21 Dec 2021, 13:27
Sören Amelang

German grid operators and utilities prepare for spread of Omicron variant

Clean Energy Wire / Tagesspiegel Background / ARD

The operators of Germany's electricity grid and power stations are putting in place precautions to shield the country's critical energy infrastructure from the effects of the Omicron coronavirus variant. "As critical infrastructure companies, the transmission system operators take the risks posed by the much more contagious virus variant very seriously," the four German transmission grid operators told energy newsletter Tagesspiegel Background. "The rules and security measures that were put in place during the pandemic, which have proven effective in maintaining grid operations and system management, will once again be adapted to the current situation." The companies are currently not experiencing critical shortfalls in staffing levels, but they are "still prepared for an aggravation of the situation", operator Tennet said on behalf of the four companies.

Utility association BDEW said it does not currently see any increased risk to supply security. However, the companies are closely monitoring the developments and regularly carry out risk assessments, association head Kerstin Andreae said. "Securing supply is a top priority for the operators of critical infrastructures," said Andreae. She added existing emergency plans had proven themselves during the pandemic and would continue to be used in the expected fifth wave. These include emergency shift plans, access restrictions, or isolated teams with particularly important employees.

Germany's federal and state governments will discuss further measures to contain infections on Tuesday afternoon. In a draft resolution seen by public broadcaster ARD, they are calling on the operators of critical infrastructures to "immediately review and adapt their respective operational pandemic plans and ensure that they can be activated at short notice". An expert committee installed by the new government had warned that the expected rapid spread of the novel Omicron variant could quickly infect large swathes of the population, leading to staff shortages due to illness in critical sectors such as healthcare, energy supply or security forces. 

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