During the last few weeks, we have seen, heard, and read various information, in all possible media, about the pandemic that affects humanity. The impact of COVID-19 in Latin America and the Caribbean is beginning to directly affect the lives of the population due to the decisions, both political and economic, that governments have taken in favor of social protection and human life. Everything indicates that the effects of the pandemic in the medium and long term will be severe, not only on the health of the population and their access to basic services, but also on their income and lifestyle. Social-distancing and quarantine measures, as well as an increase in the provision of health services, increase the pressure on public service systems such as energy, water, and sanitation to keep such measures effective since their continuity is vital.
In addition to the health and residential sectors, telecommunications, water systems, and even garbage collection in places where it is carried out by electric trucks, such as in some cities in Brazil, people, in general, depend heavily on the continuity of the service. Therefore, it is necessary to reinforce electrical systems with measures that allow governments to face the challenges of this crisis.
The challenges of the electricity sector to maintain continuity of service in conditions of quality and reliability are based, on one hand, on guaranteeing affordability for urban sectors, services and industry. This as a way to mitigate the social effects and the economic impact on companies. And, on the other hand, to guarantee the financial sustainability of the electricity sector.
In the short term, the continuity of the operation of the electricity system is based on guaranteeing the availability of key workers, their infrastructure and technological platforms, as well as having vital supplies such as fuels and spare parts. In the medium and long term, mechanisms will be required to guarantee the financial and operational viability of companies. For this reason, there are different measures taken by the OECD countries to ensure the technical sustainability and affordability of energy service during the crisis. In Latin America and the Caribbean, some countries have already adopted isolated measures, but it is necessary to apply structured strategies in the short and medium-term, for which it will be necessary to consider the specific characteristics of each country and the profile of its consumers to guarantee adequate provision. of services.
In this sense, it is important that electricity companies, institutions related to the sector and providers of health services and essential public services establish plans that ensure the continuity of their services during the contingency. The measures and actions to be implemented are based on a series of priorities that must be addressed, which can be grouped into two areas: those of the electricity sector and those that support public health systems and essential services.
a) Measures in the electricity sector:
The priorities to be addressed in the electricity sector to guarantee continuity in the provision of service include:
a.1) Health and occupational safety of employees
- Supply of Personal Protective Equipment, to ensure adequate control of occupational risk, such as masks, gloves, gel, disinfectant, shoe covers and glasses.
- Health control and prevention equipment, so that there is equipment such as thermal imaging cameras and thermometers to control the temperature of the employees.
- Health inspection services in strategic power plants or control centers, by incorporating shift inspection of health professionals to ensure the entry of unaffected people into the workplace, including training of personnel on health standards to be implemented in their workplaces, as well as protocols and rules to be followed in the event of observing suspects of infection (for example, separation to avoid contact between workers in different shifts and disinfection of control and communication equipment).
- Assignment of vehicles for the transport of personnel for the operation and maintenance of electrical infrastructure.
- Adequacy of facilities for isolation, intended for people who have been exposed to possible contagion and must enter the quarantine period immediately, for example, in construction camps far from a post or health center.
- Adequacy of facilities or construction of temporary camps in strategic facilities, for personnel who must remain in the facilities for extended periods of time, so as to limit the exposure of key operating personnel and to ensure the continuity of work shifts.
a.2) Remote work
- Personal technological equipment, such as laptops, internet service, software licenses, so that teleworking can be massified. Storage services and operation of cloud systems will be key to the operational continuity of companies.
- Strengthening of cybersecurity, due to new remote connections, via the internet, in power plants, distribution and operation centers of the power system.
a.3) Emergency investments
- Increased security in strategic plants, including remote monitoring of strategic locations and the incorporation of auxiliary communication systems, to have communication alternatives from different points in the system.
a.4) Operating expenses
- Supplies such as fuels, lubricants, filters and spare parts to ensure continuity of operation and maintenance, both in generation plants, and for distribution and network systems.
- Hiring of operation crews, both main and additional, to ensure the continuity of the operation in control centers, generation units, technological information systems and for the maintenance of networks.
b) Key measures in public health systems and essential services:
Priorities to be taken into consideration in hospitals, health centers and other public services such as water, sanitation and telecommunications:
- Provision of electrical generation or energy storage equipment, both main and back-up, including the review of internal electricity distribution infrastructure.
- Verification, maintenance or repair of electrical systems, so that the main or auxiliary generation equipment and the internal distribution systems are in optimal service conditions.
The implementation of measures and strategies during the contingency will not only guarantee the adequate provision of electricity to the population and health posts and hospitals so that they can meet the high demand generated by the pandemic, but it will also be a key factor to promote the sustainability of the electricity sector “the day after”.