By Gavin Donohue | May 4, 2020


You hear the same descriptors every day: unprecedented, uncertain, unpredictable. The global coronavirus pandemic has fundamentally altered our way of life and left us faced with circumstances that were once impossible to fathom. The phrase “social distancing” did not exist in our vocabulary before the month of March, and now it is our way of life.

Here in New York, we have had to come to grips with the reality that we are in the epicenter of this outbreak in America. But, in a time of crisis and challenges, it also is important to focus on the positives, in order to stay sane and be able to see the path ahead. Now, more than ever, people need a sign of consistency and reliability – something certain as we navigate these uncharted waters.

New York’s electric generation sector is working hard to maintain the certainty of system reliability. Everything we are doing now hinges on the consistent and reliable flow of electricity so 19 million New Yorkers have what they need. Hospitals and health services, grocery stores, remote classrooms, virtual meetings – they all require power, and New York’s electric generators continue to step up to the plate to ensure we can adapt to our new normal in the face of this pandemic.

Our state’s power sector has taken preemptive steps in responding to the COVID crisis, supporting the front-line healthcare providers and essential workers around the state. My organization, IPPNY, represents the majority of power generators in the state. Since this pandemic began, communication has never been stronger between the generation community, the State, and our electric grid operator, the New York Independent System Operator (NYISO). There has been constant communication each day to ensure everyone is coordinated to maintain reliable electric service and worker safety.

In March, the NYISO sequestered essential control room staff in a proactive step to preserve grid operations and protect the health and well-being of their employees. Importantly, the NYISO has not identified any reliability concerns specific to this public health crisis. In New York City, the area hardest hit by this virus, generators have also sequestered staff to ensure that reliable service continues. Beyond NYC, generators are proactively screening employees, providing protective equipment, and preparing to sequester control room personnel and essential employees, as necessary, even though the State has not called for those actions.

Further, IPPNY has partnered with the New York Power Authority and National Grid on an agreement that will allow generators to share trained personnel, support services, equipment, materials, supplies, and fuels among each other throughout this pandemic, if needed. Cooperation is key to keeping the absolutely essential resource of electricity available during this crisis. We are all in this together, and we will get through this together.

The frontline heroes in our healthcare system and essential businesses depend on the consistency and reliability of a robust and functional electric grid. Our new stay-at-home lifestyles – including everything from important school and business work to binge-watching TV shows – depend on that as well. Having an electric system that is there when we need it most is a credit to the ongoing hard work and success of New York’s power generators.

As we thank the folks who are doing their best to give us a sense of security and normalcy during these trying times, let us also remember the electricity sector’s essential work in supporting these necessary functions.

Gavin Donohue is the President and CEO of the Independent Power Producers of New York (IPPNY), and a member of the New York State Climate Action Council. IPPNY is an Albany-based trade association representing the competitive power supply industry in New York.