wrote recently on demand effects of the Coronavirus, which you can see in full here: COVID's Immediate and Longer Term Impacts on Grid

As the world’s economic motor grinds to an excruciating hault, it should be expected that energy demand will dip. Many people are working from home—if they’re lucky to be working at all, the service industry is closing up shop, and big concerts, festivals, conferences, and sporting events have been postponed indefinitely. Countries where the pandemic is more advanced give us an idea of what we can expect to see here with electricity demand. Italy, for example, saw demand drop 7.4% last Wednesday compared to the week prior. 

As a whole, the U.S. has not yet issued the same kind of measures as Italy, but it seems we’re headed in that direction. As I’m writing this, news is breaking that New Jersey, Connecticut and Illinois will follow California and New York in telling residents to stay home. I’m sure they won’t be the only states to do so this week. 

Beyond the immediate drop in power demand, I’m wondering what sort of effect the seemingly inevitable recession will have on the industry. As it’s been noted before on Energy Central, utility groups across the country have put forth significant grid infrastructure projects to prepare for the further adoption of renewables. One example that comes to mind is CapX2050. However, with state budgets strained, will there be money for these upgrades? Possibly they’ll be at the middle of a federal stimulus plan. It’s too early to tell.

Carlos Sousa's picture
Carlos Sousa on Mar 24, 2020 3:11 pm GMT

@Bob, Excellent considerations, I agree that this is the time for utilities to innovate!

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Mar 24, 2020 4:23 pm GMT

Innovation is definitely needed, but more than ever will require outside the box thinking for what that would look like and, more importantly,  how it would actually be rolled out!

Carlos Sousa's picture
Carlos Sousa on Mar 25, 2020 12:28 pm GMT

Matt, I understand that innovation is what was actually implemented ... if it is just an idea, or concept, it is just an invention ... this is an excellent opportunity for the entire electrical sector to "get out of the box" don't you think?

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Mar 25, 2020 3:52 pm GMT

I totally agree, Carlos. Times like this not only require creative solutions but they also create an environment where people are more likely to latch onto and utilize those new innovations. Well said!

I recently posted an article in the Load Management Community about how the Coronavirus situation is causing energy load shifts. You can read it here, but I've also copied the text below:

Energy Load Shifts Because of Coronavirus

The unprecedented steps taken to help the US mitigate potential problems from the Coronavirus will create a ripple effect for energy producers. While the final impact will only be seen once the pandemic ends, it seems likely that energy usage will drop and usage patterns will shift, forcing energy producers to adjust their load expectations and delivery plans.

People are doing less: less interacting with friends, no group gatherings, limited commuting, and only necessary traveling to local retailers. Those changes translate into a drop in energy use overall. Bloomberg found that electric power demand in Italy decreased 7% once significant restrictions were put into place.

But individuals and families also do more. With fewer face-to-face interactions, many connect virtually. Millions of Americans employees work from home. Individuals and families are turning to virtual entertainment: downloading movies, Facetiming with friends, tweeting, and playing video games. In South Korea, Italy, and Seattle, residential Internet rose 40% , according to NPR.

So what does that mean for utilities? They should lower their expected usage numbers for the short term. Also, energy load patterns will change. Less energy will be needed in the typical weekday hubs, like urban downtowns and office parks. More energy will be consumed in neighborhoods. In sum, the current seven day, energy usage pattern will closely resemble the traditional weekend, so utilities need to adjust accordingly.

Nevelyn Black's picture
Nevelyn Black on Mar 20, 2020 3:47 pm GMT

I have noticed several articles for consumers on how to stay energy efficient while working from home.  One tip encouraged customers to avoid peak rate times but with so many working from home, will peak times change or just go from bad to worse? 

Paul Korzeniowski's picture
Paul Korzeniowski on Mar 20, 2020 3:49 pm GMT

Interesting question, Nevelyn. My sense is overall usage will drop rather than rise because individuals and businesses are doing less because they are sequestered.  Questions do arise about how well the grid support consumers since they will be staying home and using more residential energy.

Also, their bills will rise and paying them may become a challenge for some, especially those who have had trouble making ends meet.  A number of states have put checks in place to keep energy companies from shutting off service to individuals who miss a payment or two because of the virus. However, this change may stress utilities and their ability to meet their financial obligations.

We all face a set of complex challenges, so lets hope progress occurs, so we get back to normal soon.

Interestingly, homeworking was the norm until the industrial revolution. It's only then that people were congregated in huge factories and offices. Perhaps the pendulum is swinging back the other way. Obviously for some areas of the utilities this isn't possible as some people have said above. This is my post on homeworking: 

 

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Mar 20, 2020 4:16 pm GMT

Thanks for sharing, Julian. Different remote capabilities depend on the job to do and the tools available, but I wonder if we'll see long-term impacts of more utility workers becoming regular (or at least periodic) steelworkers. 

I recently shared some thoughts on the topic in my post: COVID-19 and electricity: what's the challenge in Brazil?

Despite the seriousness of the situation due to the corona virus, especially in relation to the restrictions that all of us are subjected, the daily curve of national electricity consumption has not undergone significant changes!

The maximum demand and the average demand remain in the same order of magnitude as always!

* Customers will honor their energy bill payments in these critical times?
* Are energy traders and utilities prepared to face major defaults?
* Is the country prepared to face this challenge?

The electric sector value chain involves billions of USD per month. So all stake holders are expected to do their part!

How the nuclear energy industry is responding to the Global  COVID-19 Crisis -- Three reports

_____________________

Nuclear Workers May Live On-Site During Virus Crisis

The New York Times reports via Reuters that the nation’s electric power utilities are planning to set up housekeeping for cadres of healthy workers at the plants to keep the lights on for millions of Americans.

According to the newspaper, the utilities, which include the nation’s nuclear reactor operators, are stockpiling food, beds, and laundry, and other supplies for the workers.

In the past when hurricanes have threatened power stations along the nation’s gulf and east coasts, workers hunkered down for a few days until the storm’s fury had moved on. This time it’s different. The virus crisis that is immobilizing the U.S. economy could last for several months or longer.

The New York Times reports via Reuters that the nation’s electric power utilities are planning to set up housekeeping for cadres of healthy workers at the plants to keep the lights on for millions of Americans.

According to the newspaper, the utilities, which include the nation’s nuclear reactor operators, are stockpiling food, beds, and laundry, and other supplies for the workers.

In the past when hurricanes have threatened power stations along the nation’s gulf and east coasts, workers hunkered down for a few days until the storm’s fury had moved on. This time it’s different. The virus crisis that is immobilizing the U.S. economy could last for several months or longer.

Read more here

https://energycentral.com/c/ec/covid-19-news-nuclear-workers-may-live-si...

& & &

IAEA Supports Testing for Detection of the Coronavirus with Diagnostic Kits and Training to Use Them in 14 Countries

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will provide diagnostic kits, equipment and training in nuclear-derived detection techniques to countries asking for assistance in tackling the worldwide spread of the coronavirus causing COVID-19, Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi announced in Vienna.

Read more here

https://energycentral.com/c/ec/iaea-supports-testing-detection-coronavir...

& & &

Nuclear Energy Projects Move Ahead Despite Global Virus Threat

  • Canadian Partnership Announces SMR Fuel Research
  • Rolls-Royce and Turkey’s EUAS  Plan Joint SMR Construction Effort
  • NRC Issues Draft EIA For Holtec Spent Fuel Facility In New Mexico
  • Indonesia Dusts Off Plans for Nuclear Energy
  • IAEA Addresses Safety of Smart Devices in Nuclear Power Plants

Read more here

https://energycentral.com/c/ec/nuclear-energy-projects-move-ahead-despit...

# # #

Thanks, Matt, for the invitation to the group -- I'm definitely happy to contribute this list of resources I have been collecting: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/going-virtual-solar-businesses-resources-william-reichard/?trackingId=bpB2HKiIdG25EGCycoXtVg%3D%3D .

Will be watching this topic with interest and learning all I can. Thanks again!

William Reichard's picture
William Reichard on Mar 25, 2020 5:24 pm GMT

Still updating (I should have mentioned this has a solar-specific angle). Ideas/resources welcomed!

 

With this global reset the energy market is going to change and rapidly. With oil and gas prices so very low and with no chance of them returning to heights of before anytime soon new thinking must start today. As governments respond to the people there will be significantly less available funds and the political will to disperse as subsidies. Stand alone products are going to be the winners and legacy companies that do not embrace this will not survive.

The energy markets really need to bifurcate into loaded industrial and municipal delivery and personal use products. The personal use items from micro to portable to EV to residential has the most verticals for the future. Utility and commercial will be very hard hit in the renewable areas. 

Non carbon production has its place, its finding the proper balance of use need and output potential that is critical.

All industries thru out  history have faced rubicons, those that see the opportunity on the other side will survive, those myopic to the facts will tumble into the abyss.

This is the time for rational evaluation of products and their true cost of energy output. Their real value and the resources needed to attain not hypothetical outputs but actual usable electric power.  

The dawn is the light of the morning and we are at a very new dawn. Unthinkable just 1 month ago, but the worlds governments decided this future and we can only know that power is the lifeblood of our way of life and that need is not going anywhere, just the way we get there is going to be reshaped. 

 

 

 

To help ensure there isn't an interruption in the customer experience and better handle the surge in calls right now, we've been working with energy providers to implement Visual IVR to quickly and easily deflect COVID-19 FAQs and other routine calls to automated self-service. I talk more about that here: 

As a bonus, having customers use features like photo capture and geolocation on their smartphone when submitting queries or outage reports can help agents solve problems digitally and reduce the need to send trucks out to locations. 

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Mar 24, 2020 4:24 pm GMT

That's a great example that I wouldn't have thought of. Do you think there may be longer-term impacts, like if those programs get up and running now and customers get more used to them, perhaps photo capture and geolocation can be more easily and fully integrated at a later time?

An issue that I think the utility industry needs to be aware of, which I wrote an Energy Central article about recently, is how of the potential COVID-19 economic challenges and the resultant utility customer engagement challenges: 

With the prediction of unprecedented unemployment on the horizon, utilities are facing the possibility of a much higher percentage of customers seeking alternative payment arrangements.  Deloitte released advice for companies, COVID-19 Maintaining customer loyalty and trust during times of uncertainty.  “People are paying attention to how organizations are responding, and purpose-based companies that show empathy will likely emerge as the leaders.”  Utilities have already taken the first step by announcing a pause in service disconnections. USA Today reports that several (all?) utilities have announced a delay in service terminations due to non-payment.

In addition, several utilities are offering flexible payment plans to help customers affected by the virus.  Fortunately, utilities already have processes in place to provide customers with these payment arrangements.  Electric Utilities commonly deal with this during the hottest months of the year and gas utilities during the coldest.  This time the volume will likely be much higher.

Utilities with smart meters and the right supporting technologies may be at an advantage in offering more information and choices to help their customers during the crisis.  Some examples include bill-to-date, pre-pay, and bill simulation. 

See the full article for more information on these examples

Found another article on what utilities are doing to assist people. From working endless hours to caring for their own families, I applaud all of you hard utility workers.

  >> Entergy establishes fund for households affected by COVID-19

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Mar 25, 2020 3:57 pm GMT

Entergy shareholders have committed $700,000 to the fund to help qualifying customers with basic needs such as food and nutrition, rent and mortgage assistance. Grants from the fund will be provided to United Way organizations and other nonprofit partners across Entergy’s service area that are providing services to impacted households.

What a terrific program-- thanks for sharing, PJ. Times like this show that utilities can and should be more than just the power provider you think about once per month when the bill comes but rather pillars of the community who are trusted to be there when they're needed the most. 

Hats off to Entergy for this initiative!

One question we are getting is what does the increase of stay-at-home mandates mean for our residential customers sensitivity toward comfort and peace of mind, particularly regarding smart thermostat demand management programs looking ahead to the summer months.

I discuss it in more detail here about how demand profiles are changing (and forecast to change) at a macro and micro level - globally and within the US - but importantly steps utilities can take to ensure they cognisant of the heightened anxieties of customers towards energy in the weeks and months ahead.

An important item to call out though, is like in hurricanes and other social emergencies - customers are depending on their utility more than ever, and this is an opportunity for utilities to deepen their relationship with their customers via meaningful, personalized interactions.

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Mar 26, 2020 10:58 am GMT

The comparison with hurricanes and other situations where people lean on their utilities more to be community pillars, rather than just another company sending you a bill, is definitely apt. A big difference, though, comes with the duration of the potential changes to daily life. Have you seen that hurricane warnings or other major events provided a preview into how demand profiles changed and that sensitivity towards comfort/peace of mind that you mention, or are the situations more like apples and oranges in that regard?

Donald Mcphail's picture
Donald Mcphail on Mar 26, 2020 9:46 pm GMT

I don't think anything perfectly translates into what we are seeing / will see with COVID-19 with respect to demand and community impact, however there are certainly good reference points from other events. Speaking from experience in preparing for and responding too cyclones in North East Australia, its certainly a more severe community impact (complete outages and infrastructure lost) but the duration is for the most part a lot quicker recovery - 1 week for most the population.

I think though in terms of messaging, outreach and providing peace of mind for customers, there is some good principles that apply in both circumstances. People are anxious due to lost control and impact to comfort, they may feel helpless or isolated, and there is an important role in the utility actions to be positioned as here to support them through this period, while fostering a sense of community. Utilities that are effective at responding to natural disasters (e.g. Ergon Energy) actually see a large CSAT increase after these events because of this empathetic approach to the community.

When we think about smart thermostat programs then, for instance, the opportunity for utilities is to:

  • Message the incentive/rebate benefits to get a free (or near free) device that enables them to save money
  • Use messaging that is empathetic to the mindset customers are in, so is focus on the positive value to the community the customer is providing by participating, rather than focusing on their obligations as a participant
  • And giving them the reassurance that if they need to override or opt out events, they can. Almost all won't use this option if managed right, but the peace of mind knowing they have control goes a long way.

One of the interesting developments in the energy industry is the repurposing of ethanol producers from being focused on biofuels to manufacturing hand sanitizers. This move comes because of COVID-19. The pandemic has led to a drop in demand for transportation fuels both on land and in the air. That means ethanol orders are down. Companies recognizing this have in some cases begun donating their ethanol for hand sanitizer production. Others have gone into the business themselves. See Only a Headline Possible In Today’s Circumstances: Ethanol Producers Switch from Biofuels to Making Hand Sanitizer

Len Rosen

21stcentech.com

Matt, there was a great discussion today during a Mass DPU tele-conference on the COVID-19 situation; I wrote a brief article on what I heard during this call: https://energycentral.com/c/pip/force-majeure-du-jour-new-covid-19-modus-operandi

Since the pandemic started, communications from C-level executives are demonstrating their warrior spirits. They are acting with agility and creativity to evolve business practices on the fly--something that is extremely difficult to do. And they aren’t alone. Vendors are redirecting their employees from sales-based conversations towards empathetic outreach. They are having internal, heartfelt conversations about how to get useful information in front of their utility customers who need it to make critical decisions.

I talk more about this adaptability and focus on communications in this full article: The Utility Industry's Response to Covid-19—A New Kind of Sexy

If you're interested in more on this topic, Utility 30 is holding a webinar on how Utilities Are Managing Business in a COVID-19 World

The California ISO was among the other regional RTO/ISOs that has restricted travel at first, then cancelled in-person meetingas and visits from non-employees.  The lastes has been work from home for all non-essential staff such as operations and security, etc.  Any staff that doesn’t have to be at the office are working remote and all stakeholder meetings are now being held virtually.  All staff reporting to the offices as essential are being screened for symptoms.

Audra Drazga's picture
Audra Drazga on Mar 30, 2020 5:00 pm GMT

Chris,

Curious what are they doing to screen for symptoms?

As a billing solution provider for a couple of big utility companies, MaxBill pays close attention to what is happening in the energy sector right now. We’ve analyzed the issue closely in our recent article The Impact of Coronavirus Pandemic on Utility Service Providers, and we’d like to keep the conversation going.

Many of our clients have done their best to relocate as many workers to home offices as possible. We know this for sure, as they are using our SaaS solution that can be accessed from anywhere. Some have dedicated the work of the whole IT-department to setting up VPNs and virtual workspaces for their employees. For staff members that can’t possibly work remotely, the transportation means are provided. The facilities are made safe by constant cleaning and disinfection, and all personnel is required to wear masks and gloves according to the protocol. Anyone who is feeling sick has to stay home and report their well-being to HR. These measures will help to hold up against the virus well.

It is now even more important to have conversations, share experience and hear each other. Many of our clients are issuing a string of statements, telling about their practices and sharing useful guidelines. Video conferences are also a big part of the routine now. For example, it has been made an official requirement for all of our conversations with clients and partners to have the video on, and not just audio. Each member of our team is encouraged to get the best connection as fast as possible to hold quality online meetings. 

There definitely have been some challenges to keep the customer experience up to par, especially in case of the vulnerable households that may suffer the most from lay-offs and quarantine measures. One of our clients has taken specific measures so that such people don’t have to travel anywhere to top up their pay-as-you-go cards. Many of the utility service providers has suspended the penalties for late payments, and some have even gone so far as to renew the services for those previously cut off, as everyone understands that we’re in this together as a society.

Overall, it is amazing how unified the utility community is. I have seen so many examples of companies being socially responsible, that it really gives hope that during the time of crisis we all grow as human beings and citizens. There’s a feeling that after things are back to normal, we’ll have better ideas about what practices and procedures are essential and what parts of the system can be improved.

The Coronavirus outbreak has created a lot of confusion and pressure, especially how to move forward and continue growing and marketing your business. 

During this period it’s crucial that you take this time to evaluate your business, plan ahead and be prepared for anything.

Here’s six simple steps to get you started.

At Kissimmee Utility Association, we've included in our responses offering tips to reduce household energy use during the COVID-19 pandemic, as with more people remaining at home, households may see an unexpected increase in their monthly energy usage while many families and businesses will be seeing increasing financial hardships. Read more about the tips we offered at this full article I submitted on the topic: 

KUA Offers Tips to Reduce Household Energy Use During COVID-19 Pandemic

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Apr 2, 2020 12:39 pm GMT

As a follow up, KUA also expanded our Assistance Program to support customers during the pandemic: https://energycentral.com/c/pip/kua-expands-assistance-programs-support-customers-during-coronavirus-pandemic

Another important impact of the spread of the disease is in the postponement of new projects, such as the delay of the Intersolar Egypt Renewable Energy Company's four solar power plant projects I wrote about for Energy Central here:

Coronavirus forces postponement of renewable energy projects in Egypt

Regarding our view on the activity:

- Activity slows: so it is about protecting the existing portfolios

- Short term development: Grinding to a halt. All non-essentials are grinding to a halt. There is a sense that all developments assets might be significantly repriced downwards. 

- Long term development: A bit of available time for the bigger picture and start charting strategic decision to be implemented in H2-20. Also, remain nimble because there will be once-in-a-decade opportunities of excellent assets in distress and that can snapped for pennies on the dollar

Main challenge: protecting the teams, their motivation and cohesion

And of course: Protect cash

BlastPoint has been working with energy providers and enterprises for the past several years on billing default prevention methods. As the coronavirus crisis unfolds, our utility industry customers are asking us: 

  • How can they keep financially-at-risk customers engaged in order to avoid having to send them to shut-off or collections? 

  • How can they maintain the trust of the community and the regulatory framework they are obligated to while managing to stay solvent?

These questions are keeping them up at night, and they are in crisis mode trying to ensure their customers’ and employees' safety, keep services up and running, and manage to stay in business themselves despite drastically lower consumption rates. 

Our research shows that the majority of residential households typically pay at least one bill late over the course of a year. Looking ahead, we expect that number to greatly increase. With more than 3 million unemployment applications having been submitted in the past several weeks (and more on the way), thousands of hospitality, food service and retail workers out of a job (and more industries poised to get hit next), and the fact that the average American typically has less than $1K in savings, we see clear patterns emerging about what type of utility customer will be most vulnerable to missing their bill payments. 

Generally, what we are learning is that the people who will be at highest risk of falling behind on their energy bills will be young Millennials and some Gen Xers who live in homes where they are the sole breadwinner. These are customers who have lower incomes but are not always the poorest of the poor. Because this situation is so unprecedented, many people who wouldn't normally qualify for assistance before might qualify now, so it's important to look at all the available data to identify those who typically wouldn't look like a fit, but who now may be. 

In my recent article posted on Energy Central, “Helping Customers Prevent Missed Utility Payments Through Times of Crisis,” I outline more details of this at-risk persona, and share a few of BlastPoint’s recommendations for how to keep them afloat in the coming months (or years). I invite you to read the whole post for actions you can take now, without needing access to analytics software like ours. 

Our work shows that when companies know as much as possible about who is struggling among their customers, they are better equipped to help those customers--and themselves in the process. But we urge our partners to keep conscientious of the fact that this situation is evolving so rapidly that the full picture remains to be seen. 

At Southern California Edison, we’re doing everything necessary to make sure our electric service remains save and reliable during COVID-19 emergency restrictions. Pedro Pizarro, the President and CEO of Edison International, stated: “We provide an essential service for our communities and the COVID-19- emergency has brought that into sharp focus. Our employees are determined to operate and maintain the grid in these challenging times when residents need our service most.” You can read more about our response here

 

Is our distribution grids prepared for a potential super-resi peak? Are we being lulled into a sense of calm with dropping aggregate demand in these uncharted territories? Within that drop in aggregate load is a big risk - the rapid rise of residential demand and pressure on our distribution networks!

With unprecedented numbers of people working from their homes, if this stretches into the summer its time today to start thinking about the impact to the distribution system networks. In the article below, Austin Energy reported that last week residential loads were up 12%, and that was the week before Austin's mandatory stay at home order. This week spring temperatures are up!

As we trade commercial offices for our homes we lose efficiency, control and flexibility. And customers will face higher bills too. The time is now to begin planning for this risk.

https://www.statesman.com/news/20200325/austinrsquos-coronavirus-stay-home-order-could-swell-utility-bills

Audra Drazga's picture
Audra Drazga on Apr 9, 2020 12:34 pm GMT

Dan,
It will be interesting to watch the load shifts as warmer weather approaches and if stay at home mandates stay in place past April. Also, good point about Energy Efficiency, while many buildings have been working towards EE many homes are still not considered efficient. Curious what you think the impact will be overall on Energy Efficiency programs. Will they be the first to be cut, or are they now more critical than ever.

Just sharing a few news articles that just release around what some utilities are doing admit the COVID-19 Pandemic

Eversource Foundation Donates More Than $2 Million to Support Communities During COVID-19 Pandemic

Which utilities keep lights on for COVID-19?

Fifteen nonprofit groups in Entergy Mississippi’s service area will share more than $385,000 from the company’s newly-created Mississippi Relief Fund. The fund will target grants to organizations that provide services to families and individuals that have been hit hard financially by the COVID-19 pandemic and do not have resources for basic needs.

More details can be found here. 

At Veolia we believe that the current crisis will define a generation of leaders who realize that the planet is a small and fragile place.  What happens in one part of it can and will affect the rest of it.  There may be a short term slowing of initiatives due to economic conditions but in the long run this crisis will force leaders to realize that we are all in this together and drive positive actions for the environment. 

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