2020 was an unprecedented year dominated by the global COVID-19 pandemic. Our crisis management procedures were stood up and we invoked the Retail Gas Management Incident Management Plan (RGMIM) in March 2020. We immediately enabled large scale working from home and accelerated our strategy on employee wellbeing and engagement. Our frontline staff continued to carry out essential works including the prioritisation of healthcare projects. We proactively engaged with our shippers and customers and responded to multiple stakeholder requests. We facilitated an increase in emergency credit for Pay As You Go customers and implemented the Commission for Regulation of Utilities supply suspension scheme. While COVID-19 presented our business with significant challenges our comprehensive response has ensured continuity of service throughout the year for our shippers and customers, testament to our robust business continuity plans and the dedication and hard work of our colleagues and service providers.
Average # mins to respond to Public Reports of Escapes
This measure tracks how quickly we respond, on average, to reports of gas escapes as reported by the public. Our agreed metric with the CRU is 97% response within 1 hour, in 2020 a 99.9% compliance rate was achieved.
This is a core safety metric. Maintaining these high performance standards consistently over time shows how important this is to us.
Delivering the highest health and safety standards
We are committed to the highest possible safety standards and during 2020 we continued to manage all aspects of operations in a safe and environmentally responsible manner. Our comprehensive Safety, Environmental, Quality, Energy and Asset Management Systems, independently certified to ISO 45001, ISO 14001, ISO 9001, ISO 50001 and ISO 55001, ensure our activities are managed in accordance with international best practice. We provide a best-in-class emergency response service. In 2020, we responded to 14,928 publicly reported escapes of gas with an average response time of 29 minutes, and 99.96% compliance within one hour. Our Combined Lost Time Incident Frequency Rate for staff and key service providers) stood at 0.28 – the lowest since we began measuring. We recorded over 650 Safety Leadership Conversations and undertook 28 Internal management system audits along with over 644 safety, technical and environmental inspections.
In 2020 we had all five individual ISO systems certified at the same time under one Integrated Management System by the National Standards Authority of Ireland. Our HAZCON (HAZard and CONtrol) app won the Health and Safety Initiative of the Year award at the Networks Awards 2020 in July. The “Health and Safety Initiative of the year” award recognises exceptional commitment to all-round health and safety and is awarded to organisations who demonstrate an innovative, robust and high-quality safety management system and evidence of health and safety performance that goes beyond statutory requirements. We also launched an app for managers and senior leaders to record Safety Leadership Conversations and the Pipeline Open Database System project was successfully completed. This project is the first phase of building an intelligent Pipeline Integrity Management System.
A hydrogen safety strategy was commenced to establish the actions required to safely introduce hydrogen to the natural gas network and we continued to promote public safety awareness via a range of campaigns, including the Gas Emergency Service, Dial-Before-You-Dig, Meter Tampering, Always Use a Registered Gas Installer and Carbon Monoxide campaigns.
Customer Health and Safety
We are committed to the highest possible safety standards and during 2020 we continued to manage all aspects of our operations in a safe and environmentally responsible manner. Our comprehensive Safety, Environmental, Quality, Energy and Asset Management Systems, are independently certified to ISO 45001, ISO 14001, ISO 9001, ISO 50001 and ISO 55001 and help to ensure that our activities are managed in accordance with international best practice.
Natural gas is a flammable fuel. When transported and used correctly it is safe, however leakage and misuse, whether deliberate or inadvertent, can pose risks. The primary risks associated with natural gas are fire or explosion arising from uncontrolled leakage and carbon monoxide poisoning arising from incomplete combustion.
We work closely with the Commission for Regulation of Utilities, Register of Gas Installers of Ireland, the National Standards Authority of Ireland and Liquid Gas Ireland amongst others, to ensure that safety standards are continuously improved, not only for the natural gas network, but also for consumers of natural gas.
We operate a best-in-class emergency response service to respond to suspected gas escapes, carbon monoxide incidents or other gas related emergencies. In 2020 we responded to 14,928 publicly reported escapes of gas with an average response time of 29 minutes, and 99.96% compliance within one hour.
Gas emergency telephone number is changing from 1850 20 50 50 to
1800 20 50 50
We are committed to promoting public safety awareness of natural gas via a range of multi-media advertising campaigns, including the Gas Emergency Service, Dial-Before-You-Dig, Meter Tampering, Always Use a Registered Gas Installer and Carbon Monoxide campaigns. Each campaign has its own unique call to action but feeds into the ultimate objective of promoting gas and energy safety awareness. Each of the campaigns has been successful in driving safety awareness.
The Gas Escapes campaign raises public awareness of what to do and who to call if you suspect a gas leakage. We undertake consumer research annually on our main campaigns to establish awareness of key safety messages and the performance of the campaigns. Results from 2020 show a 72% spontaneous recall of the campaign, and 87% total recall. This is slightly lower than in previous years, but it should be noted that the methodology for this survey changed from face-to-face to online in 2020 due to COVID-19 public health restrictions. Development of a new campaign commenced in 2020 as the gas emergency telephone number is changing from 1850 20 50 50 to 1800 20 50 50 as a result of regulatory changes made by the communications regulator ComReg. This new ad aired for the first time in April 2021.
The Carbon Monoxide campaign raises awareness of the causes, signs, symptoms and preventative measures for carbon monoxide poisoning. Research from 2020 shows almost universal awareness (95%) of the dangers of Carbon Monoxide. Carbon Monoxide alarm ownership has also gone from 24% in 2014 to 69% in 2020, since the launch of the current campaign. In 2020 we commenced development of a new Carbon Monoxide advertising campaign to encourage owners of Carbon Monoxide alarms to test their alarms on a regular basis. This campaign aired for the first time in February 2021.
The Dial Before You Dig campaign encourages anyone planning or undertaking excavation or similar ground works to contact Gas Networks Ireland in advance to obtain gas network drawings and to follow safe digging practices to reduce the risk of damaging a gas pipeline. The Dial Before You Dig online portal, launched in Q4 2019 has seen huge traction with nearly 2,500 users registered for the service by the end of 2020 and over 16,000 drawings downloaded.
The Meter Tampering campaign continues to make people aware of the dangers of tampering with a gas meter.
We also promote the Register of Gas Installers of Ireland (on their behalf) via a multi-media campaign. Results from 2020 show 82% of people are aware of the Register of Gas Installers, up from 67% in 2019. Again, it should be noted that the methodology for this survey changed from face-to-face to online in 2020 due to COVID-19 public health restrictions.
Downstream Gas Incidents and Non-Compliances
Under the Gas (Amendment) Act 1987 (Section 2) Orders of 1987 and 2003 we are obliged to report fatalities, injuries requiring hospitalisation, and property damage of a value greater than €6,349 to the Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU) where natural gas is involved. Such incidents are termed “Reportable Incidents”. We are also obliged to report any other incidents involving natural gas to the CRU where we believe it is beneficial to do so. We are committed to transparent and open disclosure and have agreed additional categories of incidents with the CRU that should be reported under these criteria. These are termed “Reportable Under Guidelines” (RUG) incidents. Such incidents are reportable whether they occur on our network or on consumer installations downstream of the gas meter (which are the responsibility of the consumer).
In 2020 we reported one Reportable gas incident and three RUG incidents on downstream (consumer) installations. None of these incidents involved fatality or serious injury.
When working on customer installations, we have obligations in relation to the identification of unsafe or non-compliant gas appliances, installation pipework and ventilation that are downstream of the meter (and are thus the responsibility of the consumer). If safety issues or non-compliances are identified, we issue a Notice of Hazard to the consumer and may shut off either the gas supply to the whole property or the gas supply to an individual appliance depending on the nature of the issue identified. The consumer is then required to contact a Registered Gas Installer to rectify the issue(s). In 2020 we issued 11,268 Notices of Hazard.
Operating, maintaining and developing our network in an efficient and economic manner is a key element of our strategy. In 2020 we delivered over 39,732 planned maintenance work orders on the transmission and distribution networks and a capital expenditure programme of €109 million which included ongoing programmes to improve the safety and reliability of the network. 98% of all planned maintenance was completed and no gas quality non-conformances were identified. We continued to operate the network 24*7 continuously across the year. Grid Control operated independent shifts from separate locations in Midleton compressor station and Gasworks road as a protective measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19. A new gas control centre was built out on the Brownsbarn campus. While the national approach and restrictions to contain the spread of COVID-19 impacted delivery of capital works in Q2 2020, a substantial proportion of this was recovered when construction activities recommenced in June 2020.
GNI Stakeholder Engagements Initiatives Growth by Year
We understand and value the critical role our stakeholders play in our business. We have a comprehensive stakeholder engagement plan that takes a holistic, pragmatic approach to stakeholder engagement based on the internationally recognised Stakeholder Engagement Standard (AA1000SES). Steady year on year increases in stakeholder initiatives reflect the growing importance of stakeholder engagement within our company.
The 51% increase in stakeholder initiatives between 2020 and 2021 reflects the introduction of ten key stakeholder engagement areas across the company, adding a more forward thinking, strategic approach to our stakeholder engagement. We strive to actively engage and collaborate with our stakeholders both on current and future energy, environment and societal concerns.
Gas Networks Ireland’s European Affairs team articulates our standpoints at a European (EU) level, advocating on behalf of gas and ensuring we impact on future energy policy developments and decarbonisation commitments at an EU and national level. Proactively monitoring EU developments, the team inputs to relevant EU position papers and consultations, ensures full compliance with EU legislation, and, identifies funding opportunities for gas-related, future focused projects.
Engaging with a wide range of EU stakeholders including the European Commission, European Parliament, key European gas associations [ENTSOG, Eurogas, GIE and GD4S] and key European institutions, they leverage strong EU working relationships and actively participate in Working Groups and initiatives to extend our influence as an energy leader in Europe.
Europe’s plans for climate neutrality by 2050, as outlined in the European Commission’s European Green Deal, places importance on how all gas system operators manage infrastructure and deliver services for the future. Our European Affairs team ensures our position is reflected in key emerging strategies from the EU, including in two of the most significant launched in 2020, relating to the future role of gas: The Energy System Integration and Hydrogen strategies.
Europe’s decarbonisation ambition brings with it the significant challenge for Transmission (TSO) and Distribution System Operators (DSO) of delivering work practices and services in a sustainable manner. Our team’s ongoing collaboration with various EU institutions and associations ensures collective focus on this challenge and a stated commitment to delivering best practice. During 2020, our European Affairs team, working with our sustainability and corporate responsibility leads, participated in the development a ‘Sustainability Charter’ for GD4S, a leading gas association, of which GNI is a member. The charter not only affirms the members’ collective pledge to best practice in alignment with the ambition put forward in the European Commission’s EU Strategy to Reduce Methane Emissions (October 2020), but also enshrines on their behalf, a detailed Sustainability Roadmap for delivery into the future.
We remain satisfied that there will be no adverse impact on natural gas flows due to Brexit. We anticipate no disruption to the daily importation of natural gas from Great Britain to Ireland from January 2021. This follows extensive engagement with relevant stakeholders, including other natural gas pipeline operators and energy regulators in the UK and Ireland, as well as EU stakeholders. While there will be no import or export tariffs on natural gas, from January 2021 there will be an administrative requirement for both importing shippers and Gas Networks Ireland to submit customs declarations on natural gas imports from Great Britain. Throughout 2020, we have worked closely with both HMRC and Irish Revenue to ensure that we are ready to meet these obligations.
As a commercial state body, we are an open organisation which strives to be accountable and transparent to the public. We are committed to improving the public’s understanding of how the organisation operates and our role in delivering important national infrastructure and services to support the social and economic development of Ireland.
Anti-corruption and bribery
We actively promote a culture where acts of bribery and corruption are never acceptable. This culture is promoted and led by our board, executive and extended senior leadership team. Nobody within our company or acting on our behalf, may give or accept, directly or indirectly, a bribe or inducement in any form or solicit a bribe, directly or indirectly. An example of behaviours prohibited in this context is the giving or receiving excessive gifts or hospitality, or receiving gifts or hospitality in exchange for information.
The Group Chief Legal Officer is responsible within Ervia for overseeing all anti-bribery actions and the Group HR Director is responsible for communication our anti-bribery policy to all new staff during induction. As well as providing quarterly and annual refreshers on relevant anti-bribery and corruption topics for existing staff in accordance with Ervia’s “Doing The Right Thing” policy.
Ervia’s policies encourage staff to report any concerns relating to activities that may constitute an act of bribery or corruption to their line manager without delay – or if that is inappropriate in the circumstances to Ervia’s Chief Legal Officer, or anonymously to a confidential email address or voicemail. Staff are routinely reminded of their ability to discuss concerns relating to bribery or corruption without fear of victimisation, knowing that the strictest confidence will be maintained – this process is comprised in Ervia’s Protected Disclosures Policy.
Protected Disclosures and Raising Concerns
The mechanism whereby Ervia’s employees and management may raise concerns, or make disclosures in the public interest, in accordance with the Protected Disclosures Act 2014 is outlined in the Ervia Protected Disclosures Policy. Concerns are screened to ensure they raise sufficient grounds for an investigation, all the while protecting the identity of the discloser, and if sufficient grounds exist, the Group Chief Legal Officer, the Group Head of Internal Audit and the Chairman of the Audit and Risk Committee liaising together will appoint such person or persons (either internal or external to Ervia) who is or are most appropriately placed to investigate the particular disclosure in question.
Section 22 of the Protected Disclosures Act 2014 requires Ervia to publish an Annual Report relating to protected disclosures made under the Act. In accordance with this requirement, Ervia confirms that in the year ending 31 December 2020, there were no protected disclosures reported for it or any of its subsidiaries.
Regulation of Lobbying
Ervia and its subsidiaries (Gas Networks Ireland and Irish Water) are registered on the lobbying register maintained by the Standards in Public Office Commission and have made the required submissions for the return periods in 2020 in accordance with the requirements of the Regulation of Lobbying Act 2015.
Appropriate internal financial controls are in place within Ervia to ensure compliance with the provisions of the European Communities (Late Payments in Commercial Transactions) Regulations 2012-2016. Ervia is a signatory to the Prompt Payment Code as launched by the Government in 2015 and, pursuant to its provisions, undertakes to pay suppliers on time, to give clear guidance to suppliers on payment procedures and to encourage the adoption of the code by suppliers within their own supply chains.
Evaluation of our approach
Controls are in place to ensure all our obligations are met, including detailed financial procedures, budgets, finance system automated workflows, external audit process, internal audit process and Audit and Risk Committee oversight of the financial statements.
Data Protection and customer privacy
We are committed to meeting and exceeding our data protection obligations. All customer data is stored on encrypted systems that have appropriate segregation of duties. We have TLS (Transfer Layer Security) in place with customer facing vendors, which encrypts all text within all emails. We also utilise firewalls, patching and anti-virus protection, and align ourselves to ISO27001. All staff and contractors have undertaken online GDPR training. Key customer facing staff have undergone mandatory classroom-based training in GDPR.
The Ervia Group Data Protection Officer has not raised any areas of concern regarding non-compliance with regards to legislative requirements under GDPR during 2020.
Human rights and modern slavery
We have a zero-tolerance approach to modern slavery. We are committed to acting ethically and with integrity in all our business dealings and relationships and to implementing and enforcing effective systems and controls to ensure modern slavery is not taking place anywhere in our own business or in any of our supply chains. We are committed to ensuring that there is transparency in our business and in our approach to tackling modern slavery throughout our supply chain and we expect the same high standards from all our contractors, suppliers and other business partners.
Steps taken in order to prevent acts of slavery and human trafficking from occurring within our business and supply chains;
- We always seek to comply with employment law applicable to the jurisdictions in which we operate and put in place contractual arrangements with providers of agency staff requiring that they achieve the same level of compliance
- The principles of the modern slavery act have been enshrined in the Code of Business Conduct (available at www.ervia.ie) which is reviewed on an annual basis. This is also highlighted and supported by a group-wide programme called Doing the Right Thing which aims to ensure that everyone carrying out business on our behalf does so with integrity and in an ethical manner
- We have developed anti-slavery and human trafficking requirements for incorporation into our procurement processes and contractual arrangements with contractors, suppliers and other third parties
- We have completed an assessment of third-party contractors and suppliers to assess any high risk of acts of slavery / human trafficking
- We provide training to relevant employees, particularly those involved in procurement processes, on the risks of slavery and human trafficking occurring
- We provide a mechanism for employees, and others, to report suspected incidents of unlawful behaviour, including slavery and human trafficking
- As part of our continued commitment to sustainable procurement and to inform the development of its processes, in 2020 we have issued surveys and conducted interviews with suppliers to understand the origin (direct and indirect) of products used and to understand the level of auditing of third country and their social impacts and to ensure compliance with principles set down by the International Labour Organization concerning human and workers’ rights
- We have also conducted an initial assessment of suppliers with an annual spend of greater than €500,000 who source elements of their materials or labour from outside of Europe
We delivered high quality services to over 706,000 domestic and commercial customers during 2020.
Supporting our customers during the pandemic
We supported the Commission for Regulation of Utilities initiative by facilitating a moratorium on debt-related gas supply locks and disconnections during the pandemic, making sure customers had access to the gas they needed to help heat their homes and cook food. Pay As You Go (PAYG) Emergency Credit increased temporarily to €100 from €50 to support vulnerable customers who could not get to a retail outlet to top up their gas card during lockdown.
Eligible small businesses could avail of a newly launched Supply Suspension Scheme which was introduced to help alleviate some of the financial pressure on small businesses by foregoing network charges for a period of up to 90 days. To date, 2,200 customers have signed up for the scheme.
Putting our customers first
We met all our customer satisfaction score targets across all activities surveyed and with a 20.5% reduction in complaints made by our customers compared to 2019. We continued to engage with the wider industry in Ireland and the UK to gain insight on best practice to help influence and define our customer strategy and operations.
We helped customers manage their energy costs by enabling supplier switching and by installing prepayment meters. These meters now constitute 17% of the total residential meter population. In 2020, we exchanged in excess of 20,000 meters under our domestic meter replacement programme. These meters are an important tool in the fight against energy poverty.
We are responsible for the process of switching customers from one supplier to another. In 2020, there were nine competing retail suppliers active in the market. During 2020 just under 114,000 gas customers changed supplier. Since the gas market opened to competition in 2004, over 1.25 million gas supplier switches have been completed.
In 2020 we also supported
- Customer Experience Programmes
- Customer Satisfaction Insights and Monitoring Programme
- Customer Initiatives Register
- Customer Satisfaction Surveys
- Carried out customer workshops on key processes
Insights into Action
Our Insights into Action programme helps us drive customer improvement initiatives to enhance customer experience by supporting efficiencies and promoting continuous improvement across the organisation. In 2020 we completed 30 customer experience initiatives, against our target of 26.
In 2020 we continued to ensure that our customers are at the heart of everything we do. To measure the success of this strategy we have developed several customer centricity metrics.
After a customer contacts us, we ask a series of questions using three key metrics to understand how customers rate their experience.
Customer Satisfaction – how satisfied they were with the work carried out, from first contact right through until the work on the ground is fully completed. Satisfied customers give us a score of 7-10. Very Satisfied customers will give us a score of 9/10 out of 10.
Net Promoter Score – asking customers if they would recommend us to their friends/family is a measure of how we made them feel through the experience.
Net Easy – we ask customers how easy it was to interact with us and what would have made it easier for them.
Our customer centric score combines each of these metrics. Our score is reported and measured in our Balance Score Card and departmental goals and targets. No matter where people work within the company, they play a part in delivering for our customers and empowering us to achieve an excellent Customer Centric Score.
Standards of Service
We publish our ‘standards of service’ guides on our website to help ensure that all customers experience open and transparent service standards.
Our published service standards include:
- Customer Charter
- Vulnerable Customers Guide
- Complaints Handling Code of Practice
We are committed to providing the best customer service possible to all our customers, and in particular, those who are vulnerable by making specific provisions for those who require special services.
These commitments and provisions are detailed in our Vulnerable Customer Guide and include:
Supporting Age Action
In 2020 we continued to work with our charity partners Age Action to promote our vulnerable customer services and provide support to their programmes in the community.
Since 2016 we have donated over €200,000 worth of carbon monoxide alarms, which were installed in the homes of elderly people. In 2020 were one of the first companies to support Age Action’s COVID-19 response and hardship fund, providing vital financial support (€8,000) for vulnerable people. Vulnerable older people were able to apply for a €250 grant to help with immediate costs including food, bills etc.
We also raised €15,972 through our customer survey programme. These donations went towards the Care and Repair programme which supports older people who find it difficult to complete household tasks. 24 employees also volunteered on Age Action’s new technology tutoring programme, Getting Started Keep in Touch, supporting cocooners to keep in touch with friends and family by showing them how to make video calls through their smartphones and how to use the internet.
We are continuing our partnership with Age Action for 2021, together we can make a difference for older people. We have signed up for Age Action’s Big Corporate Challenge, our colleagues will compete against other companies over a six-month period starting in March to create intergenerational activities, events and / or products to raise vital funds for Age Action’s services. We are currently recruiting more volunteers for the above programme and will continue to do so in the long term.
Above and Beyond Recognition Programme
Our Above and Beyond Recognition Programme recognises and rewards staff and contractors who have received positive feedback from a customer via our survey programme. Quarterly celebrations are held, and each nominee receives a token reward and is entered into a prize draw. In 2020 220 colleagues were rewarded for going above & beyond for our customers.
Promoting equality, diversity and accessibility is an important part of how we operate. Our two Access Officers work with a number of representative bodies to gain better understanding of the issues facing employees, customers and stakeholders across a number of areas. We also support the National Job Shadow Programme providing work placements for people with a disability.
All key Gas Networks Ireland communications are translated into the most frequently spoken languages in Ireland – English, Irish, French, Polish, Mandarin Chinese, Russian and HTML plain text. In addition, alongside standard Mystery Shopping activities to assess customer’s experiences, we conduct monthly mystery shopping using an elderly person and a person with a disability to ensure that our communications are tailored specifically and understood by everyone.
We continue to work with our customers and stakeholders to explore opportunities to support those with disabilities.
Customer Case Study: Taking our responsibility beyond connections
We are committed to helping our customers make a positive impact on their environment and community.
In 2020, MF Nurseries, trading as Flynn’s Irish Tomatoes, invested €1.8m in a major expansion of its tomato growing facility at Balheary, Swords, Co. Dublin, which included the development of two new greenhouse facilities spread over three acres and a two-kilometre connection to the national gas network.
Switching to natural gas as its primary source of energy eliminated MF Nurseries’ need for fuel deliveries resulting in a carbon emission reduction of up to 10%. Almost all – up to 90% – of the remaining emissions are then captured and absorbed by the tomato plants, thanks to the innovative greenhouse system.
“Our customers want to see the steps we are taking to reduce our carbon footprint. Major retailers only work with suppliers who are driving down their emissions. Switching to natural gas, in tandem with our own natural carbon-capture process, is helping us to achieve that in a very organic way.”
MF Nurseries Managing Director, Martin Flynn
Case Study: Aurora Telecom
Aurora Telecom, a division of Gas Networks Ireland owns and operates an extensive national backhaul fibre network. It provides a future proofed backhaul network for progressive projects of national economic and social importance.
A carrier-neutral operator, Aurora specialises in Dark Fibre services for telecommunications carriers, corporate organisations and government services.
In 2020 Aurora Telecom commissioned the concluding 300km segment of its national network from Cork to Dublin via Waterford and Carlow bringing the footprint to over 1,200km, the only high fibre connection of its kind for these regions. The network extends across 15 counties, in a ring topology, and interconnects the cities of Galway, Limerick, Cork, Waterford, and urban centres along this route including, Athlone, Mullingar, Shannon, Mallow, Middleton, Dungarvan and Carlow.
Aurora also completed a 105km connection, paving the way for a vital transatlantic submarine cable system to land in Co. Mayo, providing dedicated connection to the US. We also commenced the construction of backhaul connections for other subsea cable connections due to land in 2021.
In a highly competitive market, Aurora achieved best in class operational performance in 2020, with the most modern, lowest latency network in the country, coupled with the highest levels of network availability.
The telecommunications industry is an essential service. Because of the economic and social disruption caused by COVID-19, people and organisations across the country significantly rely on technology for information, for social contact, as well as for trading, working and educating from home. The Aurora team, alongside their Gas Network Ireland colleagues, ensured that all major projects continued to be rolled out safely and on programme.