G4: Disaster and emergency planning
Alpiq is a leading Swiss electricity producer. It is present throughout Europe and is responsible for operating large plants that are often part of critical infrastructure, such as nuclear power, gas-fired and hydropower plants. Professional emergency and crisis management as part of business continuity management (BCM) is therefore extremely important for Alpiq.
Organisation, responsibility and training of emergency and disaster organisations
BCM is fundamentally a management task. Every process owner defines the measures that they need to prepare to maintain their process, even under difficult conditions. For particularly business-critical processes, process owners need to prepare a business continuity plan and maintain an emergency organisation for incident management.
The organisation for Management in Crisis Situations (MIC)is deployed in the event of an imminent threat to the entire company. It supports management, primarily the CEO, in this position. To do so, it prepares decision-making bases for the attention of the CEO and independently takes any necessary emergency actions.
To be able to effectively and autonomously perform this task, Chief of Staff of Crisis Management Organisation MIC reports directly to the CEO when MIC is engaged.
Emergency organisations and the MIC crisis organisation hold a training session to practice their deployment capability at least once a year. The team composition, assembly and activities are reviewed and tested based on real-life exercises.
Business continuity plans
The following particularly business-critical areas, which are monitored at the group level, were identified as part of a business impact analysis:
- Digital & Commerce business division (energy trading)
- Power plant operation and management in the CEG-P in Lausanne (a single power plant is not particularly business-critical, but the operational readiness of the entire portfolio is; REMIT notifications)
- Treasury and Accounting (important payments, for example, for energy deliveries and auctions; interest payments and repayments of bonds; hedging foreign currency risks)
- Communications & Public Affairs (publication of ad hoc announcements; operation of the website for the publication of mandatory notifications, among other things)
The other business continuity plans are the responsibility of the process owners and are not centrally monitored by the crisis management team.
Prior to managing the current COVID-19 pandemic, the MIC organisation’s last major deployment was in 2011 following the parcel bomb attack on swissnuclear in Olten. The emergency organisations have managed various less-critical incidents, such as IT failures, water penetration and fires.
Since the end of February 2020, the MIC crisis organisation has been tasked with the “Coordination of all Alpiq activities associated with COVID-19”. This is an atypical incident management scenario for this organisation given the extremely long period of deployment. The MIC crisis organisation has been reinforced with business continuity coordinators from the operating business divisions. During the acute phase in the spring of 2020, a daily meeting was held between the Chief of Staff of Crisis Management Organisation MIC and the Executive Board to decide on individual measures. Currently, a management report is prepared for every Executive Board meeting, which contains requests for decisions where necessary.
Gas-fired combined-cycle power plants
Alpiq is committed to protecting its plants. Most of the gas-fired combined-cycle power plants are part of the critical national infrastructure. Ensuring the provision of power and a stable supply to the national grids is absolutely essential. Alpiq applies processes and systems which guarantee secure operation. The main goal is to minimise unscheduled power plant downtimes. Alpiq has concluded insurance policies for the plants, which cover damages and potential effects of negative external factors. They protect Alpiq from the economic consequences of unforeseeable future incidents.
In line with the applicable national and local regulations, every power plant has an emergency plan. These emergency plans are adapted to the specific characteristics of every plant depending on the size and nature of the operation and are shared with the local authorities and fire brigades.
Physical access to the gas-fired-combined-cycle power plants operated by Alpiq is protected and monitored. The plants regularly host emergency exercises that are often focused on fire rescue, recovery of persons or a breach of physical security. The emergency plans and instructions are reviewed in line with the statutory provisions and ISO certifications.
Emergency plans exist for every partner company. They particularly define the nature and severity of an incident for which a crisis team is deployed, its organisation, its interactions as well as the duties of its members. In line with standards ISO 55001 (Asset Management) and 9001 (Quality Management Systems), crisis exercises are held together with external experts in a selected plant each year. These exercises enable us to gain valuable experience and continuously improve the emergency plans.
Wind power plants
The wind farms operated by Alpiq are mostly located in remote, hard-to-reach places. For this reason, the emergency plans have been adapted in consideration of the longer reaction times of professional rescue organisations. The goal is coordination between the authorities and corresponding processes of the service providers working at Alpiq wind farms.
In order to make access easier, road signs have been installed at the wind farms to guide emergency vehicles and save time. A snowcat is available at the wind farm in the Bulgarian mountains for extreme weather conditions.
All the roles involved in the emergency planning are defined and the individuals are suitably trained. Emergency drills are performed on a regular basis in order to ensure that each person knows how to react and to detect any gaps in the reaction chain. If necessary, contractors and public emergency services are included in these drills. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this drill had to be postponed at most of the wind farms in 2020.