American Public Power Association members are being very thoughtful and deliberate in terms of planning for operations re-entry with the COVID-19 pandemic, keeping the safety of their workers front and center, as well as taking steps to protect their customers, said Desmarie Waterhouse, Vice President, Government Relations and Counsel, at APPA.
Waterhouse made her comments during a National Governors Association webinar this month on the pandemic’s impacts on energy security. She participated on a panel that also included representatives from the Edison Electric Institute and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.
As far as APPA goes, “We’ve got members that are being very thoughtful and very deliberate in terms of the planning that they’re doing to continue to protect their workers as they start to reopen,” Waterhouse said.
At the same time, APPA members are taking steps to protect their customers “as they make decisions as to whether or not they can open up things like their customer service centers.”
Waterhouse noted that public power utilities are relying very heavily “on the great work that was done” by the Electricity Subsector Coordinating Council (ESCC) in terms of thinking through the host of issues that need to be addressed as it relates to re-entry.
“I know our members greatly appreciate the work that’s been done collaboratively – not just with the three trade associations, but obviously with our federal government partners, who’ve been very, very helpful throughout all of this,” Waterhouse said.
Waterhouse also noted that funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is a top priority for APPA.
“We have members that are ensuring that their customers are aware of LIHEAP and finding ways to ensure that they know how to reach their community action centers so that they can start the LIHEAP application process,” she said.
Waterhouse said that APPA appreciates what Congress has appropriated thus far for additional LIHEAP assistance.
In late March, President Trump signed into law the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The measure will provide $2 trillion in financial assistance in response to the pandemic.
Among other things, the CARES Act provides $900 million for LIHEAP, which comes in addition to the $3.74 billion already appropriated for the account for fiscal year 2020.
APPA’s Rozenberg details ESCC efforts
Sam Rozenberg, Engineering Services Security Director, who also participated in the webinar, discussed the ongoing work of the ESCC.
The ESCC serves as the principal liaison between the federal government and the electric power industry on national level response issues such as pandemics.
Rozenberg focused his comments on the ESCC’s resource guide for the power sector that was developed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The guide has been updated over the past several months with the input of APPA and public power utilities. The updated guide, which was released on May 11, is the eighth version of the guide, which is a living document developed under the direction of the ESCC.
The latest version addresses several new topics including planning a transition from remote work back to the workplace. Version eight of the guide also includes a new section on internal and external communications.
“When talking about responsible re-entry and return to the workplace, we broke up it up…into five subsections,” Rozenberg noted.
The first subsection focuses on engagement with state and local governments, “recognizing the phased approach that state and local governments have and making sure there’s communication” between utilities and state and local governments, he said.
The second subsection addresses enterprise-wide re-entry planning, the third subsection details planning considerations for re-entry into office spaces and the fourth addresses planning considerations for field and construction work, Rozenberg said.
The fifth subsection addresses planning considerations for technology.
NGA memo offers guidance to governors on how to support energy sector during pandemic
In March, the NGA prepared a memo that provides guidance to governors on how they can best support and protect the energy industry during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The March 25 memo highlighted three areas governors should consider to ensure energy continuity and shares the current energy industry response to COVID-19:
- Ensuring critical energy infrastructure employees can be identified and credentialed in the event of a shelter in place order;
- Priority access to testing, personal protective equipment (PPE) and cleaning supplies; and
- Access to waivers for fuel carriers and Commercial Driver’s Licenses (CDL) to move critical utility supplies