Using analytics to support a utility’s initial response to the COVID-19 pandemic amid an uncertain evidence base

Energy utilities play a critical role in fostering disaster resilience. Much of the world is increasingly dependent on the availability and reliability of safe and efficient energy. In addition to its importance for industrial, commercial and household functionality, energy provision is increasingly significant in determining health and equity outcomes during a disaster. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, issues of workforce protection and absenteeism are critical for public safety as well as for the continuity of operations for utilities and the businesses that rely upon them. However, COVID-19, and pandemics generally, have rapidly evolving and imperfect evidence available to support rapid and real-time decision making. This article reflects the initial setup and operations of frameworks utilising analytics to support decision making from March through July 2020 for a major US electric utility. These initial strategies have enhanced decision making and provided a foundation for additional integration of the evidence base and use of analytics for anticipated decision support in the coming phases of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as for future pandemics of unknown aetiology.