Utilities Middle East
UPSKILLING ENERGY NETWORKS WITH WORKFORCE MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS
To get the greatest benefit from workforce management systems, energy networks should take a bionic approach to select and implement them, says Ferdinand Varga,
Managing Director & Senior Partner, BCG
Digital workforce management (WFM) systems are a vital necessity for energy network utilities that are saddled with manpower challenges. This is especially true when field teams make up the largest part of their workforce.
Yet many WFM solutions have not lived up to their promise. To get the greatest benefit from WFM systems, energy networks should take a bionic approach to select and implement them.
The right solution implemented in a bionic fashion can not only dispatch field teams more efficiently but also help increase the amount of work that they accomplish thus capturing efficiencies and improving customer service.
No less important, implementing a WFM system using a bionic approach can help an energy network respond to challenges in critical situations. Networks that were using such systems during the pandemic were able to adopt socialdistancing and contact-tracing practices, both of which proved key to their resilience. Customers, too, can benefit: outages can be shorter and more predictable, service calls can be completed faster, and emergencies can be handled better.
A WFM solution that is chosen by IT often fails to deliver the needed functionality; as a result, the system isn’t used. Business leaders should also oversee the implementation, which should mostly focus on change management.
According to BCG’s research, the most successful digital transformations focus 70% of their efforts on building capabilities and transforming the business, 20% on selecting the appropriate technology and IT stack, and 10% on developing the algorithms. Employees from operations also need to be involved so that they can help fit the solution to their needs, learn how to use the new technology, and commit to it.
A well-designed WFM solution allows scheduling and dispatching supervisors to work with the algorithms throughout the scheduling and dispatching process. For example, the system should enable supervisors to run potential scenarios in the planning phase.
Then, in the scheduling and dispatching phase, the system should allow for quick workload adjustments (for example, pushing noncustomer-facing jobs to a week later) and shortterm capacity adjustments (such as permitting cross-depot staffing) to optimise how much work the field team can handle in a certain job setting and a certain period.
A top-quality system also learns continuously from input provided by the users. By monitoring the number of times an employee runs late or works overtime, for example, the system can learn to ask questions about the employee’s workload.
Companies should consider purchasing a platform solution that can be customised by one of the newer WFM system vendors.
These platforms make upgrades easier.
That’s an important consideration given energy networks’ increasing appetite for launching additional services, which can add new workflows and information needs for the field teams.
Many energy networks start by implementing a solution that addresses the least efficient part of their scheduling and dispatching process or a particular point of friction, such as managing client appointments. But these are partial solutions that may be hard to develop further.
It’s also possible that they won’t fit well with additional solutions that are required to address other functionality needs.
Networks need to have a thorough understanding of the underlying, end-to-end business processes and an overall ambition for the end state before they define the business requirements of the WFM solution. Some networks opt for modular systems that can be phased in as a workaround. But those solutions will create greater value if knowledge of the end-toend business processes is acquired first.
Getting a WFM solution to deliver is a daunting task that requires considerable commitment and effort. But the payoffs—greater efficiencies and significantly better customer service—make it well worth the effort.
Aglobal coalition of 108 leading wind energy companies and associations, representing 81% of installed wind energy worldwide, is challenging governments to take dramatic action to scale up wind and renewable energy in this decade.
If the world is to get on track for 1.5°C-compliant pathway to net zero, annual global wind energy installations must quadruple by 2030 to around 390 GW per year, according to the International Energy Agency, and by 2050, wind energy must generate more than one-third of global electricity, up from 6% today.
But urgent action must be taken to realise this goal and unleash the full potential of wind technology to provide secure, affordable and clean energy for communities across the world.
The Global Wind Energy Manifesto for COP27 warns that while wind energy is one of the most
18 competitive, mature and quickly deployable energy technologies we have today, to thrive it needs large, steady and visible volumes for deployment and a robust global supply chain.
This can only be achieved through clear and practical actions set out in the manifesto, including:
• Urgently streamline planning and permitting schemes for grid scale renewables projects;
• Rapidly build out vital grid infrastructure for integration of clean energy and cross-sector decarbonisation;
• To evolve power markets to both incentivise investment in renewable generation and allow citizens to benefit from the affordable, secure generation provided.
Making it clear that the wind industry stands ready to work together to achieve the required rapid scale-up of wind installations this decade, signatories of the manifesto include the largest companies in the sector such as Iberdrola, Ørsted, EDP Renewables, Vestas, Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy, Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners, as well as the wind industry associations in China, Brazil, South Africa, Europe, the UK, Australia and more.
The wind industry is already delivering significant growth and benefits to the global energy system on security, cost and climate.
In 2021 94 GW of wind energy capacity was added globally producing around 275 TWh of electricity per year – more than the current annual electricity demand in Australia and enough to displace over one-third of the EU’s imports of Russian gas prior to the invasion.
But decisions at COP27 and in the next few years will determine whether the world can leverage wind and renewable energy to get on track for net zero and secure a livable, just and equitable energy transition.
“In the midst of a global energy shock, and with just seven years left to limit global emissions in line with the Paris Agreement, it’s time we realised that energy security and climate security are not in conflict,” says Morten Dyrholm, Group Senior Vice President at Vestas Wind Systems A/S.
“Renewable projects are waiting in the wings across the world, it’s time to move projects in to construction, and to get grid networks built. In a shifting society, resilience is key, and renewables are the way to unlock it.”
Michael Hannibal, Partner at Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners is calling for collective efforts in contributing to the green transition globally that is so urgently needed for the climate.
“I’m looking forward to COP27 because it will give us the chance to build on the hard work of COP26. And a chance to see all the good political ambitions lived out and translated into the action, implementation, and speed that we need to make it happen,” he says.
“As the Manifesto highlights, COP27 is a crucial opportunity to focus international efforts and investment on renewable energy solutions,” says Chris Antonopoulos, CEO of Lekela Power.
“Our experience has shown that collaboration is essential to building and operating utility-scale wind projects. We are proud to be a committed member of GWEC and advocate for the Manifesto, and we look forward to working with our industry partners to engage with businesses and government on the renewable energy imperative. Together, we can build a clean, secure and affordable energy system that is fit for the future.”
“Wind energy is one of the most competitive, mature and quickly deployable technologies we have today. The industry has decades of experience in delivering clean energy while generating industry and additional jobs. At a time when the need for improved energy security and decarbonised economies has been pulled into sharp focus by global events, the industry stands ready to support government efforts to deliver but needs clear and practical action now to realise this potential,” says Ben Backwell, GWEC CEO.
“COP27 presents an opportunity for policymakers to come together to deal with these twin crises. The opportunity to draw a line under the unstable and unsecure fossil fuel era is there waiting to be seized by leaders around the world. It is time the world welcomed in the renewables era bringing clean energy and clean jobs with it.”
Joyce Lee, Chair of the Global Wind Energy Coalition for COP27, points out that scaling up wind energy is a win-win for people and the planet, delivering lower energy prices, stimulating investment, economic growth and job creation, while helping countries meet their climate targets and supporting secure energy.
The tools, technology and know-how are on our side. But policymakers must act now to deliver the secure and clean energy system the world sorely needs. That means urgent action to accelerate renewables, from speeding up permitting of projects to governments providing clear and ambitious timelines on buildout.”
The manifesto calls on policymakers, financial institutions and other stakeholders to work together on eight concrete action areas:
Scale up ambition and higher volumes for wind power, and reflect this in updated Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) by the end of 2022, comprehensive national climate and net zero strategies and short- and long-term energy plans.
Urgently streamline permitting schemes for grid-scale renewable energy projects to accelerate wind energy deployment and build a net zerocompatible project pipeline in the energy sector.
Commit to action plans to rapidly build out grids for integration of clean energy and cross-sector decarbonisation.
Evolve energy markets for the future.
Avoid long-term lock-in of fossil fuel-based generation in the current energy security crisis.
Develop cohesive and inclusive policies to enact
a just and equitable energy transition.
Ensure national and regional finance adhere to robust benchmarks and guardrails for a net zero, 1.5°C-compliant pathway.
Progress the implementation of the global rulebook on carbon pricing, particularly Articles 6.2 and 6.4 of the Paris Agreement.
Wind and solar PV are the cheapest option for new power generation in many countries, even before the extreme price spikes and volatility for coal and gas in 2022. Renewables, grids and storage now account for more than 80% of total power sector investment, with increases especially in China and EMDEs. (IEA World Energy Investment 2022)
Gas displacement potential: Accelerating the growth of renewable electricity can significantly reduce the use of gas at a time of tight supply and high prices.
For example, the 94 GW of wind added in 2021 produces around 275 TWh of electricity per year enough to displace nearly 50 billion cubic metres (bcm) of fossil gas. This is equivalent to over one-third of the EU’s imports of Russian gas prior to the invasion
The 73 GW of onshore wind added to the grid in 2021 generates 201 TWh per year, which is enough to displace 34 billion cubic metres of fossil gas.
The 21.1 GW of offshore wind added to the grid in 2021 generates 74 TWh per year, which is enough to displace 13 billion cubic metres of fossil gas.