Southwest Power Pool delays staff return to office until September

by Jeff Della Rosa ([email protected]) 520 views 

Little Rock-based regional transmission organization Southwest Power Pool has postponed the return of its employees to the office until Sept. 8 as a safety precaution amid the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, the CEO said.

In a Thursday (June 11) note to stakeholders, President and CEO Barbara Sugg said face-to-face meetings and business travel also will not resume until that date at the earliest.

Since the pandemic started in mid-March, employee business travel was stopped, and staff has been working remotely. Meetings with stakeholders have been taking place virtually.

The company had planned to start the first phase of its plan for employees to return to the office on July 6, if all criteria were met, including a declining number of new COVID-19 cases in Arkansas over 14 days.

But in Arkansas, the number of new cases has been rising. Sugg said no staff have contracted COVID-19.

“We have engaged an epidemiologist to tour our facility this week to review the controls we have in place and make recommendations for those we plan to implement,” Sugg said. “We are also examining internal policies and resources to support a longer-term transition with flexibility for continued work-from-home opportunities.”

Sugg became president and CEO of the organization on April 1. In May, the company announced it had 100 members for the first time after adding Roughrider Electric Cooperative on April 30 and EDF Renewables on June 1. Electricity consumption within the organization’s region has been down by as much as 10% amid the pandemic.

The number of Arkansas COVID-19 cases rose to 10,816 on Thursday, from 10,368 on Wednesday, according to the Arkansas Department of Health. In the United States, the number of cases was 2 million and 113,209 deaths.