Virtual Utility Roundtable Explores COVID-19 Impact to Capital Projects and Grid Modernization Investments

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On Thursday June 4th, Grid Forward hosted its fourth Virtual Utility Roundtable, in which a group of members and advisors looked forward to the future by exploring the impact of COVID-19 on grid modernization investments and other capital improvements. This discussion built on earlier virtual utility roundtables in which another group analyzed data and examined the resiliency of the power system, which was able to weather the uncertain conditions that COVID-19 has presented in April and May.

Three guest speakers leading the most recent discussion represented three very different utilities:

Here are some key takeaways from the discussion:

  • Cordova Electric Cooperative (CEC) in Cordova, Alaska has been able to increase productivity amongst its small staff, benefiting from the recent installation of secure cyber infrastructure that allows staff the flexibility to work and operate the grid remotely.  These investments were timely for working from home, but the resiliency of the grid and the automation of operations has allowed staff to focus on other operational and maintenance improvements.
  • CEC’s new Battery Energy Storage System (BESS) that was recently installed has been outperforming expectations and has CEC exploring additional opportunities for battery storage with national labs.  A link to all available resources and articles regarding the BESS was provided to the group by Clay Koplin, if you are interested in learning more about this please reach out to Gerard O’Sullivan here:
  • Portland General Electric (PGE) provided an update on its nimble shift from growth planning to recession planning with a swift budget reduction on capital and O+M scheduled projects.  PGE leadership recognized early that the impacts from COVID-19 would be long lasting and they were able to make a macro adjustment to ensure they were able to continue to serve customers and protecting their employees.
  • While PGE will be making cuts on T&D expenses they have remained committed to their grid modernization projects including the Wheat Ridge Energy Facility, platform investments (ADMS, field networks), emerging programs (EVs and flexible loads) and test beds. 
  • Hawaiian Electric has ended a pursuit of 4.1% rate increase on Oahu that would have generated an additional $77.5 million to support grid modernization and other grid improvements
  • Geographic isolation afforded the state an effective way to limit exposure to the virus, however quarantining the state came at a high cost; unemployment rate at 35% and lack of tourism has reduced load as much as 20% in some areas. 
Source: Hawaiian Electric, June 2020

Grid Forward members are receiving a more detailed report of the discussion during the Virtual Roundtable. If you are not a member, you may request the report by contacting

The Grid Forward Roundtable Series uses an invitation-only, small-group format to encourage information sharing and frank discussion. We were pleased to have a strong response for the first one, and had to virtually squeeze in a few more seats. Our next Roundtable is planned for July 9thth as we continue to assess COVID-19-related impacts on areas of operation including demand, dispatch order, DERs, reliability, wholesale processes and capital spending.

If you have an interest in reserving a seat for the next Virtual Roundtable, please contact Gerard at

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