The Digital Technology Solution to Post-COVID Revenue Challenges
As with other consumer-facing industries, the utilities sector was deeply impacted by COVID. Throughout the world, payment moratoria suspended shutoffs for non-payment. And now, going forward utility companies will have less revenue, while risks to their vulnerable assets, populations, and services mount. How, then, can utilities do more with less? Here’s the digital technology solution to these post-COVID revenue challenges.
The extent of the COVID revenue trap
Indeed, risk is growing. By the end of October 2021, the National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association estimated that 40 per cent of the U.S. population was still covered by a COVID moratorium. Three months earlier in July 2021, nearly 60 per cent of the population was covered.
That created a stark revenue shortfall.
For instance, according to assessments of the financial impact of COVID‐19 on drinking water utilities, approximately $13.9 billion was lost.
That figure represents a more-than 15 per cent financial hit to the drinking water sector. Estimates by NACWA (the National Association of Clear Water Agencies) show losses of nearly 20 per cent in sewer revenues, as well.
To where can the sector turn with less revenue to maintain access and other important services?
Five key emergency management software capabilities to help address your post-COVID revenue challenges
Digital technology can help, particularly for utilities looking for tools to support updated risk mitigation and emergency management plans, as well.
Well, certain digital software solutions help utilities more efficiently manage any type of incident – from routine service outages through to major emergencies.
What capabilities to look out for?
Purpose-built platforms should enable utilities to manage and map assets and properties, contractors, compliance obligations, as well as other safety, security, and critical event threats. And the relevant functionality should all come in a single integrated platform, which will provide increased bang for the buck as entities struggle to manage expenses.
What else? In our estimation, the five emergency management software capabilities to consider include:
- Operational Incident Management to enable users to record the details of utility events, collaborate securely with chat features, conduct investigations, as well as assess damage and affected assets. The relevant functionality should also track work orders and tasks as well as generate SITREPS and after-action reports.
- Critical Event Management to enable utilities to manage any critical event from corporate crises and business continuity disruptions to full-scale emergency management, by deploying digital playbooks and checklists to automate responses and track critical tasks.
- Permits & Inspections to enable utilities to track critical assets and record permits and inspections. Here, audits and inspections should be managed through audit inspection templates that contain user-defined questions. These templates can be combined into schedule audit projects to track non-compliance and corrective actions.
- Vulnerable Customers & Critical Properties to enable recording and mapping of vulnerable customers and critical services. Here, the contact details of key people in critical properties should be recorded along with incident history, details of site inspections, and associated permits. That way should an outage occur, vulnerable customers and services can be provided with special assistance.
- Critical Infrastructure Protection to help maintain key details of critical assets and stakeholder contacts, assess risks and threats using industry standard tools, disseminate notifications and notices, e.g., official advice to asset custodians, track logs and tasks, and prepare and respond to planned events and incidents.
Finally, coming out of COVID, many companies, particularly utilities, are bearing the brunt of long-lasting payment moratoria. Now, those same companies have more threats to address with less financial wiggle room with which to address them.
What can they do to protect vulnerable assets and ensure services? Digital technologies can help. But not all capabilities are created equal.
For more on which emergency management capabilities are right for you, download our guide, The Five Reasons to Upgrade Your Emergency Management Software Platform Today.