Powering Strong Communities

The wonder of this season

It’s been a strange year – and a tragic year for many who have lost family and friends to COVID-19.

For me, it’s been a year of reflection and reaction. On the latter, in public power, we had to pivot quickly and decisively to respond to unexpected (although not unanticipated) events. I’ve talked about that response a lot in this blog, but it merits repeating that public power and the rest of the electric utility industry has done an incredible job providing reliable power when customers have needed it most—despite the challenges posed by this pandemic. Even during a record-breaking hurricane season and extensive wildfires, public power – and our mutual aid network – responded quickly to restore power. This is incredibly positive for our communities and the entire country as it shows that we can keep electricity flowing even in very challenging circumstances. I hope our federal, state, and local policy makers have taken note.

On the former, I continue to reflect on what it means to be in the midst of this pandemic. As a history buff, I know well that this is not the first, worst, or last pandemic we will experience as humans (look up how many people died from smallpox just in the 20th century before the virus was eradicated on May 8, 1980 – you will be shocked), so I cannot call this pandemic “unprecedented” except in the context of how our societies and governments have responded. What is unprecedented is the enormous infusion of resources into COVID-19 vaccine development that has brought us to the brink of vaccine dissemination almost a year to the day from when the virus was identified in Wuhan Province, China.

I have also reflected on how privileged we are to be in a developed country during this pandemic. We have a robust network of essential workers who have continued to work tirelessly to keep the electricity flowing (and water, gas, and communications services), food produced and transported, and many other critical aspects of our daily lives so that the rest of us could adjust to telework or hybrid work environments. Yes, many people have become ill (sometimes with long-term effects) or died from the virus and millions have lost their jobs or had to close their businesses. That is incredibly sad, disheartening, frustrating and devastating to many Americans. But because of the work of the millions of essential personnel, many people in the U.S. have only been inconvenienced. That is not the case with many millions of people in developing countries, including children, who do not have access to food or shelter.

This year, instead of feeling sorry that my family and I are missing the usual (in-person) parties, plays, caroling, and general connection of the season, I am focused on what we have. We have our health. We have time to spend with each other in less hectic and frantic ways than in “normal” years. We have the opportunity to appreciate what our “normal” actually is and long for it again. And I have the time and focus to look around and appreciate my kids who will soon be grown and gone. In short, I have time to count my blessings. And we have time as a country to count ours and to think about how we might share the wealth we have with others – either in our own communities or around the globe. Because we are blessed. Happy Holidays.