Author: Bill Zuretti, director, Regulatory Affairs and counsel, EPSA
EPSA member companies – America’s competitive power suppliers – took great lengths to keep the lights on and support local communities throughout the pandemic… But our power grid is complex and interconnected. Keeping it running is a team effort pulling in all sectors of the industry, emergency responders, government agencies, and public officials.
Approximately one year after COVID-19 upended daily life across the globe, it is worth reflecting on the changes our country and economy went through and saluting the efforts of those that have helped us fight through this difficult period. While the world and our nation owe an immeasurable debt to our frontline health workers and first responders, many other critical employees put their health and safety on the line to keep our economy and lives moving. Among these workers were many in the electric power sector. Electricity is the starting point for nearly the entire economy. Without electricity, factories can’t produce, stores can’t sell us the goods we need, and families can’t live with all the modern conveniences to which we have become accustomed. They all run on electricity.
As the pandemic kept most at home, power plant and control room employees continued to go to work with some—including staff at grid operators like PJM Interconnection and the New York Independent System Operator —sequestering at their workplace for weeks at a time. This sacrifice should not be forgotten.
EPSA member companies – America’s competitive power suppliers – took great lengths to keep the lights on and support local communities throughout the pandemic. We’ve shared those efforts here. But our power grid is complex and interconnected. Keeping it running is a team effort pulling in all sectors of the industry, emergency responders, government agencies, and public officials.
The early days of the pandemic put long standing partnerships, such as the Electricity Subsector Coordinating Council (ESCC), to the test. The ESCC is the principal liaison between the federal government and the electric power industry on efforts to prepare for, and respond to, national-level disasters or threats to critical infrastructure. The ESCC works across the sector, and with the Electricity Information Sharing and Analysis Center (E-ISAC), to develop actions and strategies that help protect the North American energy grid and prevent a spectrum of threats from disrupting electricity service. The ESCC includes CEOs and executives from independent power producers, electric distribution companies, public power utilities, and rural electric cooperatives – as well as their trade association leaders, who represent all segments of the industry. The ESCC meets regularly and the mission-oriented nature of the organization has proven invaluable in addressing issues facing the North American grid. EPSA serves on the ESCC’s Steering Committee and works closely with our industry counterparts to shape ESCC policy and direction.
The ESCC demonstrated its value and importance in responding to crises and bridging the communications gap between industry participants and government partners. In March 2020, the ESCC mobilized to respond expeditiously to the COVID-19 pandemic. The ESCC drew upon the expertise of its diverse membership to share information, develop best practices, and collaborate with government partners, including DOE, HHS and FEMA. Throughout the pandemic, the ESCC compiled an ever-evolving Resource Guide, which serves as a resource for electric power industry leaders to guide informed localized decisions in response to this global health emergency and set the bar for information aggregation and industry-specific operational guidelines. The ESCC also worked with the electric industry’s government partners to gain access to critical testing, PPE and now vaccines for our industry’s essential workers.
As vaccines continue to roll out and cases continue to decline, many are eager to return to life as it was prior to March 2020. In doing so it is important that we remember those lost and the workers and institutions that helped to keep our country and economy moving. Frontline power plant and control room workers should be commended for their sacrifices. Throughout challenging times, Americans should have confidence that the electric power industry is unified in our efforts to maintain reliable power. EPSA and its members continue to be proud of the work we do with the ESCC, which will better prepare our sector and economy for the challenges of both the present and the future.
Learn more about competitive power and COVID-19
Powering Through and Past the COVID Pandemic: A Year in Review | EPSA | March 22, 2021
Competitive Power Delivered as America Grappled With COVID-19 in 2020 | EPSA | December 23, 2020
Snitchler: In COVID Concerns, Energy Reliability Stands Out | Morning Consult | July 7, 2020