Welcome to Ask Dean. I’m taking employee questions and answering one or two a week, right here. From time to time, I’ll ask you a question and publish the most thoughtful responses.

Q: SA may have different labor regulations from UK, but we are all alive to the fact that we now live in a Global Village and share common values while NG is an international company regulated by respective authorities/jurisdictions where it operates from. In terms of staff benefits one would imagine NG would strive to have its employees from across the spectrum treated the same if not better, irrespective of specific local labor laws associated with each jurisdiction, be they seem unattractive, repressive or progressive. Being cognizant of the fact NGUK’s vacation or leave benefits are more favorable (more days) compared to what NGUSA offers its staff members, albeit that NGUK’s working week is only 37 hours whereas NGUSA working week is 40 hours. Is there any plan or effort by NG management to harmonize vacation/leave days across the board, including working hours in favour of USA employees? The current system would appear that NG is not sensitive to the plight of its USA-based employees and the need to have a more meaningful vacation time off as the 15 working days offered in most cases falls short of international norms and standards.

A: National Grid offers a market competitive suite of benefits to attract and retain a diverse and multi-generational workforce in the US. To remain truly competitive we balance our comprehensive benefits and compensation package, including time off policies, according to US industry benchmarks. We review our total rewards on an on-going basis to make sure the package is relevant and market-competitive in order to attract and retain key talent to deliver safe and reliable services to our customers.

In the US, there is no government mandated time-off policy, unlike the UK, where almost all workers are legally entitled to a paid statutory annual leave. US companies are given the freedom to set time-off policies based on the needs of their business and what makes them most competitive. Today, US National Grid employees enjoy generous amount of time off for leisure through their allotted vacation, paid Federal holidays, paid personal days, and Parental Bonding leave. Time-off policies, including those for illness, complement our suite of benefits that include flexible work arrangements, competitive health and retirement programs, competitive pay and annual performance plan, all which make National Grid an employer of choice.

Q: The latest drivers of energy consumption has given decentralized renewable energy a firm leg to stand on. When we reach 100% renewable energy and storage capacity, our protection design philosophy will have to be smarter than it currently is, faster than what it is, and more viable. We are lucky in the sense we already have countries that are and have to deal with this scenario — neighbors such as Germany and Switzerland — where we can either sit back and watch how the situation unfolds, or perhaps play a key role in the solution. Pragmatics would be of larger value than practicing theoretical simulations, especially because of the volatile and even hostile, regulation of the industry. Holistically, the electrical industry has been slow to respond and embrace renewable power, how can National Grid increase its response to the dynamics of the industry, that continue to powerfully impact the world?

A: Thank you for the thoughtful question. You are right in that we must be better poised to respond to industry dynamics. I believe we must be able to pivot quickly to remain relevant, and that is what National Grid has been driving toward. First, we needed to get our house in order. That means all manner of housekeeping, including optimizing and growing our core business. Doing that well is what gives us license to future proof. Another way of saying that is, we have to prove that we can do what we’ve been doing for decades exceptionally, so that we are trusted to prescribe solutions for how the industry should change for the betterment of our customers. This year you will also hear more about becoming true customer advocates. That means a different kind of stakeholder engagement at the policy level to help shape the industry, and more powerfully impact our region, the nation, and the ultimately the world, as you suggest. The areas we are focused on to drive our business down this path and into the future are:
1. Foster Large Scale Renewables/Clean Generation
2. Foster Utility of the Future business models, including DER
3. Electrify Transportation
4. Increase Gas Capacity

Q: If approached, would you consider advising the Trump administration on our nation’s energy infrastructure needs?

A: Yes, we have historically worked with administrations from both parties, as well as Congress, on issues of mutual importance. In fact, we have already reached out to the new administration to consider us a resource.

At National Grid, our business model starts with our customers. We have invested more than $12 billion in new energy infrastructure in the past three years in MA, RI and NY, and we know a lot more needs to be done. Our infrastructure is among the oldest in the country, and as our customers grow and demand cleaner energy choices, infrastructure constrains will inhibit economic development in the northeast region of this country.

We are buoyed by the new administration’s resolve to rebuild critical infrastructure. I know we can contribute greatly to a joint conversation on our nation’s infrastructure needs, and be part of the solution to bring infrastructure — including energy infrastructure — into the 21st century.