Six Takeaways: How Utilities and IPPs Are Responding to COVID-19

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On Thursday, April 30, McDermott was joined by Brett Kerr, vice president of external affairs at Calpine, Drew Murphy, senior vice president of strategy and corporate development at Edison International, and Andrew Campbell, director of regulatory support and planning at NiSource who shared their perspectives on how investor-owned utilities and independent power producers are managing the COVID-19 crisis.

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Below are six takeaways from this week’s webinar:

  1. As businesses go back to work, it is essential that they carefully plan for a new normal, including consideration of travel restrictions, acquisition of personal protective equipment, maintaining social distancing of employees and contractors, and compliance with new rules and regulations.
  2. Utilities have been and will continue to optimize their maintenance schedules to balance safety and reliability concerns considering the essential nature of electricity and risks potentially associated with deferred maintenance.
  3. Although it is too soon to see the permanent effects of COVID-19, there has been a five to seven percent reduction in weather-normalized demand: this includes both an increase in residential demand and a larger reduction in commercial and industrial demand.
  4. Utilities are watching cash flow more closely as more customers are either not paying or deferring payment, and as commercial and industrial customers reduce demand. In California, where revenues are decoupled from electricity demand, this should not affect total revenues, but may lead to reallocation of rates across customer classes.
  5. A number of large commercial and industrial corporate customers with renewable and sustainability commitments are talking about placing these commitments on hold or rethinking them as recessionary impacts become clearer.
  6. Drops in load and low natural gas prices could detrimentally impact the economics of new renewable projects seeking financing and prevent the projects from moving forward. However, as renewables often dominate interconnection queues, if some of these projects do not come online, prices could actually remain constant.

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