Grid operators cancel travel, shift to remote meetings, as industry preps for broad coronavirus absenteeism
Independent System Operators (ISO) and Regional Transmission Organizations (RTO) responsible for operating the nation’s electric grid are working to limit the spread of the coronavirus, as EEI signaled companies need to prepare to continue delivering electricity with a smaller workforce.
“It is predicted that a large percentage of a company’s employees … could be out sick, quarantined, or might stay home to care for sick family members,” EEI warned.
Planning for a pandemic health emergency “is unique from other business continuity planning because it requires businesses to prepare to operate with a significantly smaller workforce, a threatened supply chain, and limited support services for an extended period,” the industry group told members.
ISO New England on Wednesday said it “has been closely monitoring the spread” of the virus and outlined precautions it has taken, including banning all international business travel until further notice.
The grid operator also restricted employee travel to all external meetings through the end of April, instructed employees to attend stakeholder meetings by teleconferencing and webinar, restricted visitors to the ISO’s facilities and canceled all tours.
Similarly, PJM Interconnection has suspended all business travel for its staff, both domestic and international.
“Our top priorities are the health and well-being of our employees and stakeholders and the reliability of the bulk electric system,” MISO said in a statement.
“We’ve seen travel bans throughout the industry very quickly,” Mark Ahlstrom, VP of renewable resources for NextEra Energy Resources, said on a panel at the IREC Vision Summit on Wednesday, while presenting via webcast.
Ahlstrom works very closely with system operators, and “the ISO, RTO folks have really been the first to lock down because of their concerns about their control responsibilities and their liability.”
As the grid operator for much of the Mid-Atlantic, PJM said all stakeholder meetings and trainings would be held via WebEx “for at least the upcoming two weeks” and then reevaluated on a weekly basis. PJM also canceled the first three weeks of an Operator Seminar which had been scheduled to begin in Baltimore on March.