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5th Annual Outage Communications

Event Description and Agenda:

With increasingly severe weather outbreaks leading to large customer segments in a service territory clamoring for timely and accurate outage information, power outages are a big deal. When customer power is out for longer than an hour or two, life changes in really significant ways. No matter what the reason is for the outage — weather, human error or other unanticipated event — customers expect utilities to keep them continually updated on the status of outages, especially the estimated restoration time. In fact, customers are requiring utilities to keep them informed via two-way communications using multiple resources such as Interactive Voice Recognition (IVR), call centers, social media, utility websites, modern communications devices (e.g. tablets, smartphones) and apps. Consequently, outage communications is at the forefront of challenges confronted by utilities and power system operators today.

Addressing all customer segments is a company-wide effort, encompassing multiple functional groups, including communications and operations. Yet, historically, utilities' systems and departments have operated in silos. Power delivery organizations that have had the greatest success in minimizing challenges associated with outage notification typically have established a cross-functional team with representation from corporate communications, operations, and other departments. This cross-functional approach among departments requires alignment, acceptance, buy-in and understanding of the communication process.

This fifth annual EUCI Outage Communications conference will be staged at Gillette Stadium, home of the Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots. At this unique event, utility professionals will share some of their innovative strategies for identifying and enlisting communications and operations staff to maximize customer awareness of outage conditions and limit their dissatisfaction with the service restoration timing and process. Through research and best practices that are shared throughout the conference, attendees will take away great ideas for developing, refining and administering their own integrated outage communications and operations program.


Wednesday, May 6, 2015

8:00 - 8:30 a.m. :: Registration and Breakfast

8:30 - 8:45 a.m. :: Opening Remarks

8:45 - 9:15 a.m. :: Keynote Address

In our opening keynote address John Bruckner, (SVP, National Grid U.S.) an accomplished senior executive with a proven record of building successful teams will share his front line experiences, views on what's important, and perspectives on the future of outage communications for National Grid

John Bruckner, SVP, US Electricity Operations, National Grid

9:15 - 10:00 a.m. :: Integrating Operations and Communications at Duke Energy to Deliver Compelling Stories from the Field

The Duke Energy and Progress Energy merger in July, 2012 created the largest utility in the U.S. with approximately 7.2 million customers. Since the merger, the company has endured severe storms, including back-to-back ice storms in 2014 that left hundreds of thousands of the company's Carolinas customers without power. To improve communications about the company's restoration efforts during storm events, the operations team developed and leads an integrated communications discussion with key customer-facing employee groups to inform the company's daily communications strategy. In this session, participants will hear how Duke Energy:

  • Collaborates across business units to ensure continued communications improvements with customers, decision makers and employees
  • Leverages communication professionals as live field reporters
  • Ensures media access to the "front line" and the individuals performing work

Paige Layne, Corporate Communications Manager, Duke Energy

Bobby Simpson, Director of Power Quality, Reliability, and Planning, Duke Energy

10:00 - 10:30 a.m. :: Networking Break

10:30 - 11:15 a.m. :: Building a Best Practice Communications Model

The power industry has become a convenient target for consumer backlash around everything from rates to smart meters to timely power restoration. In 2011, Pepco, subsidiary of Pepco Holdings, Inc. (PHI), was hit with all-time low customer satisfaction rating, blistering press, political criticism and the unenviable position of "Most Hated Company in America" from website, Business Insider. The utility confronted protests, media ambushes, regulatory investigations, new legislation and a $1 million fine by regulators. The company engaged aggressive reliability and restoration programs as the pillars of a robust, integrated and targeted strategic communications plan led by new executive leadership and driven by a new, high-performing team. This presentation focuses on the construction of the foundation for dramatic improvement, and key strategy elements including real-time advertising and a transformational media relations strategy.

Laura Monica, VP, Corporate Communications, Pepco Holdings

MaryBeth Vrees, Director, Customer Communications and Marketing, Pepco Holdings

11:15 a.m. - 12:15 p.m. :: Communications: Having a Seat at the Table

This session will describe the evolution at National Grid — where the company has been and where it is now — with regard to lessons learned from storm communications and how these have been implemented for blue-sky days. The blueprint will address:

  • Best practices
  • Photos from the field and from other employees - telling the story visually
  • Stakeholder engagement before the storm
  • Centralized message development - decentralized delivery

Jim Gould, VP, U.S. Strategic Communication, National Grid

12:15 - 1:15 p.m. :: Group Luncheon

1:15 - 2:00 p.m. :: Trends That Are Driving the Utility of the Future

This session will review the current industry trends that are beginning to transform the industry. As utility customers, smart buildings, and smart cities, are becoming a more active component in the utility energy mix; it's becoming more important to look beyond current technology initiatives to make sure we're prepared for the longer term evolution in our industry. In this session we will discuss what operation and information technologies will support underlying trends as well as drive the evolution of utilities over the next decade, which will enhance the communication process. The session will highlight some of the latest developments and discuss the potential game-changing vision those developments could have.

Brad Williams, Vice President, Industry Strategy, Oracle Utilities

2:00 - 2:45 p.m. :: Integrating Outage Communications with an Efficient Outage Restoration Plan for Major Events

Implementing tried and true best practices in restoration efforts will enhance customer outage communications. De-centralizing operations during major outage events enables timelier and more accurate estimated restoration times (ETR). While it is imperative to provide better outage communications, it is at least as important to gain efficiencies in improving restoration tactics. Alabama Power Company will discuss how its efficient storm restoration efforts and effective customer communications have helped to keep the utility at or near the top of customer satisfaction surveys.

Brian Lindsay, Storm Team Director, Manager GIS, Alabama Power (Southern Company)

2:45 - 3:15 p.m. :: Networking Break

3:15 - 4:00 p.m. :: The Communications Evolution

The way our world communicates is constantly changing and evolving at a much faster pace than at any other time in human history. Technology alone has kicked open the door to how customers receive and exchange information. Customers now expect their experience with the local electric or gas utility to be consistent with their everyday lives.

In this presentation, learn how UIL Holdings Corporation is making strides to meet and exceed customer demand. See how advances in technology are quickly changing the way utilities need to respond and manage potential threats to maintain the public's confidence in our ability to keep them safe.

Explore techniques on how to remove the wall between operations and communications. You'll also observe tips on how to leverage digital and social media in a way that shows customers you are listening and responding to their needs.

Michael A. West Jr., Vice President Corporate Communications, UIL Holdings Corporation

4:00 - 5:00 p.m. :: Vision of the Future: Vendor Panel Discussion

In this session, a panel of vendors will discuss what they see as the critical components and challenges for communications and operations based on the valuable experience and information obtained through their customers' feedback. This interactive panel will respond to audience inquiries on how technology and more will continue to improve utility communications and operations.


Ellen Smith, Senior Managing Director, FTI Consulting


Brad Williams, Vice President, Industry Strategy, Oracle Utilities

Jay Malin, Managing Director, AGENT511

Robert Myers, Director, Global Connect

Forrest Small, VP of Grid Optimization, BRIDGE Energy Group

5:00 - 6:30 p.m. :: Networking Reception at Gillette Stadium

Thursday, May 7, 2015

8:00 - 8:30 a.m. :: Continental Breakfast

8:30 - 9:15 a.m. :: Building Partnerships & Joint Operations Centers at ComEd

ComEd may have one of the most formidable outage communications challenges in the country, as the utility responsible for serving one of the largest metropolitan and business centers in the country known for its nasty weather events. Yet, the company has forged an excellent track record, based on the following tenets it will discuss:

  • Partnering and building relationships with state, county and municipalities prior to events is instrumental in the safe, collaborative and successful execution during events
  • Increasing the company focus on critical infrastructure and life-threatening conditions when the storms roll in
  • Bringing the operations division together with the external/governmental affairs division to enhance the customer experience through streamlined municipal focus
  • Technology to support the process puts the icing on the cake

Kim Smith, Director, Emergency Preparedness, ComEd

9:15 - 10:00 a.m. :: Bringing Vastly Different Parts of the Organization Together to Achieve Outage Improvement Results

Southern California Edison, another of the country's largest metropolitan-serving utilities, will describe its efforts to keep its customers and stakeholders "in the loop" when outage communications are required, including:

  • Setting an improvement strategy and organizational design that resonates with the entire company
  • Achieving results with a cross-functional focus
  • Keeping the stakeholder complaints at bay while making improvements

Chelsie Rae Lee, Senior Manager, Outage Improvement Initiative, Southern California Edison

10:00 - 10:30 a.m. :: Networking Break

10:30 a.m. - 11:15 p.m. :: Xcel Energy: A Journey to Improve Outage Communications

When the power goes out, an electric utility's customers aren't happy about it. In this session, Xcel Energy will relate how it is improving its customers' experience during this crucial "moment that matters". The multi-state utility aligned many company functions involved in outage management and communication to improve the outage experience. This includes establishing regular dialogue between corporate and operational groups to enhance outage event management and information flow, as well as the introduction of several new customer-facing communication options, such as online outage reporting, text messaging and a customer preference center. The company will outline how it has unlocked value by making incremental improvements to existing processes or technology, such as improving restoration estimation accuracy and tracking service restoration on its online outage map, as well as how it has incorporated customer feedback into its improvement journey.

Adam Burnoski, Manager, Resource Management, Xcel Energy

11:15 - 12:00 a.m. :: Using Mobile Technology to Improve Information Exchanges with Mutual Assistance Crews and Other Stakeholders

With increasing demand for real-time outage communications for customers and new requirements for outage communications from regulatory agencies, access to up-to-date outage information has become a necessity for utilities. While utility employees have access to technologies for communicating timely information day-to-day, there are additional challenges involved in receiving information and communicating with other stakeholders such as mutual assistance crews, first responders and municipalities. This session will cover new mobile projects utilities are embarking on to bridge the gap.

Brad Sileo, Vice President, iFactor

12:00 p.m. :: Conference Adjourns


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