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European utilities detail plans to avoid coronavirus disruption

Highlights

RTE sets up special monitoring team

German TSOs: Daily reviews

Potential for on-site housing of key personnel

Bills for small businesses in Spain may be deferred

London — Energy utilities across Europe are acting to reassure consumers that essential services will be safeguarded from any disruption due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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In France, electricity transmission system operator RTE told S&P Global Platts a team had been set up to monitor absenteeism and epidemiological rates. "There are currently no confirmed cases in the company," it said.

RTE has a business continuity plan in the event of a health crisis, which could be activated immediately.

"This BCP is updated to ensure network management and supply security in France every second, every day, even in the event of a COVID-19 pandemic," it said.

The plan, which has several phases that can be rolled out as the situation evolves, was confidential, it said.

For now, it had applied a series of preventive measures "which can be reassessed in real time according to the recommendations of the health authorities: measures on limiting travel and groupings, strengthening cleaning, communication on hygiene measures," it said.

Germany's four national grid operators were reviewing guidelines on a daily basis, a spokesman for Amprion said on behalf of the four operators. That included travel restrictions, with more stringent security protocols in place for grid control centers.

"We are equipped in our control rooms for all emergencies, far beyond the current threat of the coronavirus," Amprion said.

German utility EnBW formed a task force early February to react to the unfolding situation, it said.

Actions include working from home, travel restrictions and video conferencing.

For critical infrastructure (grid, water, power plants), specific emergency plans include the potential to house critical personnel on-site, EnBW said.

PreussenElektra, which operates three German nuclear power plants, also had far-reaching preparations to guarantee operations in emergencies, it said.

In Spain, gas grid operator Enagas said it had activated a contingency plan, covering adjusted working hours and extra sanitation, in line with directions from Spain's health ministry. The company reported one case in its central Madrid office and closed the building.

Naturgy, Spain's largest gas group, said it had adjusted work schedules and implemented remote working and will guarantee operations in critical parts of the business. It has also said it will allow small businesses to defer their power and gas bills if necessary.

Spanish power grid operator REE, meanwhile, had reinforced security and isolation of its control systems and set up an independent control room.

Utility Iberdrola had drawn up a list of 65 measures to counter any effects the virus might have on its operations, with no reported cases yet.

Endesa/Enel has still not commented officially, though travel between the two companies was suspended several weeks ago, according to Spanish media reports.

In Italy, eyes were on a Cabinet meeting Friday where new economic measures will be announced.

On Wednesday, the UK's National Grid said visitor access to its power and gas control rooms had been suspended due to the coronavirus.

Utility EDF Energy had also restricted access to all its generation sites, the company told Platts.

A day earlier parent company EDF said three workers at separate nuclear sites (Belleville, Cattenom and Fessenheim) had tested positive for the virus. Normal operations were reported at the plants.

An EDF spokesman said the utility has had a pandemic plan in place since 2000 that had been updated during the H1N1 and SARS crises.

"In the event of a pandemic event, electricity production and the safety of installations must be ensured on a permanent basis, taking into account the absenteeism rate linked to the pandemic event and government decisions on restricting transport," the spokesman said.

On Wednesday, Slovakia's main power producer Slovenske Elektrarne said it had started to screen workers, suppliers, and visitors to its power plants in order to limit the coronavirus threat.

"If an entrant has a higher temperature or has been in a high-risk country or has other suspicions of illness, he or she will be forbidden to access all SE premises," the company said.

SE listed seven countries as high risk: China, Italy, Iran, South Korea, Germany, France and Spain.