Utility companies provide updates on COVID-19 response
May 27, 2020 | 894 views | 0 0 comments | 122 122 recommendations | email to a friend | print
With summer around the corner and the COVID-19 pandemic still ongoing, utility companies provided updates on their response and preparation for the next few months.

At a vitual meeting of the Queens Borough Board last Monday, Acting Queens Borough President Sharon Lee opened her remarks by noting that it’s “going to be a hot summer.”

She said one fact that the pandemic has highlighted is just how reliant New Yorkers are on power.

“I am concerned about how prepared we are and what measures we are taking to mitigate outages,” Lee said. “Outages will be felt more acutely in the time of a pandemic, especially in terms of air conditioners, cooling and internet connection.”

Speaking on behalf of National Grid, Juan Santiago, the jurisdictional manager for Queens, said the company continues to provide natural gas throughout the crisis. He said they don’t anticipate any disruption of service to customers.

The utility sequestered employees who work in the gas control center on Long Island, which controls the gas systems for New York, Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Santiago noted that the workers don’t go home, shower at the facility and have food delivered to them.

Santiago said National Grid is still doing emergency work, including some essential services that require permits. If a customer calls in a gas leak, for example, they are still responding accordingly.

The company’s call centers in New York City are closed. He encouraged customers to go online to pay any bills.

National Grid has also suspended collection activities and disconnections, he said. It will not charge penalties on late payments.

“We know it’s a tough time for the entire country,” Santiago said. “We could not in good faith move on with any collections activities.”

They have also paused services such as manual meter reads, meter changes and new gas service line upgrades. Capital projects including new gas main replacements, gas reinforcements and main installations are also on hold.

As for Con Edison, David DeSanti, vice president of electrical operations, said their crews are still doing emergency and safety-related work.

As for whether the summer will impact the load on the electrical system, DeSanti said he’s not sure yet.

“We have to see who stays and who returns, and what businesses are actually remaining open in the summertime,” he said. “We’re watching it closely and we are prepared for it.”

During the pandemic, between the sick policy and workers who tested positive for COVID-19, 21 percent of their field force was off at one point. The field force is currently down 12 percent.

DeSanti said he expects going into the summer the force to be around 10 percent lower than normal. He said the company will support them where they can with contractors.

“We don’t think we’re going to have any real difficulties with staffing for the summer,” he said.
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