Discover the Acea Group online 2020 Sustainability Report
Institutions and the Company
Institutions and the Company
Main objectives of the Strategic Plan
- Reducing the environmental impact
- Contributing to the well-being of the community
- Consolidating relations with the territory
- Health and safety of the communities with which the Group operates
Acea receives the "Prize of Prizes" and the "Companies for Innovation Award"
13 million of €
research and innovation projects
Acea develops the LabSharing platform for sharing know-how and state-of-the-art equipment outside the Company
Acea is partner of the National Association of Young Innovators
Acea took part in the Energy, Environment and Sustainability Technical Table for the drafting of the Manifesto for Energy and Sustainability
Interventions by sector authorities with respect to acea: reviews, bonuses and penalties
In the regulated sectors, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, Networks and Environment (ARERA) has long established bonus and penalty mechanisms to encourage the improvement of the performance of service operators. In 2020, Areti paid the Authority a penalty of approximately €5.4 million, with reference to the previous year’s operations, for regulating the continuity of the electricity service for LV users. It also paid approximately €129,000 to the Cassa per i Servizi Energetici e Ambientale (CSEA) for exceeding the standards set for MV users and €1.1 million to end customers for prolonged and extended interruptions.
Areti also earned approximately € 3 million as a resilience premium on the 2019 accrual.
The same Company appealed to the Lombardy Regional Administrative Court in relation to ARERA resolution no. 270/2020/R/ EFR of 14 July 2020, which approved the revision of the tariff contribution to be paid to distributors fulfilling their energy saving obligations under the TEE mechanism. Water companies Acea Ato 2, Acea Ato 5, AdF, Gori and Gesesa accrued automatic compensations payable to customers during the year of approximately €659,000, €123,000, €47,000, €280,000 and €37,000, respectively, in relation to contractual quality performance. In January 2020 Acea Ato 2 sent the STO the 2019 data related to the performance of contractual quality, and following verification the Secretariat calculated a bonus of about € 33.1 million.
During 2020, AGCM filed an appeal in order to obtain the annulment and/or reform of judgment no. 11960/2019 of the Lazio Regional Administrative Court, which fully upheld the appeals filed by Acea SpA, Acea Energia and Areti against the AGCM measure (measure 27496/2018) that jointly sanctioned the companies for €16.2 million for alleged anti-competitive conduct in the energy sales market.
In addition, in relation to the sanctioning measure of the AGCM issued at the end of the proceeding (PS9815) concerning the unsolicited activations of electricity and gas supplies, in its ruling of 24/09/2020, the Lazio Regional Administrative Court rejected the appeal lodged in 2016 by Acea Energia. The Company has appealed against this judgment. By way of Resolution no. 533/2019/S/com, the sanctioning procedure concerning the application of a surcharge to domestic end customers for receiving a paper invoice as part of free market offers was also closed against Acea Energia. Following the approval of the commitments submitted by Acea Energia in the framework of this proceeding, the Company started to fulfil them at the end of February 2020.
On 27 July 2020, Acea Energia and Areti lodged an appeal with the Lombardy Regional Administrative Court against resolution 184/2020/R/com, by which ARERA brought the sector legislation into line with the provisions of the 2020 Budget Law, providing that the provisions on the two-year statute of limitations apply to end customers by virtue of the mere passage of time.
As regards the water sector, Acea Ato2, Acea Ato5, Gesesa, Acea Molise, Gori, Acquedotto del Fiora and Umbra Acque appealed to the Lombardy Regional Administrative Court against resolution 186/2020/R/Idr, pursuant to which ARERA also brought the regulations for this sector into line with the 2020 Budget Law on the subject of the two-year statute of limitations applicable to end users.
During the year, 12 treatment plants operated by Gesesa were seized by the judicial authorities.
Finally, as for the litigation procedures of an environmental nature with public enforcement authorities (Arpa, Forestry, etc.), see Relations with the environment and the Environmental Accounts.
Awards in the field of innovation
Acea ’s commitment to innovation has been recognised by important institutional initiatives. In December, the Company was awarded the "Premio dei Premi" [Prize of Prizes]: this award, instituted by the Presidency of the Council of Ministers on behalf of the President of the Republic, is conferred annually on companies, industrial groups, public administrations and research bodies that have achieved significant product or process innovation. In particular, the award recognises Acea for having given "evidence of a structured approach to innovation that has led to the definition of an ‘Innovation Board’ and two organisational units for innovation, in support of corporate strategies".
The Company also won the "Premio Imprese per Innovazione" [Enterprise Award for Innovation], now in its 11th edition, promoted by Confindustria. This award is given to organisations that have successfully invested in research. The ‘Enterprise Award for Innovation’ participated in the ‘Industry and Services’ section of the above-mentioned ‘Prize of Prizes’. Acea has thus distinguished itself as one of the three large Italian companies that have most distinguished themselves for their work and achievements in innovation in recent years. CEO Giuseppe Gola said: “Innovation is an integral part of the Group’s strategy, in terms of technological evolution and as a value that is shared at every level of the Company. We see the future in innovation. Thisis why at Acea we are experimenting with an open, shared and participatory culture of innovation, which is a lever to evolve our services and improve the lives of millions of people in our areas of operation.
Research and innovation at Acea Spa
In 2020, Acea SpA’s Technology & Solutions Department, initiated and/or carried out the following experiments with the involvement of all Company entities and external start-ups:
- the implementation of the "UFirst" project, a full digital booking system for the water companies’ public branches, in particular Acea Ato 2, which was adopted as an anti-crowding solution in the emergency context;
- the activation of a remote helpdesk service for all ADR operatives in video call mode with augmented reality;
- the creation of dynamic dashboards updated in real-time to identify land displacement in the vicinity of Acea’s strategic assets;
- the creation of data-driven tools for correlating primary substation failures with the time taken to identify the cause of the failure;
- the implementation of artificial intelligence devices in Company vehicles to map assets, territories and improve in-car safety;
- the creation of a new navigable web bill for water, to be activated in 2021;
- the detection of water leaks using technologies developed by two innovative start-ups;
- the launch of the Paso project, in collaboration with the M2D startup technologies, for the improvement of the medium voltage fault selection process on the electricity distribution network, which can be achieved by replacing human operations with a synthetic automatic logic, using data driven techniques. To this end, clusters relating to fault selection manoeuvres and representative samples were identified in order to carry out what-if analysis and benefit estimation, comparing the efficiency and effectiveness of field operations with that obtainable from synthetic logics; the analysis was concluded with excellent results, enabling identification of recurrent causes for the fault selection classes;
- the launch of the "Safety check" project at the sites managed by Acea Elabori to remotely check the safety conditions of personnel working at the sites, as well as compliance with the provisions issued by the Employer on health and safety matters. The system detects potentially hazardous situations and returns an alert through the use of special IoT sensors in the field, representing a valuable tool to help further improve the Company’s security standards (see also the chapter on Suppliers);
- the implementation of the "Bonifiche anagrafiche" [Master Reclamation] project, a data retrieval system able to retrieve customer master data, thanks to machine learning and artificial intelligence, and automate internal data quality processes (see also the chapter on Suppliers).
Research and innovative solutions in acea innovation
Acea Innovation was particularly active in 2020 on the electric mobility front and, through the Company Electric Drive Italia, acquired in May, completed the development of the Charging Point Operator platform and made the Mobility Service Provider platform available to Acea Energia.
Research and innovation in networks operations and generation
In 2020, Areti, as part of its electricity distribution activities, launched or implemented several innovative projects, including:
- the "PlatOne" project, funded by the European Community, coordinated by the Company and involving 12 partners from Germany, Belgium, Greece and Italy, which promotes a new approach to managing distribution networks that makes them more stable in the presence of large loads of energy from variable renewable sources, through the use of flexibility measures, storage and demand response services, with smart grid technologies and tools for the automation and control of the network and distributed energy sources;
- The POLEDRIC project, for the development and implementation of an innovative technological solution, aimed at the realisation of a “smart pole”, which will be applied to the public lighting poles of the city of Rome; the IP pole will be equipped with a device able to improve the public lighting service(through sensors and the use of advanced technologies) and enable additional environmental, security and communication services(environmental sensors, traffic and parking monitoring sensors, video surveillance and video analysis services, etc.), in a smart city perspective;
- the “G.I.M.M.I.” project (Massive and Targeted Infrastructure Inspection Management), to reduce undiscovered faults on overhead lines and asset monitoring, through periodic analysis of satellite images and targeted drone inspections;
- the ‘AUTONOMOUS’ project, to reduce the incidence of faults in the primary substation, by means of preventive inspections either autonomously or remotely guided by a UGV (Unmanned Ground Vehicle) drone;
- the "Automa per Selezione Guasto in TLC" [Automated Fault Selection in TLC] project, aimed at supporting and automating human operations, with Robotic Process Automation techniques, from a remote controlled central fault selection system on the network;
- the “4G Automation” project project, aimed at implementing a field automation solution for fault selection using the 4G network, which is much more pervasive and immediately usable compared to fibre optics.
Acea Produzione continued the technical-economic feasibility study for the creation of a battery-based electricity storage system, evaluating the integration of storage equipment with large photovoltaic plants under development, including for providing network services on TERNA’s ancillary markets, and started the installation of the WONDERWARE SYSTEM PLATFORM software, aimed at the continuous monitoring of quantities, analysis and extrapolation of information relating to hydroelectric production plants and photovoltaic plants, preparatory to reporting activities, including for statistical and study purposes.
Research and innovation in water operations
Acea Ato 2 carried out research activities and technological-digital innovation, with the aim of improving operational performance.
For innovation applied to the management of water distribution networks, new-generation techniques were tested – satellite, noise recorder and fibre optics for searching for hidden leaks (Noise Logger and Satellite Radar Interferometry) – and the districtisation of more than 7,000 km of network was carried out, with the integration of a mathematical model for setting pressure regulation valves and the installation of instrumentation for advanced remote management.
With regard to wastewater treatment, the main projects concerned:
- the installation of the new ozonolysis station for sludge reduction at the Ostia plant, in view of the excellent results already obtained with the testing of the system;
- the optimisation of the anaerobic sludge digestion compartments, activated at some of the managed treatment plants, including in relation to the biomethanisation power of the sludge (primary, secondary, etc.);
- the search for emerging organic micropollutants (EOMs) to limit their release into the natural environment, as they are potentially hazardous (endocrine disruptors, non-target substances and transformation products).
As part of the protection of water resources, satellite monitoring of safeguarded areas continued, aimed at detecting morphological changes (new buildings, earthworks, etc.), followed by related verification activities, and experimentation began on an innovative filtering material to reduce arsenic in water intended for human consumption.
A technology partner was also selected for the development of the "Water Management System project (WMS)": a user-friendly, multi-channel application solution capable of representing, analysing, monitoring and reporting on huge amounts of data and information from multiple information systems.
With reference to water purification activities, at the Grottarossa plant, Acea Ato 2 conducted studies on the emerging micropollutants present in the treated water (Tiber River) and their outcome in the treatment phases, as well as on the formation of disinfection by-products (chlorine dioxide and sodium hypochlorite).
Acea Ato 5 conducted experiments on:
- innovative technological solutions aimed at recovering materials from sewage sludge;
- satellite leak detection, with the analysis of images taken to pre-locate water leaks; the images were subjected to algorithmic analysis and the water network was investigated by satellite buffer acquisition.
AdF has strengthened its commitment to research and innovation, creating a specific dedicated Operating Unit and launching experiments and research projects on:
- the qualitative and quantitative characteristics of the water resource of the Santa Fiora springs on Mount Amiata, the main source of supply under management, through an in-depth study in scientific partnership with the CNR in Pisa - Geosciences and Georesources Institute (IGG);
- massive remote reading of meters across the territory through drive-by and walk-by reading, covering around 35% of the installed base of meters;
- the network data collection platform (based on Hitachi Lumada), with predictive algorithms and correlations between measurements from innovative sensors installed in the field and remote control and data management platforms already in use;
- the installation of innovative battery-powered pressure and temperature sensors with NBIoT technology and the related management and measurement analysis platform;
- the launch of the "WPOM (Wastewater Pumps On-condition Maintenance)" project for the development of an algorithm to detect anomalies in sewage pumps by processing data from the Wonderware database;
- the construction of a centralised platform for the treatment of sludge from sewage treatment plants by means of thermochemical hydrolysis.
As part of the protection of water resources, AdF has launched three pilot studies, which will continue in 2021, to test innovative technologies applied to network management: a satellite monitoring project to locate water leaks, a pressure monitoring and management project, and the testing of a predictive methodology that, based on historical, geomorphological and hydraulic data from the aqueduct graph, can identify the areas at greatest risk of rupture.
Gesesa continued the implementation of the remote control system, starting with the sewage lifting stations.
Gori has implemented IoT technologies and advanced sensor technology for environmental protection, with the installation of 300 sensors and remote monitoring of wastewater flood drains.
Research and innovation in engineering operations
Acea Elabori, with the involvement of all corporate entities, universities and companies in the sector, launched and/or carried out the following experiments in 2020:
- the "Acea Smart Comp" project, which applies a waste transition logic and proposes a new model of organic waste management, from large-scale plants to local and widespread waste management;
- the LabSharing platform, developed in collaboration with Acea SpA’s Innovation Unit and the Company’s Laboratory and presented in Rimini at Ecomondo 2020. The online platform will also allow third parties (organisations, universities, research centres) to make use of Acea’s structures of excellence and scientific support in the field of highly complex environmental controls. In particular, the platform allows you to view the analytical offer, arrange for analyses on environmental matrices (water, air, soil and others) and follow the progress of your order via a dashboard. Eventually, the platform will turn into a collection of research projects, through the ‘Showcase’ section. The key words of the project are sharing, innovation and sustainability: both as a way of working, participating and collaborating, and as an innovative service;
- the development of a protocol for the detection of SARS-CoV-2 in the wastewater matrix;
- Research into microplastics in water, including through the development of Raman spectroscopy methodologies, in collaboration with ENEA;
- the development of low-cost smart sensors for community composting (ENEA-funded project).
Research and innovation in environment operations
In 2020 in the Environment Operations the following research and innovation activities are worth mentioning:
- the completion of experimental activities for the development of a plant solution aimed at recovering sodium bicarbonate and calcium chloride dihydrate (reaction by-products) from the treatment of Residual Sodium Carbonate (RSC), deriving from the neutralisation phase of the acid fumes produced by the waste-to-energy plants, currently under contract, and the start of activities to define the industrial scale-up;
- The completion of experimental activities for the treatment of fly-ash and bottom-ash for the recovery of the inert fraction present and treatment for the reduction of hazardous characteristics, and initiation of activities to define the industrial scale-up;
- the completion of the feasibility study, carried out with the Polytechnic University of Milan and the National Interuniversity Consortium of Materials Science and Technology, for the implementation of a type of conversion of the energy content of plasmix (waste that cannot otherwise be separated from the mechanical sorting processes of plastics) for the production of methanol and the definition of the contents of the Licensing;
- initiation of the technical-economic analysis and experimentation of the wet oxidation process of sewage sludge using Granit Technologies and Engineering’s CleanWOx® technology.