Reflections on National Lineman Appreciation Day
By Mike Mancuso, President & CEO of the Triangle East Chamber of Commerce
My grandfather taught me to never take power for granted.
When I was a child, one of my favorite things to do was ride with my grandfather in his company car. He was a regional manager for Pennsylvania Power & Light. He wore a hard hat with a funny little guy on it made up of electric sparks (Reddy Kilowatt). His car was a nondescript, gray Plymouth Valiant with Reddy Kilowatt on the door, and inside was a two-way radio he used to talk to his crews.
Grandpa would take me to his office where I’d get to watch the big transformers hum as they moved power to customers. To me, my grandfather was Reddy Kilowatt, always keeping the lights on. He taught me all about power, to always respect it and never take it for granted. His lineman’s cutters, knife and hard hat are still in my toolbox as a daily reminder.
For most of us, power is that invisible thing we don’t give a second thought to. It’s always there…allowing us to see, keeping us cool in summer and warm in winter, and powering all of the electronic devices we’ve become so dependent upon. It’s always there, until it’s not.
The recent events in Texas quickly brought something many of us rarely think about to the top of our minds. The reality is that without power, our lives as we know them stop. When one of the most basic elements of our daily lives is suddenly inaccessible, we find ourselves in survival mode with no way to cook, keep warm or communicate. The list could go on.
The thing is, there’s a lot of planning and hard work that goes into ensuring the lights come on when we need them to. Getting power to our homes and businesses is a complex process, especially when you think about the fact that it must be used as soon as it’s produced. It must be generated, transmitted and delivered to each customer 24/7, 365-days-a-year, and currently, there’s no effective way to store large quantities. In the business world, that means that supply must always equal demand with just enough inventory (back-up generation) to avoid a system failure.
Today, most of our power supply comes from coal, natural gas or nuclear energy. Unfortunately, there are challenges with these forms of energy generation, which is why it’s important that our community, region and state come together to advance new technologies that can provide a reliable, clean, safe and affordable energy future for North Carolina. For example, to date, Duke Energy has retired coal plants, helped North Carolina become a leader in solar and worked to strengthen our energy grid, all in pursuit of the state’s goal to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. This is a great start.
At the end of the day, it takes a lot of partnership, innovative thinking, thoughtful planning and dedicated people to give the majority of us the everyday privilege of turning on a light switch. It is a result of this continued collaboration that we will be able to better protect our planet and our communities for generations to come.
In the meantime, in honor of National Lineman Appreciation Day on April 18, let’s take a moment to recognize all of the Reddy Kilowatts, like my grandfather, who work tirelessly to provide what we should never take for granted.