As the world struggles to cope with the current COVID-19 crisis, the energy sector is adjusting to ensure a secure, reliable supply and a protected workforce.
Supplier and the government has already pledged greater measures to protect the vulnerable through the pandemic. Together with other industry bodies they are also bringing in extra measures to protect their workforces and sure up their businesses.
Current rounded up some of the key responses from the industry.
The regulator has offered extensive advice for both consumers and industry, hoping to reassure customers, suppliers and networks.
In a blog, Ofgem CEO Jonathan Brearley said “I have spoken to many industry leaders in the last week to stress that for Ofgem and the industry, the priority is to protect our customers and those who work in the industry. This means focussing on maintaining our secure and reliable service and addressing on our customers’ needs – particularly the most vulnerable. For example, some people will be self-isolating, but may need a meter repairing, cannot get to a shop to top up their traditional pre-payment meter or are struggling to pay their bill if their income has suddenly been reduced.”
He specified that Ofgem will “be pragmatic in our approach to compliance during this period”, encouraging companies to take action based on what was right for the customers given the situation. This will be taken into account in any decisions made about a company’s compliance going forwards they were reassured.
Ofgem is reviewing its regulations given the current crisis, Brearley said they were aware that the regulatory processes placed resource requirements on energy companies that could be a burden considering the current situation.
It has already postponed RIIO-2 hearings until further notice, and is looking closely at how best to progress wider regulation advances.
National Grid ESO’s director Fintan Slye has said he doesn’t anticipate any problems for the reliability of the supply of electricity in the UK during the pandemic.
“We have well-developed procedures in place to manage the effects of a pandemic and have analysed anticipated effects on electricity supply and demand of mass self-isolation of the UK’s workforce. In fact, demand across the country is expected to reduce; largely owing to a decrease in energy use from industrial consumers, which is likely to be greater than the increase in domestic demand as people stay at home.”
He continued that National Grid ESO is working with energy networks across the UK to continue to monitor and adapt to the situation.
Energy Networks Association
David Smith, chief executive of Energy Networks Association, said:
“The UK’s electricity and gas network is one of the most reliable in the world and network operators are working with the authorities to ensure that their contingency plans are reviewed and delivered in accordance with the latest expert advice. We are following this advice closely and reassuring customers that energy networks are continuing to operate as normal for the public.”
Audrey Gallacher, chief executive of Energy UK said: “As providers of essential services and critical infrastructure, the energy industry has well-practised contingency plans in order to ensure the delivery of services.
“These are extraordinary circumstances and the industry is working closely with the Government on a daily basis to ensure there is no disruption to the generation and supply of energy to customers.”
She continued that the sector is conscious of the potential consequences for vulnerable customers on prepayment meters in particular, and said supplier will be working to identify and support such customers.
“The industry is fully committed to providing all the help and support it can to its customers through this difficult time.”
In a statement, the supplier said that is was prepared to offer effected customers “additional support and flexibility”. This includes longer periods for repayment, delayed payments or offering alternative payment arrangements it said.
“We can also use our existing partnerships with Citizens Advice Plymouth and IncomeMax to help our customers to maximise their existing income and manage their money,” it added.
Like other suppliers, EDF is making particular provision for prepayment customers, as many will not be able to make it out of their homes to top-up if they fall ill.
“We are able to preload keys and cards with credit that can be collected by a customer or someone that is helping them from a local shop or alternatively can be delivered in the post.
“Finally, we have decided to offer 700 smart metering engineers to support activities that will help out communities, such as providing support to our vulnerable customers or to those with prepayment meters, or helping with urgent deliveries. Further detail will be announced over the coming weeks.”
When asked about the impact on the business, and whether the pandemic was effecting its supply chain, EDF added: “We’re in constant dialogue with our key suppliers to ensure we maintain adequate stocks of the materials we need to continue our operations.”
SSE confirmed that it was committed to helping to limit and delay the spread of COVID-19. Within the company it has limited travel, implemented agile working where possible and is monitoring the solution it said.
In terms of the effect upon business operations, the company said: “To-date there has been no significant impact on SSE’s day-to-day operations or performance, and all of our core assets and infrastructure remain in operation. As a provider of critical infrastructure and services we have well practiced emergency procedures that include operations during a pandemic, and we have enacted our Gold Command process to assess and monitor the situation.
“However, this is a fast changing environment and, like every other business, we are planning for a range of scenarios and are in regular contact with the Governments, regulators and industry representatives in the jurisdictions in which we operate and will continue to work closely with all key parties during the difficult weeks and months ahead.”
The company has established specific guidelines to help vulnerable customers in particular during this crisis, to ensure no one is left without power.
In a statement, the company added: “We understand how crucial our services are to the lives of millions of families, businesses and communities, across our energy networks, generation and retail operations. As the COVID-19 situation develops, we want to reassure you that we’re doing all we can to minimise service disruption during these challenging times.
“We’re working closely with government, the regulator and industry bodies to ensure we continue to follow the latest advice, and we’ve implemented plans to ensure we’re taking appropriate action.
“We’ve set out clear guidance and information for our customers, so that they understand where they can get help and advice.
OVO has issued a range of advice and information for its consumers, and has put in place a special team to answers queries or concerns, especially for those who are struggling to pay given the energy.
An OVO spokesperson added: “We know that these are very worrying times for everyone. We’re continuing to work hard to ensure that we keep our members and our teams safe.”
“In a fast changing situation, our priority is to protect our most vulnerable members and to support those who are worried about their energy bills. Our teams are here to provide support to try and do everything we can to help.”
Like other providers, E.on is working to protect protect vulnerable customers by suspending disconnections, changing emergency credit limits and suspending non-essential in home activities.
Michael Lewis, chief executive of E.ON UK, said: “The challenge we all face from this pandemic is entirely unprecedented and is our foremost concern. We are working hard to make sure we can continue to serve our customers as best we can and also support all of our colleagues. We’ll keep monitoring and adapting to the situation as it develops.”ensure a secure, reliable supply and a protected workforce.
Together with other industry bodies, E.on is also bringing in extra measures to protect their workforces and sure up their businesses.