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Italy’s geothermal sector and its current situation – checking in with friends

Italian flag over Rome, Italy (source: flickr/ pocheco, creative commons)
Alexander Richter 30 Mar 2020

Checking in with friends - Our Italian friends have likely been hit the hardest by the covid-19 situation at the moment , so we wanted to briefly check in with our friends at Enel Green Power, Turboden, Exergy and STEAM.

With the covid-19 situation gripping our daily lives, the effects are felt all over the world. While we might be inconvenienced due to the lock down, some countries have been effected worse than others, among those Italy.

With the full force of the virus having taken a tight grip on Italy and its economy, we checked in with some of our friends in the industry, all more or less located near the “epicentre” of the virus in the Northern part of Italy.

Here is their take on the situation.

Paolo Romagnoli, Head of Geothermal Centre of Excellence and Drilling Unit at Enel Green Power

Enel is using a flexible approach to the emergency in relation to the business and country.

Looking to the geothermal activities so far, only the plant operation & maintenance is active. Drillings has been stopped and all the office are closed. We are applying the smart working (already in place but in the past limited at one day per week).

A strong effort has been made to increase the digital offer from the company that includes also psychological support and a way to pay similar to Pay Pal without any fees.

To maintain a space for the personal relation, every working day we drink a “virtual” coffee in group as we did before the crisis waiting to drink  again the real one in the same place!

 

Albert Yam, CEO of Exergy

The unexpected spread of the Covid-19 pandemic worldwide has for sure changed our life and habits and this of course impacted our activities and the way we work. At Exergy we have started since the very beginning to take this situation seriously. Our parent company TICA has sent to our office in Italy since February 200.000 face masks for all employees as well as for the communities around, some thermometers to track body temperature and shared instructions and guidelines for the prevention of virus infection based on their experience in China. Since the beginning of March before the Italian government issued the Decree with the first limitations on the activities, some of us were already working remotely. Now we are of course all working from our homes. In addition to this, to safeguard the health of its employee, EXERGY has also introduced some welfare instruments providing insurance coverage for all workers.

In terms of internal organization fortunately we have a streamlined and flexible structure and this allowed our teams to adapt their activities to this new condition quickly. All departments are operational remotely thanks to the support of our IT infrastructure. We use video call systems as Zoom or Skype to establish virtual board rooms for internal meetings and we are in touch with customers, partners and collaborators through emails and the same videoconference systems.  In terms of after sales service our remote control system allows us to monitor our power plants in operation and assist our customers remotely in case of any need. For all the activities that does not require a presence onsite or a face to face meeting we aren’t experiencing so much trouble for now, we can use this experience positively to discover all the advantages connected to smart-working, as first the optimization of time and resources normally spent to go to the office or to travel across the globe.

The main challenges for us are connected to the ongoing projects which had some onsite activities and also to some orders for materials due to government lockdown in various countries. But we are working closely with partners and suppliers and we are engaged to assist our customers at best to minimize the impact of the Covid-19 on our projects.

We are positive and we think that with collaboration, responsibility of everybody and uniting our forces as international geothermal community, keeping trust in the market, together with the radical measures deployed by the Italian and all other Governments we will be able to stop this threat soon.

 

Luca Xodo, Director of Sales and Business Development, STEAM S.r.l.

Steam, before the Italian government issued the first decrees on this matter, started a progressive fade out from the office activities in the last week of February, when, after the first cases were discovered, our people from northern Italy started home office. One week later, during the first week of March, we decided to close our main office in Pisa, and last week our last colleague working on site in Kenya returned home and he is now working in preventative quarantine.

We keep the spirit of the company up with regular teamwork: everybody has the responsibility to keep connected with very other colleague with calls or videoconferences at least once a day, just like nobody ever takes the coffee alone when we are in the office. Additionally, we have several group meetings online, so that Steam family keeps the same shared vision, thoughts and targets. Our services are ongoing with our problems, luckily our customers in Italy and abroad are proceeding in their geothermal developments for now.

We cannot serve on site, which is a sustainable situation for a couple of months before the projects start suffering significant delays. We are worried for the future business in case the virus continues spreading along summertime, as it would impact the whole geothermal community worldwide, but we know that challenges for existing and future investments may come especially from the very low oil price experienced these days. On the other side, renewable energies may favour a new environmental consciousness, feeling that we humans are part of a whole. If you ask me what the geothermal community can do for us…well, it’s very simple: continue investing without fear and let us help them from remote. Know-how is immaterial and we can share it in many ways. If we want to make it positive, we think that this “new course” of business can teach us all how important is to keep a community unite even when it is not possible to work face by face: phone calls, videoconferencing, everything that technology can do in order to help people connecting each other is important.

Maybe also our environmental impact as businessmen in the future will be lower, as we discover that we do not need to make as many meetings in person as we thought. The personal acquaintance is of utmost importance in business, but we can tailor it to the new situation. I personally received some tens of calls in the last weeks from many countries of every single continent of the world:  just like long-time friends these colleagues wanted to express their nearness in this situation. This was astonishing and moving for me.

Yes, we are facing and we will face challenges. But together we can make the best out of it.

 

Paolo Bertuzzi, CEO of Turboden

We all know the current critical situation due to the pandemic effects of the Covid-19 virus in many Regions of the World and specifically in our Lombardia Region, with serious consequences on the sanitary system.

Of course, this situation is changing our daily behavior, with severe restrictions in our private life and in the labor activities of Turboden employees as well as of our suppliers and services providers.

While fully complying with the Italian Government restrictions and all the countermeasures and travel restrictions coming from MHI guidelines, our Company is working with the goal of maintaining the contractual obligations, both for projects execution and for the after sales/warranty activities (with minimum impact on schedules as of today). We are also working to secure new orders in the interest of the business continuity of Turboden itself and of the projects execution of all our customers.

This is possible thanks to:

  • the adoption of a flexible structure of Turboden activities (considering that the manufacturing activities of Turboden products are mainly subcontracted to third party specialized companies. Turboden core activities are in fact mainly focused on design, commissioning and after-sales services/warranty);
  • possibility to leverage a global supply chain, not limited to the Italian suppliers;
  • smart working attitude of Turboden employees and remote control monitoring (strongly intensified in the last weeks);
  • two production sites where we assembly our turbines (Italy and Turkey);
  • branches network abroad /third parties license companies to execute after sales/warranty activities;
  • International group support from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.

We are also confident that the drastic measures implemented by the Italian Government will permit to contain and reduce the expansion of the Covid-19 virus, like happened in the Wuhan Region and in specific areas of Italy, where Red Zone with stringent limitations have been first adopted. .
If this will happen, we believe that the impacts on the production schedule and relative inconveniences could be limited to a reduced numbers of weeks.

We thank all our employees and partners for the strong effort in this period and all our customers for the trust in our Company in this critical time. I am confident that in this critical period, we will develop new working style, new skills and we will re-start stronger and ready for new challenges.