Within just a month coronavirus has soared to the top of the world’s lexicon, but for lifeline businesses like utilities ‘resilience’ is now running a close second.

As the UK grapples with this week’s new dramatic lockdown measures to curb the march of Covid-19, every company in the country is escalating its contingency plans.

But for companies charged with care of critical national infrastructure and with duties to protect the vulnerable in society, the effectiveness of such strategies holds a great deal in the balance.

Over the coming weeks and months we now understand this crisis could run for – Utility Week will be shining a light on the actions utilities are taking to protect security of supply, maintain safe operations and support vulnerable consumers.

We will also explore the potential need for flexibility in existing regulatory and policy frameworks to ensure utilities can put all the necessary resource into sustaining resilience during these extraordinary times. And we will consider the longer-term impact the Covid-19 outbreak could have on critical industry and public interests, from climate change to the social contract.

This week, key insights come from United Utilities, whose “well-rehearsed” pandemic response is now being enacted for the first time.

We also hear from an anonymous DNO director who has urgently called for swift regulatory clarity about the emerging logistical challenges for networks management and employees that are arising from coronavirus and which may fall outside of current licence conditions or government advice, And we interview Unite’s Peter McIntosh on the union’s talks with utility bosses.

Meanwhile, our special report this week from a recent meeting of cyber-security leaders shows a prescient appreciation among this community of the stresses and strains involved in operating under “war time” conditions.

Just three days before the country found itself transfixed by a full-scale coronavirus emergency, our group of cyber experts agreed that organisational and cyber resilience are inextricably intertwined – and becoming more complex in increasingly automated and decentralised infrastructure and service networks.

Less than a month on, their advice now carries extra resonance.

Suzanne Heneghan, editor, Utility Week magazine  suzanneheneghan@fav-house.com

Read more: Utilities and the coronavirus

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