We are emerging from one of the most challenging periods in history for our communities and our industry — from the tragic human toll and economic disruption of the pandemic, and the intense national dialogue and confrontations over racial inequity, to the other social and political divisions that seem far greater than at any other time in recent memory.

Our industry navigated these challenges while continuing to meet our fundamental mission of providing reliable, affordable and sustainable energy to the communities we serve. Our employees have demonstrated incredible resilience and innovation, and with the use of technology, have embraced new ways to collaborate and support our customers.

Adapting to challenges

Throughout the pandemic, our frontline and field workers adapted to new safety protocols and requirements and continued to get the job done. Office and control center workers capably operated in a nearly 100% remote work environment for more than a year without impacting customer service or reliability. It was also inspiring to see the amount of learning and collaboration with our industry peers, much of which WEI helped facilitate.

Today, we can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. I believe that as individuals, and as an industry, we will be better for having experienced these challenging times. That’s why I am  honored to serve as the 2022 chair of WEI’s Board of Directors and am pleased to present our WEI theme for 2022: Emerging Stronger. We are emerging from the pandemic stronger and better prepared to achieve the important goals that we have established for the coming years and decades.

Meeting targets

Aggressive targets for sustainability and decarbonization must be substantially met over the next decade and beyond. We’re now transforming these goals into actions, and many of us have already
made significant progress. The rapid transition to cleaner generation involves the ongoing retirement of coal plants and the addition of renewable resources such as solar, wind and battery storage. Significantly, our industry is also working to make the last 10% – 20% of energy supply carbon free. This will involve the use of innovative technologies and incorporating hydrogen or alternative gases as part of the answer.

Maintaining reliability

Record temperatures and devastating wildfires across many of our service territories remind us that progress cannot come at the expense of reliability. Reliability requires a system-wide approach,
including the strategic use of natural gas resources to support the increasing integration of solar, the advanced management of our distribution systems, load management and innovative rate designs. It also requires leveraging the regional diversity of resources and load in Western North America.

The evolving workplace and workforce

Going forward, many employees will want to continue teleworking on a full- or part-time basis. We will need to adapt our thinking and our respective corporate cultures will evolve as we move into a hybrid workplace. There will be many challenges, including planning and accomplishing work in a new environment. We need to ensure employees have equal opportunities to succeed and ensure that new employees are integrated into the workforce. These challenges present additional opportunities for WEI members to collaborate and learn from one another.

Developing the workforce of the future also requires that the people working at our organizations evolve to reflect the communities in which we serve, live and work. Achieving meaningful diversity, equity and inclusion takes commitment and action. Work environments where employees feel valued and respected make us better organizations and more effective community partners.

Our customers have increasing expectations and are looking for new and innovative service options that meet their needs, wants and aspirations. We must engage the conversation with our customers, stakeholders and regulators to stress the critical nature of both reliability and affordability because we can’t leave the most vulnerable in our communities behind.

It is wonderful to be part of an industry that strives to continuously improve and to share experiences and knowledge to benefit our customers and each other. I am looking forward to serving as your chair during this exciting time. We have many challenges ahead and I believe WEI member and service companies are uniquely positioned to lead the way.