News, O&M, Policy & Regulation

Tucson Electric, SCE, AVANGRID & Enel among latest utilities to deploy resources toward fighting COVID-19.

Map courtesy CDC (Centers for Disease Control).

Utilities and service companies around the world are responding to the global COVID-19 pandemic by getting out their proverbial checkbooks in one way or another. This involves money to help the most vulnerable as well as added protection for their own employees.

These announcements by utilities have been happening throughout March. The latest include Tucson Electric Power, Southern California parent Edison International, AVANGRID and Italian utility Enel.

Tucson Electric Power and sister utility UniSource Energy Services announced they will donate a combined $1 million to bill payment assistance and other coronavirus relief efforts in the communities they serve throughout Arizona.

 “We know many of our customers have been hit hard by this pandemic, and we want to do everything we can to help,” said David G. Hutchens, CEO of TEP, UniSource and their parent company, UNS Energy. “In addition to maintaining reliable energy service, we want to help local nonprofit groups support our communities during this period of unprecedented and urgent need.”

The companies will contribute $500,000 to the COVID-19 Community Support Fund established by the Community Foundation of Southern Arizona (CFSA) to support charities experiencing increased service demands from vulnerable populations during this public health crisis. Of that amount, $350,000 will be directed to Tucson-area agencies and $150,000 will benefit communities served by UniSource.

California-based Edison International also pledged $1 million earlier this month to local nonprofits. Other of the state’s utilities Southern California gas and Pacific Gas & Electric also have made significant donations, the latter giving close to one million protective masks for first responders.

Edison International’s pledge is to organizations providing critical services, food and necessities to vulnerable communities dealing with COVID-19. Those include California Community Foundation’s COVID-19 LA County Response Fund, Community Action Partnerships in the region and Foodbank Santa Barbara County, among others.

 “Edison International appreciates the health care workers, first responders, local communities and others who are on the front lines working to contain this pandemic,” said Pedro Pizarro, president and CEO of Edison International, Southern California Edison’s parent company. “As an essential service provider and a member of the community, we remain committed to the health, safety and well-being of customers and employees, and will support those who need it the most during these unprecedented times.”

Connecticut-based AVANGRID Inc. and the Avangrid Foundation together announced a $2 million commitment to support national and local organizations on the front lines of dealing with the impacts from the coronavirus. The U.S. has close to 70,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with more than 700 people dead, according to reports.

The AVANGRID family of companies includes Avangrid Renewables and eight electric and natural gas companies in New York, Maine, Connecticut and Massachusetts.

 “As a provider of critical electric and gas services, AVANGRID understands the need for rapid response and is no stranger to working on the frontline of a crisis. We’re proud to offer a steady and helping hand to those who support the most vulnerable among us, particularly during these challenging times,” said Jim Torgerson, the Foundation president and AVANGRID CEO. “We are determined to help address the pandemic’s economic, social and health ramifications. Our communities are in need, and we will stand by them.”

Malaysian utility TNB pledged the equivalent of $2.3 million to that nation’s ministry of health. The company also called on other organizations to do the same.

 “The growing number of people infected by the COVID-19 virus in Malaysia is exerting pressure on the resources of government hospitals that have been designated to deal with the virus, said Dato’ Seri Dr. Chen Chaw Min, Secretary General of the Ministry of Health.

The worst hit of all nations is Italy, with 75,000 afflicted and 7,500 killed. In Rome, Enel announced it had drawn up an insurance policy to cover all of the group’s more than 68,000 employees globally in the event they are hospitalized with the COVID-19 virus.

The insurance tool, which was specifically designed for the needs of the Enel Group, represents the first ever of its kind in the world aimed at guaranteeing support at global level for the ongoing pandemic, according to the company.

Through the policy, Enel will guarantee a cash allowance for all Group employees who are hospitalized after contracting the virus or undergoing intensive care. The policy will guarantee additional benefits beyond those offered by all other insurance tools and forms of health care already available to Group employees.

This tool, developed in collaboration with the leading company in the insurance and risk management services sector Aon SpA, was activated immediately in all countries where Enel has employees.

Enel operates in 33 countries with 2.2 million kilometers of grid network and a managed capacity of more than 88 GW.

Scores of utilities have committed contributions to nonprofits, bill payment assistance, postponing service disconnections and more to fighting the novel virus which had killed more than 21,000 people worldwide since December.

(Rod Walton is content director for Power Engineering and POWERGEN International. He can be reached at 918-831-9177 and [email protected]).