President & CEO, Fortis Inc.
In what ways has your organization had to “pivot” as the short-term impacts of the pandemic took hold?
We quickly developed health, safety and sanitation protocols to allow our crews, system controllers and other critical employees to continue working together in person to keep energy flowing. We prioritized work on system improvements, shored up our supply chain and developed contingency plans to ensure the continued reliability of our service. Then, like a lot of employers, we transitioned the rest of our workforce out of our offices and into remote work, usually from their homes. Our Information Services team did a great job getting everyone set up with the tools we’ve used to remain productive throughout this pandemic. We also made sure to take care of our customers by providing increased support for bill payment assistance and COVID-19 relief efforts through our community partners.
What trends are you experiencing in your own industry, across the U.S. and globally, related to expected long-term impacts of the pandemic?
We’ve seen a shift in electric consumption, with residential customers using more energy at the same time many businesses have pared back. Other utilities have seen similar trends, but the impact here has been more significant because so many people became so much more dependent on the HVAC units in their homes, particularly during this year’s hotter-than-usual weather. While we expect some reversion to previous patterns once a vaccine becomes widely available, many businesses have learned their employees can be very productive while working from home. We expect remote work will continue long after the pandemic has eased – including for us at Tucson Electric Power. We have many employees who are not directly involved in operating or maintaining the systems we use to generate and deliver power, and I think many of those folks will continue working remotely at least some of the time – including me.
From your business vantage point, what qualities put the Tucson region in a position to recover quicker economically and more effectively than other regions?
Our community is really the perfect size to respond to this kind of challenge. We’re large enough to provide employers with a diverse, flexible and well-educated workforce without being so large that our transportation or infrastructure challenges will become overwhelming. Our warm climate will allow us to continue spending time outdoors through the winter, helping to reduce the increased risk of viral transmission that most communities face while forced inside during a cold winter. We also benefit from strong collaboration among the leaders of our local governments and the business community, helping us develop timely responses to emerging challenges.
What are some of the attributes of Tucson that you personally enjoy?
The weather is high on my list, of course. It’s the main reason I came here from Minnesota to attend the University of Arizona. I stayed because of all the wonderful people I’ve met here – including of course, my wife, Cathy, who I met while we were both engineering students at UArizona. We’ve raised two wonderful daughters here, and I really enjoy spending time with them and enjoying Tucson’s friendly, college-town atmosphere. I also appreciate our community’s environmental focus, which is why I’m proud that TEP is so committed to clean energy, electric vehicles and community partnerships that protect our unique desert ecosystem.