Energy Pool is a dynamic SME in Savoy (French Alps) that puts the consumption flexibility of its industrial customers at the service of transmission system and network operators, particularly in France and Japan.
At this time of instability, the nerve center that drives demand response operations, called the Network Operations Center (NOC), is more than ever in the spotlight.
How did this cell organize itself to respond, whatever happens, to requests from France and abroad?
We asked our three NOC’s managers: Alain Dardy, COO for Energy Pool Japan, Sofiane Sarra, manager of the operational center in France, and Ahmet Ozan Zeybekfor, Turkey Operations Deputy Manager.
Crossed perspectives between France, Turkey and Japan.
1. Give us a quick reminder : what is the Network Operations Center at Energy Pool ?
The NOC is the nerve center of the flexibility operations of Energy Pool.
It’s a room full of screens, located in our Technolac headquarters (Bourget du Lac, French Alps), with a posted technician 24/24 and 7/7 within a team of 6 people working in shifts.
The network operations center in France has 2 main missions:
First, we provide a service to RTE, the French transmission system operator, to secure the electrical system: we give RTE the energy needed to keep the system in balance. To do this, we follow RTE’s adjustment needs in real time (materialized on the adjustment mechanism/balancing market). We are currently providing services on this adjustment mechanism (notably through “fast reserve”) and frequency regulation services.
In addition, we follow a list of indicators allowing us to anticipate the adjustment needs of RTE, and we monitor the consumption of industrial sites in real time to ensure optimal reliability of our services. Finally, we are activating our demand response capacities, at the request of RTE.
Second, we serve as a back-up for our subsidiaries located abroad.
Turkey is in preparations for the necessary regulations for demand response. For this reason, we have been providing market operations management and imbalance management services for both large energy consumers and producers since February 2017. We have a 24/7 and 7/7 working sistem with a team of 6 people. While we support power plants and industrial consumers within our services on market operations, we help them to reduce their energy costs.
From our side, we do not provide services 24 hours a day and we are responsible for implementing demand response orders on behalf of our main partner, TEPCO, the leading utility in Japan, with its customers.
The 3 “NOC” in Japan, Turkey and France
2. How did you prepare for the likelihood of quarantine, in order to go on your activities no matter what? Have you shared good practices?
The NOC in Japan implemented telework procedures much earlier than in France.
From February 26, we put all employees in telework one day to test the reliability of our activity under these conditions. We faced some malfunctions but learned a lot at the time, for the future.
Then, the week after we decided to carry out 3 days of telework per week, especially to avoid crowded trains from Tokyo. Then, on March 16, we decided to switch to a weekly rate of 4 days of telework and 1 day of presence at the office for all the teams, before deciding on March 30 to switch entirely to telework.
In particular, some well-identified NOC technicians already had all the equipment and facilities necessary to perform remote operations, given the high levels of climatic and seismic risks (earthquakes, typhoons) that exist in Japan. We then sent computer equipment (monitors, etc.) to the homes of those who expressed the need, before increasing the proportion of telework.
In addition, to ensure the reliability of the NOC in Japan, we organized a remote Demand Response activation simulation : it was planned the first time, and unexpected the second time. The tests proved to be perfectly conclusive, reassuring us on this point.
I would particularly like to thank our teams for their human energy, commitment and responsiveness in these particular circumstances, and in particular our director of the NOC, Ms. Reiko Kamiyanagi.
For our part, end of February, before the quarantine was announced and knowing what was happening in Italy and in the rest of the world, we drew up 3 scenarios :
– Scenario 1: Partial containment with authorization to go to work
The NOC technicians would continue to work in shift in the offices, strictly observing hygiene measures.
– Scenario 2: Total containment, within the company offices
We asked the local administration for exceptional confinement authorization for a small team of 4/5 volunteer technicians + 2 on-call managers.
We would remain confined in offices with good hygiene conditions and food resources (non-perishable products already stored, cot, shower)
Regarding this scenario, we exchanged a lot with the Japanese NOC team to set up “good survival” conditions” : our Japanese colleagues have indeed been equipped for a long time to ensure a continuity plan for activities with helmets, portable toilets, and survival rations (especially to deal with earthquakes).
– Scenario 3: Inability to access offices and obligation to stay at home
We have planned to equip 3 work stations with everything necessary for the management of remote operations. These three work stations are located at the home of volunteer technicians.
We regularly share via email and Yammer, with the NOC in Turkey and the NOC Japan, on the tests we carry out, this allows an effective sharing of experience and a rapid action, beyond cultural reluctancies:
We can say that the common point between our 3 NOCs, and more generally between the subsidiaries of Energy Pool is the listening and the human commitment of our collaborators. These scenarios and this sharing of experiences were done in agreement with NOC employees: the exceptional rotation of technicians is done on a voluntary basis.
The first case in Turkey is seen around mid-March. Therefore, we were already observing our partners in France and Japan, and working to develop a method suitable for our country and operations.
Teleworking has never been done before in Turkey. For this reason, by contacting our employees firstly, we created appropriate shift system which we can work 24/7, and we have determined replacement personnel for each employe. We have arranged all the equipment needed to be prepared for internet or power outages. We have followed the necessary steps to establish system security. We allocated computer equipments to our employees that are missing for telewoking and started a one-day trial period. There was no problem in our trial period, it encouraged us and we started working from home.
In this process, we called our customers and declared that we would be with them and continue our services regardless. We have already seen the results of the first month and our performance is progressing very high with the devoted work of our team.
3. We can see emerging solidarity chains in France and abroad, at the health level but also in other fields (digital, training …), do you participate in it, in a certain way? How ?
The energy sector is a sector where solidarity should exist. Especially when we consider the needs of the sectors it affects and modern times, it is always necessary to go beyond normal assistance to ensure that the required energy meets the users. In 24/7 working shifts, the need for cooperation reaches its peak. I can already see that both our subsidiaries and employees have this spirit. This extraordinary assistance which required for extraordinary situations was the key to our easy transition to teleworking. It would be impossible for all three countries to achieve successful results without devotion and effort.
In this particular period but also in normal times, Energy Pool and the network operations center participate in mutual energy assistance (thus, we have, in the past and on several occasions, rescued certain aggregators or reserve providers unable to honor their commitments to of RTE).
In addition, mutual aid exists within Energy Pool itself between the NOCs of France, Turkey and Japan: our Japanese colleagues sometimes send us an email with a phone call, to indicate that they are no longer able to assume their operations for such or such reason: we can then connect directly to their system to carry out the operation for them, all this by following a very strict procedure.
To conclude, I would say that the hyper-organization of the NOC, be it French, Turkish or Japanese, is a reflection of the expertise, professional conscience and commitment of Energy Pool employees globally.
In Japan we see this crisis as a form of opportunity to change work habits, to prove that it is possible to manage an energy system in an extremely reliable way while being at a distance, especially in the field of energy where the telework is not widespread at all.
Didn’t we say that the SARS crisis was an opportunity to extend the adoption of online shopping in China? Will this be the case for telework and this COVID 19 crisis?
Alain Dardy , for 2 years at Energy Pool after more than 15 years at EDF and AREVA, is COO of the Japanese subsidiary of Energy Pool. Sofiane Sarra is manager of the operational center in France, leading a team of 6 people. Ahmet Ozan Zeybekfor, Turkey Operations Deputy Manager.
What about you ? what have you put in place with your colleagues and in your companies to go on serving your client during this delicate period? React to our article on Linkedin with the #HumanEnergy !