By Harry Sideris, Duke Energy’s senior vice president of customer experience and services
As we go into the second month of the COVID-19 crisis and it continues to take a toll on the health and well-being of our country, I’m encouraged by the spirit and resolve of all Americans. I’ve been awestruck by the selfless acts of our heroes – from the health care workers fighting the virus on the frontlines, to store clerks stocking the shelves with food, concerned citizens delivering groceries to elderly neighbors, and to our lineworkers and support groups who continue the important work of keeping the lights on.
At Duke Energy, we feel a heightened sense of urgency because our service is critical to hospitals, essential businesses and homes across the seven states we serve in the Midwest and Southeast. We know how important electricity is to customers at a time when so many are home all day, every day. We’re doing everything we can to continue keeping the lights on, help customers and keep our employees and communities safe – especially the ones who must work in the field to keep the energy flowing.
Over the last week, we’ve experienced several severe storms in the Carolinas and in the Midwest that impacted almost a million of our customers. I’m proud of our employees who go out every day responding to power outages and other emergencies, operating power plants and the hundreds of other jobs it takes to keep the lights on for our customers. And I’m appreciative of the teamwork. When we needed additional crews to help get the lights back on in the Carolinas, our Florida and Midwest employees responded quickly, some traveling all day by truck and then working well into the evening. Our customers depend on us and our everyday heroes deliver. We’re truly all in this together.
Our work is challenging, but we do it, and we do it safely. To protect the communities we serve and each other, critical workers in the field or operating power plants are being asked to maintain proper social distancing practices and other protective measures. If they need to interact with a customer, they are being directed to follow strict CDC guidance. We’re asking our customers to avoid approaching Duke Energy crews in the field or entering their work zone as they restore power or complete essential maintenance of the power grid.
We’ve taken several steps to help relieve the financial burden on our customers and communities during this pandemic. We’ve discontinued service disconnections for unpaid bills and waived late payments fees and fees for returned payments for electric and natural gas customers.
We’re also providing financial support to food banks and community action groups across our service territories to address hunger relief, with a focus on K-12 students and their families.
This is an unprecedented crisis that requires an unprecedented response, and Duke Energy is up to the challenge. We hope our customers and communities we are privileged to serve – and the outstanding employees who serve them – will take some comfort knowing we are here for them.