CEO View: Planning Through a Crisis

7th April 2020


As the world’s essential energy workers continue to support the ‘at home’ needs of business and society and energy entrepreneurs work to accelerate clean, reliable and affordable energy for public health systems, our worldwide energy community is pulling together to share practical wisdom and contribute a value-adding voice and timely insights in these challenging times.

Society’s response to the ongoing crisis can provide a source of realistic hope – supporting our community-wide reflection and new cooperation on ‘how to’ build societal resilience through energy transition if we pull together as a worldwide community of energy systems designers, builders and pathfinders.

To help our members and their wider communities pull together, we have launched two surveys to establish a set of short-term scenarios that identify how the crisis is impacting organisations around the world and facilitate an exchange of best practices across regions on how to cope with the crisis. Our agile community-based scenario building process is gathering informed perspectives of our globally diverse energy community and engaging wider perspectives on emerging developments.

While both surveys are open for the Council’s members input until 8 April, recognising the imperative for a value-adding voice in fast changing circumstances, I wanted to take this time to bring you preliminary findings from the first of our surveys, covering business impact and continuity planning. We will provide initial findings of our Future Outlook in the coming days.

The first round of our global community survey has brought to light key challenges to, and recommendations for, managing the ongoing crisis.

Emotional Resilience Challenges

Almost 95% of our World Energy community said that their organisations are already affected by impacts and/or responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, with more than half of respondents experiencing significant disruption. Unsurprisingly, one of the top three management concerns is the welfare of employees and their families. The pervasive anxiety about the COVID-19 virus and the need and/or requirement for extended periods of social distancing and self-isolation are adding to a pre-existing sense of loneliness in a more digitally connected world. Meanwhile, many of our energy heroes are maintaining essential system operations, control centre staff and key operations staff, who have volunteered to be sequestered, are relying on their organisations and trade unions to help care for their families and the wider communities in which they reside.

Economic Resilience Challenges

Dealing with the sudden drop in demand for fuel and electricity load reductions has emerged as another top concern for management. We have seen a significant drop in the demand for power, gas and transport fuels, with daily grid loads falling by up to 45% in some countries. This raises new technical challenges in some parts of the system, as less load results in more REN onto grid (e.g. up from 10-10% to 40-40%), and creates potential implications for take-and-pay contracts in other parts as lower levels of gas are burned. Pervasive across most countries is the collapse of global oil prices, impacting not only fossil fuel-heavy companies and systems but the economics of new energy developments as well.

Digital Resilience Challenges

While some positive impacts are expected as a result of recent events, such as advancing digitalisation and the development of better resilience skills and capabilities, the crisis has also exposed digital gaps and blurred divides between household and workforce. It has created unprecedented stress on large swaths of parents as “breadwinners” and home educators. At the same time, new and rapid changes from work to home settings have exposed cybersecurity vulnerabilities and increased the risk of breaches.

Top Recommendations for Managing the Crisis

The key recommendation from respondents has been to accelerate digital transformation in organisations. From digital infrastructure, to skills, to communication strategy, these transformations have enabled better business continuity and provided new ways of working. Team engagement and a focus on supporting staff who are working remotely is also seen as being essential to ongoing wellbeing, whether social, emotional or physical.

Respondents have also utilised the current situation as an opportunity to develop new skills and organisational capabilities, including scenarios planning, risk management and resilience. Planning ahead, maintaining transparency and open communication, and matching human resources with changing demand has also been deemed invaluable, as has the importance of reduced or changed expectations, and the need to act fast and decisively while maintaining flexibility in the face of uncertainties.

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