Our response to Covid-19
Discover the initiatives taken by Elia to keep lights on during the epidemic

Covid-19: Elia's initiatives

As requested by the Belgian authorities, Elia is making every effort to ensure business continuity. The Ministerial Decree issued on Wednesday, 18 March 2020 announcing additional measures to limit the spread of the coronavirus stipulates that the energy sector is critical. Elia takes this social duty very seriously. Maintaining security of supply and the health and safety of our internal and external staff and contractors are our main priorities.

  • Electricity sector as a critical activity

    As requested by the Belgian authorities, Elia is making every effort to ensure business continuity. The Ministerial Decree issued on Wednesday, 18 March 2020 announcing additional measures to limit the spread of the coronavirus stipulates that the energy sector is critical. Elia takes this social duty very seriously. Maintaining security of supply and the health and safety of our internal and external staff and contractors are our main priorities.

    By consistently applying the announced measures, we are jointly assuming our full social responsibility, thus protecting not only our families and ourselves, but especially other vulnerable groups. We feel a sense of solidarity with healthcare providers, victims and all sectors that are under great pressure during this crisis.

  • Internal task force supervises implementation of and compliance with more stringent controls 

    Within Elia, the implementation of and compliance with the enhanced coronavirus-related measures is coordinated by an internal task force comprising representatives of various departments. This task force is in close contact with management and decisions are also discussed with the social partners. Regular consultations are held with the Belgian authorities, transmission system operators abroad and other companies in the energy sector in Belgium, such as distribution system operators and the gas grid operator.

    Although the Ministerial Decree of 18 March 2020 allows exceptions for critical activities such as the electricity sector, Elia is making every effort to comply with the measures to the maximum extent possible. Even stricter measures apply to critical jobs where working from home is not possible. Shift schedules are logically separated in the scheduling of construction, maintenance and intervention activities. Access to national and regional control centres is very limited and our operators no longer use public transport. Every critical job also has a back-up.

    Elia staff are regularly sent communication updates. Tips for efficient teleworking are provided on the intranet and a Q&A is available that provides answers to the most frequently asked questions.

  • 95% teleworking on administrative sites
    We are leveraging telework as much as possible. Some 95% of our employees at our five administrative sites (Empereur, Schaerbeek, Monnoyer, Crealys and Merksem) are currently working from home in a disciplined fashion and work is proceeding as normal as far as possible. Those individuals who do have to go into work to ensure business continuity (security staff, control centre operators, duty roles, etc.) and technical teams working out of service centres must comply with the enhanced hygiene measures and social distancing measures (see also social distancing).
  • Additional measures at the national and regional control centres

    The National Control Centre (NCC) and the regional control centres (RCCs) may only be accessed by a limited number of people performing essential roles. For the NCC this includes close-to-real-time engineers, system engineers, system operators, planning engineers and duty engineers, while for the RCCs it includes dispatchers, planners and analysts.

    Additional measures regarding hygiene and contact apply to control centre staff. They are not allowed to use public transport; Elia organises transportation for them if they require it. Each control centre staff member has their own personal headset, keyboard and mouse. Before each new shift begins, workstations and other surfaces used by more than one person (such as kitchen surfaces, coffee machines, door handles, switches, office chairs and toilets) are disinfected.

  • Review of construction, maintenance and intervention activities with respect to social distancing rules

    Since the announcement of additional social distancing rules (social distancing of 1.5 metres), we have been thoroughly analysing our construction, maintenance and intervention activities.

    If it is possible to comply with the social distancing rules and hygiene measures and provided there are no problems with the supply of materials and the availability of internal and external staff, activities will continue incrementally. Strict rules have been developed that apply to both the company’s own operational teams and external contractors. When reopening project sites, priority is given to security of supply, power grid security and connections for industrial customers.

    Our contractors have been asked to conduct a risk analysis for each site, for which Elia provides a template, describing the approach to take and any adjustments that should be made to the working method in order to comply with social distancing rules. The project manager, in consultation with the contractor, will evaluate whether the proposed approach is sufficient for work to resume safely. To begin with, a number of pilot sites are being reopened and closely monitored. If this test phase goes well, we can scale up gradually after the Easter holidays. For reopening project sites, Elia provides specific instructional materials, including a process definition for site start-up, a checklist, a risk analysis and a Q&A. Elia’s own operational teams will also apply the same risk analysis and modified working method and use the same instruction materials.

    Anyone who has to travel for work can request a signed certificate from Elia. According to the Ministerial Decree of 18 March 2020, the activities of the electricity sector are critical “for protecting the vital interests of the nation and the needs of the people.” This means that exceptions are allowed.

  • Events cancelled and information sessions postponed

    Elia has cancelled all internal and external events until the end of May 2020. Information sessions for local residents will be postponed until a later date. The new schedule will depend on how the situation evolves and the decisions that the various governments take regarding permitting procedures.

    Due to the coronavirus crisis, shareholders are prohibited from physically attending the Elia Group ordinary and extraordinary general meetings on 19 May 2020. The Board of Directors took this step in line with Royal Decree No. 4 of 9 April 2020, which was issued by lawmakers to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Shareholders will only be able to exercise their voting rights by proxy (via the Secretary-General) or by ballot paper. Questions can be submitted in writing. See our website for more information about the practical details.

  • Impact on electricity consumption

    The measures currently being taken by the government to combat the spread of the coronavirus are having a noticeable impact on electricity consumption in Belgium. Consumption has been dropping gradually in recent weeks, always in connection with the measures:

    • The impact on electricity consumption became clearly noticeable for the first time on 12 March 2020. Daytime consumption fell 5 to 10% compared to early March;
    • The impact became more pronounced starting on 17 March 2020, with a 10 to 15% drop in peak consumption;
    • Since Monday, 23 March 2020, we have seen peak consumption continue to decrease by 15% – and even as much as 25% – compared to a normal week in March.

    The downward trend is very clear to see on the graph below, which compares current consumption with the average over the past five years.  

    While there has been a general decline in electricity consumption as a whole, the decrease has been slightly greater among consumers connected to the distribution system (down 17%) than among the 149 industrial sites with direct connections to Elia’s high-voltage grid (down 14%). In March 2020, the distribution system accounted for 66% of Belgium’s total electricity consumption.

    Since electricity consumption is dropping gradually, market players can adjust their forecasts and Elia can therefore anticipate changes. The electricity system continues to operate smoothly. In this connection, Elia would like to thank grid users for their willingness to responsively provide additional resources to help keep the situation in check. In addition, there is sufficient margin for balancing the system (upward or downward regulation).

  • MWh price hits all-time low on the short-term market

    The current situation also has an impact on the MWh price of electricity on the short-term market (day-ahead market). This can be explained by the fact that electricity generation is sufficient both in Belgium and in neighbouring countries, but demand is falling. This reduces the price per MWh. As long as demand remains low, this price phenomenon can continue. In the graphic below, you can see the average MWh price (by month) in recent years.

  • Impact on Elia Group

    Most of our activities are still being performed because of their socio-economic importance and our vigorous efforts to ensure business continuity. For this reason, Elia Group does not expect the current situation to have a material impact on the financial results for 2020. Our cash flows and financial performance are largely insured through the regulated framework within which we operate. Consequently, Elia Group will go ahead with proposing a dividend of €1.69 at the general meeting on 19 May 2020.

    Potential decreases in turnover may temporarily affect liquidity needs. This is being monitored carefully. Depending on how long the coronavirus measures remain in force, we may also need to factor in delays in the implementation of investment projects. At present, such delays are not considered to have a significant impact on profitability. We are monitoring events closely and doing everything possible to implement our proposed strategy within the context as we know it.

  • Post-coronavirus measures
    Although it is not currently clear how long the coronavirus measures will remain in force, the task force is already beginning work on scenarios for a resumption of activities to enable a smooth transition to a normal working environment.

Watch the KanalZ report

KanaalZ report to learn how Elia applies strict measures to ensure employee safety while keeping the lights on.

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