COVID-19 and Swissgrid

Good preparation pays off

Author: Kaspar Haffner


A well-functioning electricity supply has always been essential for Switzerland. A problem with this supply would make the already challenging situation even more difficult. Now is the time when society as a whole needs the certainty of knowing that the supply of electricity is secure and stable. Swissgrid is entrusted with operating a critical element of the electricity supply, the transmission grid. The company has embraced this responsibility and has pandemic plans in place that were activated with the outbreak of the coronavirus. This allowed prevention measures to be introduced and possible scenarios to be prepared very early on.

Infrastructure and company culture as success factors

At the moment, around 90% of employees are working from home, without compromising either efficiency or quality. This kind of switch is not something that happens overnight, it requires the necessary infrastructure and culture.

Swissgrid has been supporting mobile and digital working since its move to Aarau.

Swissgrid has been supporting mobile and digital working since its move to Aarau in 2018. The IT infrastructure was established accordingly and a new management culture was implemented. Even before the times of the coronavirus, holding meetings without the physical attendance of all involved was standard practice at Swissgrid. Employees are used to working with the instruments necessary for decentralised collaboration. What normally benefits flexible working and is ultimately also used to improve the work-life balance, has now enabled a smooth transition to the home office environment.

Not everything is possible from a home office

But not all tasks can be performed from home. The operators that monitor the Swiss electricity grid 24 hours a day can only perform their work at the two grid control rooms in Aarau and Prilly – obviously complying with all the necessary hygiene measures. The workplaces are designed so that adequate distancing between individual employees is ensured. Besides this, Swissgrid has also tightened its access regulations, suspended personal interactions between the control rooms and ensured the long-term splitting of the team. This guarantees that, in the event of an infection, at least not too many operators will be infected and off sick at the same time. All of these measures have been extremely successful to date. But, if major staff shortages do arise in the grid control rooms, Swissgrid has prepared former operators, who are now working in different areas of the company, for redeployment in Swissgrid Control. This measure also required a great deal of preparation and lead time.

All of these measures have been extremely successful to date.

Fostering important relationships long term

The cooperation with external partners is another key factor of success. Their operational capability too had to be ensured. To do so, Swissgrid identified its critical service providers at an early stage and reviewed their pandemic plans.

The Swiss transmission grid is part of the European interconnected grid, which is why Swissgrid is in constant discussions with its European partners. After all, Swiss grid stability only exists in a European context. Swissgrid also keeps in very close contact with the distribution grid operators in Switzerland as well as the competent authorities at the federal and cantonal level. Swissgrid’s work to establish and constantly maintain these contacts has paid off.

Stable operation of the transmission grid

The measures have been successful to date: the secure and stable operation of the transmission grid continues to be ensured, even under the current conditions. Electricity consumption in Switzerland fell by 5 per cent in March. Electricity prices on the EPEX Spot Exchange are relatively low, which is indicative of a large supply of electricity.

The secure and stable operation of the transmission grid continues to be ensured, even under the current conditions.

The secure and stable grid operation requires the smooth cooperation of a large number of different internal and external stakeholders. They are all working closely together despite the physical distancing requirements. The good preparation and establishment of the relevant processes over many years have more than paid off at exactly the right time, during the COVID-19 pandemic.



Author

Kaspar Haffner

Communication Manager

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