Disaster and contingency planning

G4

Business continuity management

Management approach

GRI 103
(103-1, 103-2, 103-3)

Relevance

Alpiq is a leading Swiss electricity producer. It is present throughout Europe and is responsible for operating large facilities that are often part of critical infrastructure, such as hydro, nuclear and gas-fired combined-cycle power plants. Professional emergency and disaster management as part of business continuity management (BCM) is therefore extremely important for Alpiq. The overarching goal of critical infrastructure protection (CIP) is to guarantee as far as possible the continuous functioning of critical infrastructure or minimum operation (continuity management) and a return to a normal state following an incident.

Management approach
Management approachOrganisation, responsibility and training of emergency and disaster organisations

BCM is fundamentally a management task. Every person responsible for a process defines the measures that they need to prepare to maintain their process, even under difficult conditions. For particularly business-critical processes, the persons responsible for a process must prepare a business continuity plan and maintain an emergency organisation for incident management.

The crisis organisation ‘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 tools for the CEO and independently takes any necessary emergency actions.

To be able to effectively and autonomously perform this task, the Head of MIC reports directly to the CEO if the MIC is engaged.

Emergency organisations and the MIC crisis team hold a training session to practise their deployment capability at least once a year. The team composition, assembly and activities are reviewed and tested based on real-life exercises. The last exercise took place at the end of October 2021. In addition to the points mentioned above, the focus was on the cooperation between the crisis team and the emergency organisations involved in the exercise. Another important objective of the exercise was to practise cooperating with an external partner – specifically, with Swissgrid’s crisis team. A detailed evaluation of the exercise was carried out afterwards. It provided important insights, especially with regard to the set-up required for a given situation and improving the flow of information to management. It also revealed that there was a need for professional skills training for staff as well as enhanced IT training. The potential for improvement and a specific implementation plan for the next two years were recorded in a separate final report.

The respective nuclear power plant companies are directly responsible for safeguarding the nuclear power plants in which Alpiq holds shares. The concept of safeguarding the Swiss nuclear power plants is supervised by ENSI, which checks it periodically for its effectiveness.

Business continuity plans

The following services, which are particularly critical for operations and are monitored at the group level, were identified as part of a business impact analysis:

The other business continuity plans are the responsibility of the person responsible for a process and are not monitored at group level.

Assessment

Prior to managing the current COVID-19 pandemic, the MIC crisis team’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 team 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 team 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 Head of MIC and the Executive Board to decide on individual measures. Depending on the situation, a management report is prepared for Executive Board meetings, which contains requests for decisions where necessary.

Gas-fired combined-cycle power plants

Alpiq is committed to protecting its facilities. Most gas-fired combined-cycle power plants are part of the national critical infrastructure. Ensuring the provision of power and a stable supply to the national grids is absolutely essential. Alpiq uses systems and mechanisms that guarantee secure operation. The main goal is to minimise unscheduled power plant downtimes. Alpiq has concluded insurance policies for the facilities, which cover damages and potential impacts 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 a contingency plan. These contingency plans are adapted to the specific characteristics of every facility (size and type of operation) and 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. They regularly host emergency drills that are often focused on fire rescue, recovery of persons or work-related incidents. The contingency plans and instructions are reviewed in line with the statutory provisions and ISO certifications.

Hydropower plants

Contingency plans exist for every partner power plant 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 member specifications. In line with standards ISO 55001 (Asset Management) and ISO 9001 (Quality Management Systems), crisis drills are held together with external experts in a selected facility each year. These drills enable the operators to gain valuable experience and continuously improve the contingency plans.

Wind farms

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 by the professional rescue organisations. The goal is coordination between the authorities and the corresponding processes of the service providers working at Alpiq wind farms.

In order to make access easier, road signs have been installed in the wind farms to guide emergency vehicles and save time. A snowcat is available at the location in the Bulgarian mountains for extreme weather conditions.

All the roles involved in emergency planning are defined and the people 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.

After almost all emergency drills at the wind farms were cancelled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the operators were able to make up for most of them in the reporting year. Rescue scenarios were practised at a wind energy facility, in the warehouse and in the offices at the Vetrocom wind farm (Bulgaria). In Sicily (Italy), a joint rescue exercise was conducted with the height rescue service of the Agrigento Provincial Fire Department in addition to the annual internal emergency simulations.

Nuclear power plants

Large-scale emergency drills in nuclear power plants, i.e. comprehensive emergency drills that include cantonal services and federal authorities, generally take place every two years at one of three nuclear power plant sites. The last drill took place in 2019 at Beznau nuclear power plant. Therefore, a comprehensive emergency drill should have taken place in the reporting year. However, this comprehensive emergency drill was postponed until 2022 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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