GEM: energy management meets the challenge of lockdown

By ENGIE - 30 April 2020 - 11:54

Global Energy Management (GEM) is responsible for managing the portfolio of electricity, natural gas, environmental products and bulk commodities for ENGIE and its external clients on an international level.


During the health crisis, its teams took radical action and innovated to guarantee the continuity of service of an entity that is essential for the energy supply of our regions.


GEM teams’ activity depends on the use of heavy specialized IT equipment, but in the space of three weeks they accomplished the feat of switching to 100% distance working. This was an unprecedented adaptation, carried out in record time.


To protect the health of employees and ensure the continuity of such a vital activity, it was decided to relocate the equipment. “GEM imports 50% of the gas consumed in France, for individuals, companies, industries and certain essential public services such as hospitals. If we stopped working, the gas would no longer be delivered,” explains Edouard Vuatrin, head of gas commercial dispatching at Global Energy Management.


Relocation has proved to be a success: “There has been virtually no operational deterioration and no incidents for our team,” explains Vuatrin, who also has to adapt to the consequences of lockdown, which has led to an unprecedented change in consumption, with companies and industries recording sharp falls.


A key player in energy management

GEM, a worldwide entity operating across the entire energy value chain

  • 16,000 TWh of energy traded (gas, electricity and biomass)
  • 7,150 MW of renewable energy systems managed
  • 1,400 employees
  • 8 main spots (Brussels, Bucharest, Houston, London, Madrid, Paris, Rome, Singapore)
  • 16 offices around the world
  • 50 countries covered


GEM is active in four areas of energy management:

  • Asset management: first-class trading strategies to optimize our clients’ flexibility and values
  • Energy Transition services: customized solutions to help customers achieve their environmental targets, including facilitating the use of renewable energy sources. 
  • Global energy supply: customized solutions for gas, electricity and biomass worldwide 
  • Risk management and market access: structured and customized solutions along with risk hedging strategies

Among GEM’s clients are energy producers, public institutions, financial players, industrial companies, and developers of renewable assets.

On a day-to-day basis, GEM’s work requires being able to intervene in the markets around the clock, 7 days a week, relying on stable and secure connections. On a human level, proximity and communication are essential factors to ensure that information flows seamlessly, particularly between the trading, sales and IT teams. The hardware used is specific, and many team members require special computer configurations and software.

Anticipation is key to the continuity of service

Operating in Rome and Singapore, GEM took inspiration from the situation experienced by its teams to anticipate different scenarios for its offices around the world. Well before lockdown was imposed, the IT department prepared for virtually all staff to switch to remote working. All teams requiring specific IT equipment were equipped at home, as were the traders and dispatchers responsible for supply. Our teams have been able to create and operate secure 24/7 environments for teams who need to comply with high regulatory standards.


ENGIE GEM’s IT department faced some daunting challenges:

  • Allowing working from home on a massive scale, for 100% of the workforce, even though many jobs are carried out in a regulated and strictly monitored environment, sometimes requiring specific hardware for dispatching or trading. The IT department managed to make this mass remote working possible by creating secure environments and managing the supply of equipment to the teams. The IT teams organized a transfer of equipment from ENGIE’s offices to the teams’ home addresses, supplemented by purchases of touch tablets to recreate the trading telephone environment.
  • Organizing activities so that all users of critical applications (financial closing, 24/7 gas/electricity balance) are able to use them remotely under the best possible conditions.


To ensure that the GEM teams function properly, care is taken to keep the T1 tower in Paris open so that interventions on the equipment can be carried out if necessary.


How Dispatching adapted 

ENGIE’s commercial gas dispatching business, which has existed since 2001, ensures the smooth delivery of gas volumes consumed by ENGIE’s customers in Europe. In response to the Covid-19 crisis, this activity has adapted very quickly to ensure the continuity of service essential to the security of gas supply in France and Belgium. As a leading player in “short-term” optimization and balancing, it is more than ever committed to serving the customers of ENGIE’s sales teams as well as its external partners.


At the beginning of March, as the risk of infection increased, it was decided to set up two separate and independent teams, one that would be responsible for dispatching at the T1 tower at La Défense, and the other for the back-up site in the Paris suburbs, with the rest of the “non-posted” teams working from home. Thanks to this configuration, both operational risks and health risks for the dispatchers were minimized.


Edouard Vuatrin, head of gas commercial dispatching at Global Energy Management:

Edouard Vuatrin, responsable du dispatching gaz chez Global Energy Management

“Dispatchers usually have 5 or 6 screens in front of them to monitor their data in real time. They have trading communications turret with logged lines and are in constant contact with transportation, Storage and LNG facilities operators. All conversations are recorded, in particular to trace back the purchase and sale of gas and to comply with regulations. For my team, more than 20 dispatchers had to transfer their equipment themselves or with assistance from their colleagues in order to be on call day and night from their homes. 


With help from IT, we are in the process of setting up virtual machines and performing final tests so that we won’t have to revert to the T1 tower in the event of a bug. It is a first to be able to completely virtualize and decentralize the commercial dispatching. Congratulations to the teams!


For dispatching, a second adaptation occurred in relation to the crisis. Our gas consumption forecasting model did not adjust to the effects of the lockdown. We therefore carried out a rapid survey in order to make adjustments and find an alternative tactical solution. We are starting to get a view of consumption trends in March: consumption has not fallen all that much for private customers, but businesses and large consumers have been very badly affected.”


In Belgium, a very similar approach has been taken and those teams that were able to do so have also massively switched to working from home. Thus, there are only about forty indispensable “short-term” operators left, including electricity dispatching, who continue to work shifts 24 hours a day at two Belgian sites, the ETB (ENGIE Tower Brussels), which is near the Gare du Nord station in Brussels, and the back-up site, located in Linkebeek. This “short-term” team ensures the balance of the Central European generation and consumption portfolio on the spot market (D-1) and intraday market. It guides our power generation units and those of our customers in real time.


At Global Energy Management, for every dispatcher working, there is a computer specialist behind the scenes. Dispatchers work in different types of positions (three shifts, two shifts, optimizers, market operators, physical risk managers), and there are also a number of occupations in IT (analysts, developers, architects, infrastructure managers).

ENGIE thanks its teams mobilized in the field for their remarkable spirit of solidarity.

Find out more about ENGIE teams’ actions and operations to respond to this global health crisis: check out all our articles in our special report, COVID-19 Mobilisation.