Business lessons from the pandemic have been covered from just about every angle, such as leading remote teams, maintaining supply chains and navigating changing customer demands. As leader of a large electric utility, I’ve been thinking about how this experience might reset our nation’s priorities related to the vital infrastructure we all rely on, including the power grid.
A good roadmap for our work as an electric utility and that of any company as we fully emerge from COVID-19 is the Business Roundtable’s statement of corporate purpose: that we need to invest in employees, deliver value to our customers, treat suppliers fairly, and support our communities — in addition to serving our shareholders.
This holistic approach to serving multiple stakeholders was especially important to electric utilities at the height of the pandemic as our industry kept reliable power flowing to providers of health care, telecommunications and other essential services — not to mention keeping the multiple screens and systems in our homes powered. For those outside our industry, a strong and reliable power grid is something taken for granted — it just needs to be there, always ready for us. And it’s our job as utilities to make sure of that, while at the same time planning for a greater grid to meet tomorrow’s needs.
Building Toward the Greater Good
Beyond planning for the long-term needs of our customers, during this crisis I’ve seen many examples of ITC employees living these Roundtable ideals day to day by seeking and finding ways to help one another and their communities. That selfless behavior at work and home has been something to behold, and leading such great people through this crisis makes my job rewarding. These solid values of supporting one another — being better together — are contagious in a way that no virus can lock down!
As we look to the future, our next challenge as an electric utility will be to harness the lessons of our pandemic experiences into a renewed sense of purpose and stakeholder collaboration in taking on the mounting challenges of a rapidly transforming energy landscape. For starters, we need to connect more renewable power into the energy mix to help meet ambitious climate goals across the country. We also need to make the grid more resilient against severe weather and evolving cyber security threats. And we need to prepare for the demands that will be placed on the grid through transportation electrification. The change we’re seeing is that significant, and it will affect everyone.
Consumers increasingly are tuned into these changes in how their energy is created, delivered and used. As we track with the Roundtable’s principles, consumer voices will be important as our industry engages multiple stakeholders to help decide how and where to build the right grid infrastructure to deliver the most affordable energy in the most reliable way. That’s the future grid, the greater grid we need.
Greater Grid Role in Advancing Society
Modern grid infrastructure is high-tech, and it supports innovation within and beyond the power sector by providing crucial backup for energy technologies like microgrids and distributed generation, and enabling broad innovation across industries — from computing to medicine to transportation. The economic benefits of a modern electric grid are particularly important to the often-underserved rural communities which are a growing part of the remote-work economy. The grid needs to serve everyone.
To that point, our work in delivering safe and reliable power to everyone connects to the greater social purpose of a modern and inclusive society, a better future. When I signed on to the Roundtable’s statement of corporate purpose last summer, I joined with CEOs across the country in what I see as reinforcing a longstanding commitment to lead my company to the benefit of all stakeholders. This pledge is especially relevant now as our nation struggles with the challenges of racial equity that have been laid bare in America.
We need to get this right, and it starts at home. At ITC, we are one team that values each other’s differences, including unique ideas, talents, backgrounds and experiences. We embrace an inclusive and diverse culture where everyone is celebrated, respected and welcomed to bring their authentic selves to work. Because that’s the kind of culture where people reach their full potential. And that’s the kind of culture that inspires innovation, builds excellence, attracts bright minds and makes better, more inclusive communities.
Living these values individually and in how we do business will be critical to moving beyond this pandemic, addressing critical social issues, and building a greater grid that reflects the voices and needs of everyone well into the future.
Linda Apsey is the CEO of ITC Holdings Corp. ITC owns and operates transmission infrastructure delivering power to customers through several Midwest states, spanning from metropolitan Detroit westward to the community of Dodge City, Kansas. ITC is a subsidiary of Fortis Inc., a leader in the North American regulated electric and gas utility industry.