David Magnus Boonin is president and founder of TBG Consulting. He served as a member of the Philadelphia Gas Commission, chief economist of the Pennsylvania PUC and a principal at the NRRI. Recently he has focused on issues such as rate design, resource planning, cost management, and climate change.
As we cope with social isolation, we are all comforted by the strength of our utilities industry and the services they provide. By in large, the lights have stayed on. The freezers with extra food supplies continue to hum.
Our homes' HVAC systems continue to keep us comfortable. We can still cook and have water and hot water. Our ennui is mitigated by our televisions and smart phones. We must thank the dedicated utility workers who are on the front lines, part of our current first responder team, who risk their lives on our behalf.
Utilities and regulators are relaxing if not eliminating service cutoffs for nonpayment, easing the financial crunch so many households and businesses feel. The question is what else can regulators, other government agencies, utilities and consumers do now and in the future to deal with this crisis and help the nation rebound.
Here are some initial potential concepts. Much of this depends on how quickly we return to the new normal and what else the federal government does. The focus, herein, is on electricity, although many of the concepts are transferable to other conduit utilities such as gas and water.
All the ideas will not be applicable to all types of utilities, all size utilities, in all states or in all situations.
The ideas are sorted into two general categories: cash flow, and system hardening and effectiveness. Other issues will also require solutions.