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3 compliance challenges that energy and utility organizations need to address amid the COVID-19 outbreak and beyond

3 compliance challenges that energy and utility organizations need to address amid the COVID-19 outbreak and beyond


One of the lessons that energy and utilities around the world have been realizing, as the impact of the COVID-19 crisis continues to disrupt business as usual, is that they were not fully prepared in the face of the current environment. As a result, the role of compliance managers in these businesses has become even more critical as today more than ever, energy and utility businesses are relying on compliance officers to mitigate the potential impact of this crisis and work toward recovery, combat volatility, and adapt with agility. 

There are also some other mission-critical concerns related to risk and compliance that professionals across energy organizations should consider.


Due to the nature of work in energy and utility organizations, connectivity among leadership and staff is imperative, especially as challenges arise in a remote operating environment. There is immense demand for and value in driving thoughtful, cohesive communication across the organization. It is not just for addressing a replacement for conference room meetings, but also for communicating quickly and effectively policies, procedures, and training to the new distant workforce

What energy & utilities should consider doing?:

  • Apply consistent messaging across all organizational channels to include compliance considerations as companies seek to elevate their communities’ support, health, and safety.
  • Leverage innovative compliance, learning, and knowledge transfer platforms with teaming and virtual communication tools for engagement and collaboration to help teams productively communicate, reinvigorating areas of focus around updated regulations, policies, procedures, and other instances of remote operational risks. 
  • Embrace technologies that simplify the transition to the digital age. It is a critical leap energy and utility organizations must take in order to pursue innovative strategies and relationships that align with organizational values. Businesses must work with customers and suppliers in a creative way that may deviate from core strategies, but it still must be done in the spirit of integrity

Reassess and reevaluate

In a time of confusion and disruption, it is imperative that leaders maintain a culture of integrity and compliance. While immediate concerns relate to employee health and safety, the outbreak and resulting business disruption may increase the likelihood of potential bribery, corruption, and misconduct.

Businesses must reinforce their institutional commitments to upholding secure and standard compliance programs and processes. 

What energy & utilities should consider doing?:

  • Pay close attention to the infrastructure, governance, processes, and systems in place that could potentially be compromised in a virtual operating environment
  • Automate processes to identify and inform relevant audiences with the right policies, procedures, and training   
  • Evaluate additional safeguards to build a long-term strategy with lessons learned from today’s challenges. Using video could be a simple, quick, and great way to achieve that.
  • Consider the technologies, controls, and business practices in use in normal circumstances and adapt them to the new environment with agility and integrity.
  • Investigate challenges that might put pressure on professionals to compromise standards in challenging times, especially ones where individual and corporate survival is on the line.

Maintain integrity through proactive response

NERC, The North American Electric Reliability Corp., and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission announced that they would suspend certain rules for the short term so utilities can focus their resources on keeping people safe and the lights on during this unprecedented health emergency. Energy and utilities should make sure that they do not interpret the relaxed oversight for missing the mark on diligent, good-business activities for managing risk. This is a time of opportunity, not for negligence.

While the relaxed rules have been offered to energy companies as temporary leniency, it is critical to note that regulators will continue to expect that institutions will not be lax with compliance obligations.

 Acknowledging the opportunity to improve protocols, embrace technology, and evolve for the future can position companies to achieve long-term successes.

What energy & utilities should consider doing?

  • Proactively upholding and reinventing compliance standards can set energy organizations up to better respond to future crises. 
  • Evaluating how compliance teams can continue to add value and focus their attention on risks that matter most will elevate the role of risk and compliance professionals by showing an awareness of the plight of operational and commercial business needs. 
  • Consider stabilizing enhancements to the foundational, core aspects of compliance programs through new learnings opportunities. For example, energy companies might consider this opportunity to reach out to vendors, communicating new policies and training to strategize continuous conflicts management protocol now that there may be unexpected supplier constraints.
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