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The state of Public Power in N.C.

What are Public Power communities in North Carolina doing to respond to the coronavirus pandemic while keeping the lights on? Plenty.

While the exact measures vary by community, the theme is the same: limit contact with the public whenever and wherever possible, plan for the worst and hope for the best. At ElectriCities’ Raleigh building, the halls are empty and the training room dark; all employees are continuing to support member utilities from their homes.

At the lineworker level, responses include dispatching lineworkers from home, staggering shifts to avoid unnecessary contact, suspension of maintenance and construction projects, and changes to how equipment and supplies are distributed. Customer service operations have also been affected, with many communities suspending walk-in payments, staggering shifts and having customer service reps work from home where possible.

Cities that have invested in AMI technology are reaping a largely unforeseen benefit now. While “You’ll thank us in the event of a pandemic!” was likely not in the smart-meter brochure, the automation that AMI equipment brings makes it unnecessary for communities with the technology to make choices between dispatching employees to customers’ homes or skipping a meter-reading cycle.

In addition to the precautions taken by utilities, there is also an abundance of planning and sharing of best practices going on. ElectriCities’ Emergency Action Plan group is holding a weekly conference call, and public information officers are e-meeting twice a week. On March 27, the ElectriCities Board of Directors held its first-ever all-virtual meeting.

How about the power supply? Duke Energy reports that it is taking preventive measures at its generating facilities.

Duke is “taking a variety of measures to protect employee health, including dividing essential work teams to different locations where possible, conducting thermal monitoring and screening at priority sites and implementing remote working for all those who can,” according to the company’s website.

While no one can tell when this pandemic will subside, we are all doing our part at ElectriCities to slow the spread while continuing to provide essential services to our communities.