In-depth reports on "Cooperation and innovation"

Joint planning:

Arturo Plozza, mayor of the municipality of Brusio (left), and Giacum Krüger, Head of Technical Services Grid Engadine/Poschiavo at Repower, discuss the cooperation between the “Azienda Elettrica Comunale Brusio” and Repower at the company's headquarters in Poschiavo.

Committed to continuity

In-depth report on “Cooperation and innovation” – part 3

As an international energy company with strong local roots in Graubünden, Repower increasingly collaborates on grid systems with downstream municipal utilities. As local and regional electricity suppliers, these utilities dominate the canton's electricity landscape and are responsible in their supply region for ensuring that their customers are never without power, that the street lights go on at night, and that electricity meters are correctly read. A look at Valposchiavo – a model of decades of successful cooperation.

With its population of 4,400, Valposchiavo is located at 552 to 3900 meters above sea level, only a stone's throw from the Italian border. With chestnut trees in the south and snow-capped mountains in the north, it boasts a viaduct, Italian flair, stone cellars and a relationship with hydropower that goes back more than 100 years. And it is in Valposchiavo, in the south-eastern corner of Switzerland, that Repower has its roots. Yet it has no direct end customers there. This apparent paradox is grounded in history: while the erstwhile Kraftwerke Brusio – subsequently Rätia Energie and now Repower – has been responsible since its foundation more than a hundred years ago for the construction, operation and maintenance of the hydroelectric power plants in the valley, supplying power to the end customers - the residents of Valposchiavo – has always been the responsibility of the two valley municipalities – Poschiavo and Brusio. So a cooperation between the two local municipalities and Repower stands to reason, given the company's origins and close ties with the valley.

For Brusio this cooperation assumed a new form in 2012, when the municipality decided to outsource to Repower most of its power supply operations, which until then had been performed by the municipality's own Azienda Elettrica Comunale Brusio (AECB) utility. Since then Repower has been responsible for the planning, maintenance and upkeep of the distribution grids and transformers on municipal land. It is also responsible for the callout service and for rectifying grid faults. The customer service – meter reading, installation checks, billing, changes of address – is provided by service provider SWiBi, a Repower subsidiary. “Under the terms of a service agreement, Repower is responsible for most of the operational tasks at AECB, and also for customer care via SWiBi. However, the municipality remains the sole decision-making authority – for example in terms of defining the electricity tariff in the supply region,” says Giacum Krüger, Head of Repower's Technical Services Grid Engadine and Poschiavo about the close collaboration. Strategic issues are deliberated on by an administrative committee consisting of two municipal representatives and a Repower representative. The administrative committee is also the supervising body for the cooperation.

The “Impresa Elettrica Comunale Poschiavo” is to the valley's other municipality, Poschiavo, what the AECB is to Brusio. Here the link with Repower is a close one: As in Brusio, part of the electricity is delivered to the municipality in the form of concession energy, in compensation for the use of hydropower in the valley. Repower distributes the electricity over the municipality's own grid and is also responsible for fault correction. This cooperation, too is defined and controlled by an administrative committee, but the municipality remains responsible for billing and customer contact.

“The two examples in Brusio and Poschiavo demonstrate that cooperation with downstream utilities can take different forms depending on the municipalities' needs. What's important is for the responsibilities to be clearly regulated and for the cooperation to be based on transparency and continual dialogues,” says Giacum Krüger, who represents Repower in an advisory capacity on the administrative committees in Brusio and Poschiavo.

Interview with Arturo Plozza, mayor of Brusio

Why did the municipality of Brusio decide to outsource its electricity supply operations to Repower?

Brusio owns Azienda Elettrica Comunale Brusio, which supplies electricity to the municipality from its own distribution grid. AECB has always been managed autonomously by an individual who was responsible for technical and administrative matters. But it has always relied on Repower for operational support and personnel. In view of increasingly stricter standards and the growing challenge of managing AECB competently in compliance with the law and with safety regulations, the municipality of Brusio handed over these tasks to Repower and SWiBi under the terms of a fixed-term outsourcing agreement. However, the municipality remains the owner of the facilities and also has full decision-making authority.

Which mechanisms are in place to ensure that the municipality of Brusio remains independent with the AECB administration?

As already mentioned, the municipality of Brusio remains the owner of the entire infrastructure as well as of AECB. However, operational management and administrative support has been delegated to Repower and SWiBi respectively, provisionally for the next three years. The administrative committee is responsible for strategic matters and for management and control issues. Authority for approving quotations for operating costs and capital expenditure, however, remains with the municipal council or the governing body, which in the case of Brusio is the municipal assembly.

How have you experienced the cooperation with Repower over the past two years?

The collaboration is excellent. The wealth of expertise of both partners, Repower and SWiBi, has been a huge help. Cooperation with the individuals responsible at Repower and SWiBi is on an extremely professional footing and has proved beneficial for everyone involved.