Steph Raymond is an executive with extensive experience managing transmission, substation and distribution operations as well as related new business ventures. In her current role as vice president of distribution operations for PPL Electric Utilities, Raymond oversees field operations and is responsible for leading the planning, engineering, construction, operations and maintenance of the company’s distribution grid.
LVB: As a utility, PPL is obviously a life-sustaining business, but how much has the COVID-19 crisis impacted your operations?
Raymond: The pandemic has completely changed both where and how we work.
Our goal remains to provide residential and business customers with safe, reliable service while ensuring that our employees are safe. We achieve this goal during these unprecedented times by complying with directives from the governor’s administration, the PA Department of Health, the CDC and other authorities.
A compelling example is how we rewrote procedures to ensure safe and quick restoration of power during storms while social distancing and wearing masks in the field and overseeing much of the logistics remotely. I’m immensely proud of everyone at PPL for their dedication, resourcefulness and can-do spirit during this public health crisis. Our customers depend on us and we’ll continue to deliver for them.
LVB: How has the pandemic impacted the overall utility industry?
Raymond: Like PPL, electric utilities across the country have adjusted to continue to serve their customers, while maintaining social distancing and other pandemic-related safety measures. This includes taking steps to limit personal interactions with customers.
There is also a tremendous amount of collaboration across the industry in sharing best practices so we can learn from one another and continue to provide our customers with the service they need and deserve.
LVB: People’s incomes have been hit hard and many are having a hard time paying their bills. Has PPL offered more support and outreach to its customers as a result?
Raymond: Absolutely. A few things have already happened here. The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission in March ordered a moratorium on service disconnections for non-payment. We supported that move and we also have suspended late fees on bills until further notice. The PPL Foundation donated $500,000 to PPL Electric Utilities’ Operation HELP fund to increase the resources available to at-risk customers during this time. Operation HELP assists customers with energy bills, but grants are not limited to electric bills. We also sought and received PUC permission to increase the eligibility for Operation HELP grants to be able to assist more customers.
The foundation also donated $300,000 to a dozen agencies providing COVID-19 relief efforts across central and eastern Pennsylvania, including the Harrisburg, Lancaster, Lehigh Valley, Poconos and Susquehanna Valley regions.
LVB: Do you think any of the changes PPL has implemented during the pandemic will continue post-coronavirus?
Raymond: It’s possible. Adjusting to working during a pandemic means we have real world experience serving our customers under unprecedented conditions. As a company, we’re always looking to improve, and we’ll certainly apply lessons learned from the COVID-19 crisis.