Management of the Covid-19 Emergency
On 20 February 2020, the Iren Group established an emergency management committee to allow coordinated and prompt actions regarding the constantly evolving situation, with the goal of ensuring continuity in the provision of essential public services and operations of 5000 employees across the areas served (collection and disposal of waste, distribution of gas and electricity, integrated water services, district heating, power generation, water-quality monitoring, public lighting, etc.), whilst also paying great care to safety and observance of government measures.
The significant investments made by the Group in the field of digitalisation have supported this effective management of the COVID-19 emergency, also in terms of continuity of company activity (e.g. swift extension of remote working to nearly 3000 employees).
With the launch of PHASE 2 and the progressive return to work of employees, further actions have been taken to guarantee the safety of workers and citizens.
On the economic and financial front, the Group has demonstrated its capability to effectively pursue the goals defined in the Business Plan despite the health emergency, increasing investment by 52% and confirming the recovery, by year end, of slight delays in construction works. Medium-term results confirm the effectiveness of actions taken and the solidity of the business model.
Despite the emergency situation, Iren has also confirmed sustainability as one of its main strategic pillars, continuing to invest in projects linked to the Circular Economy, the efficient use of resources and the reduction of emissions, for an amount of approximately 60% of the investments provided for in the business plan.
In the current year, the COVID-19 crisis in Italy could have, for the time being, what is considered a limited impact on the Group’s activities, mainly due to the nature of its business (over 70% in regulated and semi-regulated sectors). Future actions aimed at relaunching Italy’s economy may involve utilities in the context of consolidation operations in local areas and thus support acceleration of investments.
Provision of essential public services
- The Group’s energy-generation plants, which allow annual production of around 9000 GWh of electricity and 3000 GWh of thermal energy, are operating as normal.
- Within the plants, maximum attention is paid to observance of the rules and measures for containing infection: shared use of radio equipment and other devices has been prohibited, rooms are sanitised with special hygiene procedures and where possible (changing rooms, toilets, kitchen and offices) areas are accessible to a single user at a time. For control rooms and areas that have to be used by multiple colleagues simultaneously, a distance of 2 metres is maintained between colleagues, distancing is ensure through the marking out the spaces accessible to each employee with barriers. Maintenance activities have been reduced to those required for plant operation, with suspension of development maintenance and worksites. Development and design continue remotely.
DISTRIBUTION OF GAS, ELECTRICITY AND WATER
The Group continues to ensure:
- that almost 3 million Italians receive uninterrupted service for the distribution of gas (8 thousand km of network), electricity (8 thousand km of network, 15 HV/MV transformer substations and 4700 MV/LV transformer cabins) and water (over 23 thousand km of water network and water mains, 11 thousand km of sewage systems, and 1300 water treatment and purification plants)
- the emergency response and fault repair service, 24/7
- services for fitting and movement of meters requested by customers
- water-quality monitoring service (55,500 samples each year)
- public lighting and traffic-light management services.
- Urban hygiene and waste collection services continue uninterrupted in all 302 municipalities served by the Group, for 3.1 million inhabitants living in these areas.
- Over 2700 employees are working on the front line, on the street and at our plants, guaranteeing cleaning of urban areas, separated waste collection, and proper processing and disposal of waste.
- Waste processing and disposal plants are operational, allowing effective management of the entire cycle, and guaranteeing environmental sustainability via recovery of material and production of energy from waste.
- Street cleaning activity has been increased, with trucks operating on medium and large streets both day and night.
- In line with and in implementation of the new methods defined by the Istituto Superiore di Sanità (Italian National Institute of Health), various procedures and methods for door-to-door waste collection have been identified and defined for individuals testing positive and/or in quarantine.
With PHASE 2, urban hygiene and waste collection services have returned fully operational in all 302 municipalities served by the Group, for 3.1 million inhabitants living in these areas. Alongside the reopening of commercial and artisan business activity, dedicated services will be progressively reintroduced.
Personal protection and safety
- Right from the start of the crisis, remote-working possibilities were extended to all employees with the right conditions to work from home, guaranteeing operational continuity. The company has been successfully using remote-working for over a year and the experience gained, combined with important technological investment and availability of smartphones for all employees, has proved to be particularly valuable, allowing a jump from 1000 to 2900 employees working remotely in just a few weeks.
- Further flexibility has been offered to all employees via alternated use of holidays and remote working, for an improved work/home-life balance.
- A holiday transfer scheme has also been established: each employee may donate up to a maximum of 5 days of holiday to colleagues that have already used their holiday allowance, with the total number of days donated being doubled by the company. Over 1900 days of holidays have been donated by employees, following the example of the Chief Executive Officer and General Manager of the Group.
- Only employees involved in essential services and indispensable activities for operations and company continuity have been authorised to enter company sites
- All national and international business travel has been suspended.
- All meetings are held via telephone or video-conferencing.
- During phase 2, all activity on worksites was suspended unless essential/functional for service continuity and/or scheduled actions.
- Following the launch of phase 2, all employees who out of necessity are required to be physically present in the workplace are issued with a safety kit containing gloves, masks, hand towels and disinfectant products. In addition, an app has been created allowing each employee to record their presence in order to immediately proceed with sanitisation of the relevant areas.
Right from the start of the emergency, the Group acted swiftly, taking significant steps to support customers.
Halt on suspension of services for unpaid accounts
From the 9 March, Iren halted any new actions for suspension/reduction of services (gas, electricity, water and district heating) due to unpaid accounts, confirming its commitment to the local areas served, to citizens and to its customers.
Option to delay payment or pay bills in instalments
Awaiting specific measures from the Government and the Italian Regulatory Authority for Electricity Gas and Water (ARERA), the Group has offered all customers, households and businesses suffering from objective financial difficulties the option to request postponement of the payment deadline by 30 days, or to pay in three instalments over the three following months for gas, electricity, water, district heating and waste bills with pay-as-you-throw or commercial tariffs, for deadlines from 13 March to 30 April and relative to regularly supplied services. In addition, interest shall not be applied for delayed payment.
Branches and channels for communication with customers
Following the end of phase 1, in order to guarantee safeguarding of health for all parties, in phase 2 of the COVID health crisis the main branches providing customer service were opened with new access procedures, whilst recommending that customers prioritise use of alternative communication channels such as call centres (between 08:00 a.m. and 04:00 p.m., Monday to Friday) and digital channels (website, Iren You app and Iren luce gas e servizi Facebook page).
A new app, Ufirst, was also introduced to allow appointments to be made with offices, in order to avoid queuing.
All teachers, students and families “forced” to stay at home in the past weeks were offered the option to learn more about waste, water and energy management by the Iren Group through its education platform EDUIREN and the dedicated page #iorestoacasa con Eduiren (“I am staying at home with Eduiren”).
The Eduiren staff is available for all teachers to support the remote educational projects being established in this period. Just get in touch by email: firstname.lastname@example.org