CEO View: Re-investing in Resilience

20th May 2020


Covid Impact: Re-investing in Resilience

The energy community continues to face major challenges as the world grapples with the Covid-19 crisis. 96% of energy businesses have been affected. We continue to see the effects of an historic drop in global energy demand, price, and use. As governments take measures to control the spread of the virus, businesses within and outside of energy are adjusting their ways of working while facing operational and financial challenges in response to changing demands and disruptions along value chains. But despite all of this, we have kept the lights on. We have ensured uninterrupted supply to support the needs of business and society.

Since shortly after the crisis began to unfold, we have been asking our global community to tell us how their organisations have been affected and what their top concerns and early learnings have been (you can get up to date with the preliminary findings on business continuity and planning, implications for energy systems and energy transition, and critical uncertainties). While the survey remains open for continuous tracking of shifting perspectives of the global community (you can participate in our second round survey here), a first set of responses from more than 200 members of the world energy community across 6 regions and 53 countries have enabled us to facilitate an exchange of best practices and early learning for managing a crisis.

We have learned a lot through this process, but one thing stands out above all else: the world energy community’s resiliency extends far beyond the flow of electrons.

Living Through the Crisis

Yes, many energy organisations face the challenge of temporary closure of their facilities and offices – approximately 25% of our respondents have indicated such. But the majority of energy organisations are still maintaining essential system operations and keeping the lights on and continuing to strive towards greater provision of clean, affordable and reliable energy for the billions of people who lack basic and/or quality energy access.

Most respondents have been impacted by the decrease in energy demand, reduced productivity and cash flow issues, and many face issues with the security and stability of operations and the inability of customers to pay bills. But despite this, energy organisations are demonstrating remarkable agility. Teams are adapting - introducing remote work arrangements, implementing rigorous cleaning programmes, establishing crisis teams and leveraging government support schemes. Respondents have overwhelmingly identified the care and safely of employees as a core priority and have lived up to that claim – all while maintaining headcount and keeping the lights on.

Looking to the Future

The vast majority of our respondents (80%) expect a quick recovery for their organisations. In fact, if restriction measures were lifted today, many expect return to pre-Covid, business-as-usual within 6 months. Interestingly, though, while only 10% expect a post-pandemic ‘new normal’ for their organisations, more (15%) expect a 'new normal' for energy systems and even more (30%) for society.

Without knowing what is to come, our community is preparing now for the new challenges of psychological-, social-, financial- and economic- resilience revealed by this crisis and the associated implications for both energy systems and the pace and direction of global energy transition. These include the positive spill-over effects of a new forced pace of digital transformation – a rapid shift to digital ways of working, new operating models with increased remote-working capabilities and adjustments in corporate culture.  Attention to negative spill-over effects – digital skills and capabilities gaps, new cyber security challenges – are also starting to gather attention.

They’re focusing on enhanced ‘head-to-head' resilience – people, control centres, global energy value chains, to ensure better planning and preparedness. Half of respondents expect improved resilience skills and capabilities as a long-term implication for their organisations. The rapid spread of the Covid-19 virus has highlighted global interdependency and the inter-connectivity of supply chains. It has demonstrated an imperative for new and effective collaborative solutions. And it has shown us that, above all, resilience must extend beyond the technical aspects of energy to whole system resilience - strengthening new strategic buffers, ensuring diversity of mix and flexible storage solutions. And if we work together in navigating this crisis, we can ensure the resilience our people, our society, and our energy communities,

Join the World Energy Council

Engage in strategic dialogue with the energy leaders of today and the future, build capabilities and help shape the energy future.