Federal energy regulators want the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to speed up access to the COVID-19 vaccine for crucial electric utility workers.

The five-member Federal Energy Regulatory Commission was unanimous in its Jan. 13 request to CDC.

“[W]e urge you to consider that a subset of the energy workforce be included in Phase 1b—specifically, highly trained electrical field workers, power plant operators, transmission and distribution grid operators, and personnel who procure the energy needed to balance the grid on a moment-to-moment basis,” the commissioners wrote.

NRECA is backing the commission’s recommendation and encouraging CDC to act quickly.

“We are thankful that all the FERC commissioners are recommending that power plant and grid operators, lineworkers and other mission-essential utility staff be considered a priority for access to the vaccine after health care workers,” NRECA CEO Jim Matheson said. “These are the people who keep the lights on. We hope CDC supports this request and that states will prioritize vaccinations for these essential workers.”

Matheson serves on the CEO-led Electricity Subsector Coordinating Council, which recently discussed the importance of vaccine availability to key utility staff. The ESCC serves as the liaison between the electric power sector and the federal government to help prepare for and respond to threats to the country’s critical electric infrastructure.

NRECA also joined several energy and utility trade groups Dec. 3 in writing to organizations representing state regulators, state legislatures, governors, mayors and localities about the need to prioritize voluntary access to the vaccine for those identified as “highly skilled, mission-essential energy workers.”

The energy groups noted that making these workers a priority follows guidance by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

“These employees are highly specialized and cannot work from home or in isolation from others on the job site. The work they perform is critical to public health and safety, as well as our economic and national security,” NRECA and other energy groups told the state authorities.