Covid-19 energy industry copes

The Australian energy industry has implemented contingency plans to maintain security of supply during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Australian Energy Council and Energy Networks Australia confirmed their members have been working to maintain the safety of their people, the security of the energy system and to support customers who are experiencing difficult circumstances.

Australian Energy Council Chief Executive, Sarah McNamara, and Energy Networks Australia CEO, Andrew Dillon, said the immediate focus was on ensuring the wellbeing of employees and customers with the implementation of pandemic and contingency plans.

“Safety is always our top priority. Energy companies have undertaken a range of measures in response to this pandemic to ensure its workforce, assets and energy supply are protected,” Ms McNamara said.

“These plans are to ensure the lights stay on and the gas keeps flowing,” Mr Dillon said.

Pandemic response measures underway include: 

  • Ensuring essential supplies, including the stockpiling of fuel supplies
  • Reviewing any scheduled plant or network outages for maintenance and assessing the need and potential for rescheduling
  • Further restricting access to control rooms and limiting access to areas required by critical staff
  • Splitting of teams and establishment of multiple, separate teams; rostering changes
  • Non-contact and social distancing for shift changes
  • Implementing new working arrangements, including having staff work remotely when feasible
  • Monitoring of essential service providers
  • Maintenance of personal protective equipment stocks

Ms McNamara said that generators and retailers recognised the rapidly evolving nature of the pandemic, and would continue to review and assess what further steps may be required as the situation unfolds.

Mr Dillon said that Energy Network Australia was in regular contact with the Federal Energy Minister, Angus Taylor, and regulators to ensure coordination and knowledge sharing.

Members are also working closely with the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO), as well as other relevant regulators and government.

“There continues to be industry-wide consultation on pandemic preparations and necessary responses with AEMO in regular discussions with generators, network and transmission companies and gas companies,” Ms McNamara said. 

“Every part of the energy supply chain will face challenges, which is why we are ensuring we keep communicating between businesses, with the government and importantly with customers,” Mr Dillon said.

“If you are under isolation, have been exposed or tested positive for COVID-19 and require a network crew to attend your property, please contact your network provider so appropriate steps can be taken.

“We all have a role to play in limiting infection and protecting the general public and essential personnel.”

Incoming Chair of the Energy Charter CEO Council, Australian Gas Infrastructure Group CEO, Ben Wilson, said this was about putting customers front and centre. 

“The community response to contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus is unprecedented. As further interventions to slow the rate of disease spreading across the country are imminent, the need for supply of essential services to support our community and ensure everyone’s safety is paramount,” Mr Wilson said on behalf of the CEO Council.

In line with their commitment to the Energy Charter’s five principles, 19 CEOs across the gas and electricity supply chains are working collaboratively to ensure the provision of energy for customers at this time of crisis. They are also committed to supporting those customers hit the hardest during this time of pandemic.

Customers impacted are encouraged to contact their energy retailer or distributor directly to find out what assistance is available to them.

A closer look: APA to continue operations

APA has announced that its critical facilities and essential field sites will remain operational to ensure its assets remain safe and services to customers continue.

The APA Group, comprising the Australian Pipeline Trust (APT) and APT Investment Trust (APTIT), said its focus is on the safety of its people and the community, and the resilience of critical operations. 

In light of recent announcements by the prime minister and various state premiers about progressive shutdowns of non-essential services, APA’s employees will work remotely wherever possible. 

Offices and field depots will remain open for essential activities only, such as the Integrated Operations Centre.

A dedicated Crisis Management Team, reporting to the CEO and Managing Director, Rob Wheals, will continue to monitor the situation and lead APA’s response.

“APA is absolutely focused on its essential role in ensuring the ongoing supply of gas and electricity for Australians. We will continue to do that safely and reliably,” Mr Wheals said.

“APA has mature and well-tested business continuity plans that will ensure our assets, people and communities remain safe and that our valued services are provided to our customers in accordance with our Customer Promise.

“We will work collaboratively with others in our industry to provide the essential services that our customers and the people of Australia rely on.”

APA has a robust crisis management capability. A cross-functional team has been monitoring advice on the ongoing escalation of the COVID-19 outbreak and managing issues as they arise, as well as planning ahead. 

The company is working with its key stakeholders to maintain service continuity and critical supplies, and to understand and manage potential challenges going forward.

APA has followed government advice on actions to be taken. This has included a progressive move to remote working, and other social distancing protocols, in order to provide for the health and well-being of our people and their families, while at the same time ensuring the operational resilience of its energy infrastructure and the services it supplies.

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