You are on the frontlines of an unprecedented crisis and we know that your ability to keep grids and microgrids and other operations moving is key to our ability as a society to get through this difficult period.Ashvin DayalSenior Vice President, Power Initiative, The Rockefeller Foundation, thanking the hundreds of webinar attendees who included energy sector leaders and technical experts from utilities and distributed renewable energy companies around the world.
Now more than ever, the importance of access to electricity is clear. Access to electricity keeps people connected at their home, (and) protects vulnerable populations. We need the grids working, the electrons flowing and people safe and connected.Damilola OgunbiyiCEO and Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Sustainable Energy for All and Co-Chair of UN-Energy, also noted the importance of the webinar for sharing learnings with energy providers across sub Saharan Africa and South Asia that are preparing for what may be a dire crisis in areas of lower energy access and strained infrastructure.
As a leading distribution system operator in Italy and Spain, two countries that began to see high infection rates in late February, Enel Group had to move quickly to establish a strategy, said Livio Gallo, Head of Global Infrastructure and Networks Business Line, which manages Enel’s global electricity distribution operations.
Recognizing that a healthy workforce was crucial to keeping the grid running, Enel implemented a special task force, which supported moving as much of the back-office operations as possible online – telecommuting increased from 4 to 55 percent. This has been possible thanks to the digitalization of energy infrastructure: smart metering, grid automation, remote control, and “self-healing” networks made it possible to manage assets with a much smaller workforce in the field. But even utility providers who may not have extensive digital capacity can implement preventative measures.
Gallo’s colleagues Viviana Vitto and Guilherme Gomes Lencastre described steps taken by Enel to reduce risks for critical workers who couldn’t work from home. Lencastre, speaking from Brazil where he oversees electricity distribution to more than 17 million customers across four states, mentioned measures such as moving to staggered shifts, changing routes of access to minimize contact between employees, completing some hand-overs outdoors and activating connections to contractors in case of need. His team also prepared for a situation where half of the workforce could be out ill at once without a disruption to service. To avoid having to implement such a plan, personal protective equipment was distributed and new sanitation policies were put into effect.
During a Q&A session, managed by Enel Foundation Deputy Director João Duarte, the presenters highlighted how the company dealt with a decrease in overall electricity demand as industries shuttered, as has been typical for countries responding to the virus. The company also discussed the importance of powering healthcare facilities and other critical infrastructure. In Italy, Enel Group has offered new no-cost connections for temporary hospitals, and in Spain it provided free energy for 13 hospitals where Covid-19 patients are treated.
Gallo also noted that for efficiency and clarity, Enel made these changes at the same time in all the countries where it works, whether or not an individual country was at that moment implementing restrictive measures. At this point, Enel is beginning to think about turning the page on the emergency. “Now the challenge is a fast and effective recovery,” Gallo said, “we will not be found unprepared.”
Covid-19 has completely changed the way we are doing things. Some changes would likely remain in place even once the virus is under control. We are trying to take the opportunity to do it in a more efficient way, to become the data-driven company we aim to be, just quickly.Viviana VittoHead of Market Studies and Strategic Analysis of the Global Infrastructure and Networks Division, Enel
Now the challenge is a fast and effective recovery. We will not be found unprepared.Livio GalloHead of Global Infrastructure and Networks Business Line, Enel