Safety has always been a top concern among utilities – the safety of their employees, their customers and their communities. But prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, few thought to include infectious diseases as a consideration when forecasting revenues, developing risk mitigation plans or allotting capital investments.

Last month, the Research Triangle Cleantech Cluster hosted a virtual panel, “Powering Through a Pandemic: COVID-19, Economic Uncertainty, and Impact to the Global Energy Sector,” featuring several speakers, including Renee Peet, Vice President of Marketing and Communications for MC&S at Xylem.  Click here to view the recorded webinar.

Immediate impact on revenue

Renee shared some sobering statistics on the impact of COVID-19 on utilities’ financial health, especially municipal utilities, which are major revenue sources for the city they serve.  A survey of Xylem’s water utility customers reported a drop in revenues ranging from 15-40% compared to this same period last year.  Unfortunately, water utilities aren’t alone – gas and electric utilities are reporting similar reductions. 

There are two main drivers of this decline: 1) decreased Commercial and Industrial (C&I) usage while business and plants are closed and 2) continued service for all Residential customers, regardless of whether or not they’ve paid their bill. This fall in revenues comes at an especially dangerous time as both utilities and communities are facing increased costs for protecting the health and safety of their employees and citizens.

Long-term implications for infrastructure

This financial shortfall is also impacting utilities’ ability to proceed with capital investments in new infrastructure.  Renee shared that, “Those who have already moved to an AMR/AMI are much better equipped to protect their workforce while maintaining essential services. They are experiencing less strain than those doing traditional meter reading.” 

As such, we’re seeing an increase in utilities’ interest in technologies that enable remote meter reading and control. But, will they have the financial resources to make those investments?  The verdict is still out as state and local governments appeal for federal recovery packages.

As we all wonder how COVID-19 will impact our priorities and processes moving forward, one thing is for sure – utilities will need to adjust risk plans to include infectious disease. This means adhering to new regulations and putting in place additional safety measures to protect employees and the communities they serve. And for many utilities, that will include migrating to Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI).

We at Sensus are proud to support the work that utilities do on a daily basis. And, we’re here to help them choose the right communications network and meters to protect the safety of their staff, their customers and their community. Learn how we help utilities migrate to AMI.