Celebrating the End of 2020
Steve Mitnick is president of Lines Up, Inc., editor-in-chief of Public Utilities Fortnightly, and author of Lewis Latimer, The First Hidden Figure and Lines Down, How We Pay, Use, Value Grid Electricity Amid the Storm. He was formerly an expert witness that testified before utility regulatory commissions of six states, the District of Columbia, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and in Canada, chief energy advisor to the Governor of New York, CEO of a transmission development company, a member of McKinsey & Co.’s and Marsh & McLennan’s energy consulting practice leadership teams, and on the faculty at Georgetown University teaching microeconomics, macroeconomics and statistics.
Adios. Arrivederci. Au Revoir. And, most of all, good riddance 2020. We miss you already, uh, not!
This last year was, shall we say, not optimal. But at least we had each other.
In January of 2020, the word Covid might have seemed like something you did on YouTube. Public Utilities Fortnightly in that month gave its highest honor to Sue Kelly. And we celebrated the recently-held and definitely-not-socially-distanced NARUC annual meeting and EEI financial conference.
In February of 2020, people were getting sick in faraway places. We were naturally sympathetic of their plight. The pages of Public Utilities Fortnightly were a welcome diversion from the news featuring a week touring the Hawaiian islands with visits to the utility and commission spliced in.
Then, in a second special issue that month, with the cover depicting a crowded conference auditorium, the Electrification 2020 event to be held in two short months was highlighted. Little did we know then that the anticipated event was not to be.
In March of 2020, the news turned from worrisome to alarming to downright scary. At a conference I attended, a leading medical professional claimed we'd have to start washing our hands all the time and stop touching our faces. Seemed pretty far-fetched. Ah, looking back, we were so much younger then. Public Utilities Fortnightly's cover showed the five members of New Jersey's commission smiling and closely-clustered.
Inside the issue, NARUC's winter meeting was reported, with photos of packed sessions and luncheons, some with colleagues' hands joined together or wrapped around shoulders. Remember reaching for your Thomas Edison birthday cupcake?
In April of 2020, as the pandemic peaked in Washington State, PUF ironically featured Washington's commission. Our team's visit was perfectly timed, as Lori and Alex jetted in and jetted out just in time to miss the virus.
PUF's From the Editor column was now taking notice of the pandemic panic. We fretted that Tom Hanks was ill, and more so that the baseball and basketball seasons were being bounced.
In May of 2020, how ironic was it that PUF published its annual feature on diversity in the same month that the George Floyd murder forced Americans to rethink racial inequality? In my own case, that's when I was moved to find out all I could about the largely-forgotten founding father of our industry, an African American, that led to my book by the year's end, "Lewis Latimer, The First Hidden Figure."
June's PUF featured Wisconsin's commission, the first time we did a commission feature virtually, in those days when Zoom and Teams were still a novelty. When did you begin cogitating about what to wear during these now-constant digital meet-ups?
Some of us were inside so much during the summer of 2020 that vitamin D was prescribed. At least we had Public Utilities Fortnightly to keep us company, along with the kids and the family pets.
According to July's PUF, we visited Idaho's commission. Though, to tell you the truth, we got no closer to Boise than to our local big box store to scarf up some more toilet paper. Per August's PUF, we checked in with all the big conferences of the early summer, though through small screens in our living rooms. September's PUF showed NARUC's summer summit, its two-minute spotlight speeches, and Fortnightly's smartest projects of the year.
In October, the political campaigns heated up. But PUF focused on post-storm power restoration, decarbonization, energy efficiency and cybersecurity. Topics clearly of greater interest to all of us than the political brouhahas, like whether face masks are good science or a conspiracy from China.
Yes, the national election was on the third of November. While CNN covered that almost exclusively, PUF covered our industry's top innovators in a special issue and leadership and electrification in the regular issue.
However, in this dismal year's final issue, even PUF succumbed and concentrated on the election's outcome, asking some of our industry's top thinkers, what now? The nine essays were mostly optimistic about the future. We cannot help thinking that their good feelings were due in part to the happy fact that this year of the bad and the ugly was soon coming to a close.
We all expect that the year 2021 must be better than 2020. Sometime this year we'll be gathering once again at industry events greeting good friends in hallways and ballrooms. Sometime this year we'll be getting the group together again in the office. Sometime this year we'll be holding hearings again in the public meeting rooms.
Yes, we'll be putting aside the sweatpants and donning our work suits again. Mixed feelings will probably come to many of us, leaving the comfort of our living rooms for the connection of our work places. There may even come a time when we'll feel nostalgic for those days in 2020. Like on that Zoom call, when the boss's cat leapt on her desk just as you were presenting the quarterly numbers.