Advanced Battery Storage

Utility Outage Communications

November 18-19, 2019, Austin TX

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At EUCI’s 9th Outage Communications conference, utility and industry professionals will share their best practices in dealing with outages and how their organizations continue to transform the communications landscape. Attendees will leave with valuable takeaways to help them keep customers informed when the next planned or unplanned outage hits.



8:45 – 9:15 a.m. :: Opening Remarks and Welcome Address from Austin Energy

On behalf of Austin Energy – the nation’s 8th largest publicly owned electric utility and the host utility for this conference – Charles Dickerson will welcome his power industry colleagues to Austin and review how the conference focus supports this fundamental industry requirement.

Charles Dickerson, Deputy General Manager and Chief Operations Officer, Austin Energy

9:15 – 10:15 a.m. :: Controlling the Narrative: A Live Demonstration of SCE’s Customer Communications Portal

The modern customer expects their utility to proactively provide relevant information as a two-way dialogue, at the right time, in the proper format, over their preferred channel. Consistent with their other brand experiences, customers expect these interactions to expose tools to reduce friction with the least amount of effort. For utilities, the inherent complexities of meeting these demands can be challenging delivering large volumes of time-sensitive multichannel communications, ensuring the integrity of customer contact information and the relevance of the information shared, while supporting internal business rules and operational practices through integration with disparate data systems.

In this fast-paced session, Message Broadcast and SoCal Edison take you to the scene of an impending large-scale outage event. Watch the two work together in real time as they execute against an emergency plan and are forced to pivot communications due to unforeseen events. During the presentation you will learn several things including how to:

  • Identify and influence real-time customer sentiment
  • Leverage TCPA Safe Harbors to validate existing customer contact data
  • Move seamlessly on and off playbook messaging

Tomaso Giannelli, Senior Manager, Southern California Edison

Bill Joiner, Chief Strategy Officer, Message Broadcast

10:45 – 11:30 a.m. :: Beyond Outages: Anticipating Cyber Attacks, Wildfires, Crypto Overload & Dam Breaches

Outage communications programs are integral to electric utilities’ annual preparations. We plan, practice and tackle storms with a keen eye on continual improvement for our customers. But, what about those other potential crises looming below the surface that threaten customer safety, test our resilience and burden our utilities with unplanned workloads? Neil Neroutsos will share his experiences working for two utilities in the Pacific Northwest to anticipate events and develop proactive communications to address a range of potential organizational landmines. The session will include examples of successful collaborations with customers, community groups, government agencies and other stakeholders – all aimed at staying several steps ahead of impending disasters.

Neil Neroutsos, Corporate Communications Manager, Chelan County Public Utility District

11:30 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. :: Ground to Sky Tree Clearance

In this session, learn how one utility survived a class-action lawsuit (not to mention a terrible program name) after chopping down trees along a designated scenic road as part of its vegetation management program, and now has customers and communities embracing the importance of tree trimming. Randi Berris, electric operations communications manager at DTE Energy in Detroit, will share the company’s four-step communications process and PR strategy that has built up strong support for trimming trees to improve reliability. The session will include a case study on the PR disaster that led DTE to revamp its entire program and how communications, including social media, has helped turn the tide in the company’s favor.

Randi Berris, Manager Corporate Communications, DTE Energy

12:15 – 1:15 p.m. :: Group Luncheon

1:15 – 2:00 p.m. :: Developing Strategic Outage Communications: Best Practices and Lessons Learned

Establishing more strategic customer outage communications and enhancing explicit alerts requires a deliberate and tactical approach. From field ops to customer satisfaction, from IT to customer service, from regulatory to communications, all departments need to be involved and on the same page. This presentation will serve as a platform to educate and share how uniting multiple departments behind a company-wide initiative to design proactive, timely outage alerts and deploy a comprehensive outage communications strategy improves customer satisfaction. Topics to be covered in this session include:

  • Lessons learned and the best practices deployed along the way
  • Understanding best practices for managing a highly entangled internal outage process
  • Hear about “quick wins” that realize results during a long-term engagement

Melanie Wemple, Director, E Source

2:00 – 2:45 p.m. :: Social Media Outage Communications

Whether it’s a blue-sky day or during a storm, the ComEd Social Media Team is committed to providing proactive, transparent, accurate and up-to-date information as quickly as possible to our customers. Learn about how ComEd is breaking the mold of a traditional utility social media team to bring timely communications to its customers that surprise and delight them on our digital channels. During the session, discover what goes into a successful social media communications plan at ComEd, including strategy and planning, messaging & creative, social listening & sentiment measurement, analytics, and more!

Kim Smith, Director, Business Strategy & Technology, Customer Operations, ComEd

2:45 – 3:15 p.m. :: Networking Break

3:15 – 4:00 p.m. :: Weathering the Digital Storm: Managing the Expectations and Demands of Hyper-Connected Audiences

In this segment, Knoxville Utilities Board (KUB) will share its best practices and lessons learned from managing multiple digital channels during times of crises, both big and small. Using actual case studies of power outages — such as equipment failures to transformers or different types of severe weather — KUB will also discuss how this very progressive utility matured to better use technology and social media to protect the company brand and enhance stakeholder engagement.

Jay Miller, Business Management Analyst, Knoxville Utilities Board

4:00 – 5:00 p.m. :: Roundtable Discussion on Outage Communications

In this roundtable discussion, you will have the opportunity to talk with your peers about successes and challenges with outage communications. This session also gives you the opportunity to brainstorm new ideas that might work to develop new initiatives at your utility. Bring your questions, challenges and thinking caps to the table.

Moderator: Scott Benzie, Enterprise Consultant, Message Broadcast


Randi Berris, Manager Corporate Communications, DTE Energy

Neil Neroutsos, Corporate Communications Manager, Chelan County Public Utility District

John Halter, IT Business Systems Analyst, Sr., ESD Projects & Technologies, Austin Energy

Jay Miller, Business Management Analyst, Knoxville Utilities Board

5:00 – 6:00 p.m. :: Networking Reception


8:15 – 9:00 a.m. :: Austin Energy’s Two-Way Communication project

This session will cover the challenges that Austin Energy went through with first getting approval for their new two-way communication system and then dealing with the implementation process. Attendees will also hear how AE uses its new outage communication tools to cope with the outages process, along with lessons learned for future enhancements to outage communication and restoration processes.

John Halter, IT Business Systems Analyst, Sr., ESD Projects & Technologies, Austin Energy

9:00 – 9:45 a.m. :: Effectively Preparing Customers for Planned Outages

Effectively communicating (both internally and externally) and executing planned outages is crucial to the customer experience. Utilities today are faced with greater pressure not only on their restoration efforts, but with how effective they are with relaying timely and concise information to their customers to help them better prepare for a planned outage. Hear about some of the improvements that ENMAX has already put in place to continuously improve the planned outage process and what ENMAX is looking at far as improvements for 2019 and beyond to their planned outage process.

Judy Morgan, Manager, Customer & Stakeholder Relations, ENMAX Power Corporation

10:00 – 10:45 a.m. :: Top Features of a Successful Outage Map

This session will cover the history of outage maps as well as the current state of outage maps in the utility market. This will be followed by talking about the top features today’s maps should include to be effective when dealing with outages. Lastly, attendees will hear a real-life example of a utility’s outage map with these features, and how they have been used to improve customer satisfaction and engagement.

Jordan Kharma, Senior Director of North American Sales, KUBRA

10:45 – 11:30 a.m. :: How Con Edison’s Communications Team Handled the Unexpected

In July, a power cable fire sparked a cascading series of systemic failures that plunged a swath of New York City into darkness resulting in a three-day crush of press conferences, interviews and meetings. Despite not having immediate information about the blackout’s cause, Con Edison knew it had to respond quickly and communicate with the public. In this session, learn how the Con Edison communications team handled this unexpected crisis in a timely and efficient manner under the close eye of the media and elected officials.

Michael Clendenin, Director of Media Relations, Con Edison (invited)

11:30 – 11:40 a.m. :: Conference Adjourns / Load Shuttle for Optional Tour

11:40 a.m. – 12:45 p.m. :: Optional Tour of Austin Energy’s System Control Center

The Austin Energy System Control Center (AE SCC) was commissioned to replace the Energy Control Center building. Austin Energy (AE) required an advanced, 24/7 mission critical facility that supports system reliability, while contributing to the utility’s energy conservation and peak demand reduction goals. AE’s System Control Center personnel monitor essential utility system operations, including Austin Energy’s transmission and distribution system, and must be ready for prolonged periods of intense activity under critical conditions. The tour of AE’s System Control Center will also include a view into the system operations room for the first 25 attendees to sign up for the tour. A valid State/Federal issued ID (Driver’s License or Passport) is required.

12:45 p.m. :: Return to Hotel and Conference Adjourns