The company as a stakeholder
THE MANAGEMENT OF COMPANY ASSETS
Acea protects and enhances its tangible and intangible assets, seeking a sustainable financial position and governing the internal needs, linked to the operating management and the growth pros- pects, consistently with the aims expressed in the business mission and the strategic plan.
In 2021 investments totalled € 970 million, up 7% (€ 907 million in 2020). These were distributed by business segment as follows: € 36.1 million for the Environment area, in particular for work on Acea Ambi- ente's plants and for the change in the scope of consolidation attributa- ble to Ferrocart; € 49.4 million for the Energy (commercial and trading area), both for Acea Innovation projects and for activities related to the acquisition of new customers and Acea Energia's IT implementation initiatives; € 522.1 million for the water area, with increases due to the capital expenditure plan distributed among Acea Ato 2, GORI and AdF and to the change in the scope of consolidation; € 9.9 million for the Engineering and services area, for the design and implementation of new processes and extraordinary maintenance of the head office and laboratories; € 274.5 million for the Energy Infrastructure area, for work on MV/LV networks, substations, measurement and remote con- trol instruments and projects to re-engineer information systems; € 39.4 million for the Generation area, both for work on Acea Produzi- one's district heating plants and network and for investments to develop photovoltaic systems. Finally, the Parent Company and Overseas with investments for about € 34.4 million and € 4.6 million, respectively.
Chart no. 48 – Breakdown and investments by segment (2020-2021)
Depreciation, amortisation, provisions and write-downs amounted to €675 million (8.8% higher than 2020). The increase in depreciation and amortisation is related to changes in the scope of consolidation and investments in the period in all business areas. The increased impairment of receivables is mainly attributable to Acea Ato 2, Acea Ato 5 and GORI. Provisions for risks decreased slight- ly, essentially remaining stable.
THE COMMITMENT TO RESEARCH AND INNOVATION
Scientific and technological innovation at the service of business processes is one of the pillars of the Group’s strategic planning, an area in which it invested more than € 6 million in 2021. At Acea, innovation is a transversal strategic lever that is open to the external ecosystem: Through its innovative approach, the company aims to explore new business and the creation of new development models. The management of the Group's innovation line is managed by the Technology & Solutions Function of Acea SpA, which has the task of developing and implementing infrastructures, systems, products and services in the technological, innovative and digital field, directing and coordinating the preparatory activities for the generation of products and services in the market segments of interest, and by Acea Inno- vation which facilitates the Group's design and innovation initiatives, generating products and services for the business (B2B) and insti- tutional (B2G) markets, particularly in the area of electric mobility.
The innovation model identifies internal needs or areas of interest and adopts typical Open Innovation processes and approaches, with the collective generation of ideas and the involvement of internal and external stakeholders starting from the conception process, moving on to the trialling of the design concept, to the implementation of the projects. According to this logic, the promotion of the Group’s culture of innovation and the development of internal entrepreneurship are fundamental and to that end a dedicated crowdsourcing platform was created, which collects employees’ design ideas and creates a company space for active involvement. Also present is the Innovation Board, made up of innovation representatives from the various industrial entities, which, in a shared manner, defines and creates the Group’s innovation strategy.
To render the approach to innovation systematic:
- the "Acea Innovation Garage" corporate entrepreneurship programme was developed, to be launched for the second time in 2021, with the aim of facilitating new project ideas to be im- plemented within the company, stimulating the entrepreneurial skills of employees;
- idea generation workshops are organised to creatively address business and innovation needs;
- internal communities are active, as experimental spaces in which new tools and languages can be collectively studied and analysed, best practice can be shared, and new projects can emerge, and include the Data Community, an informal space in which professionals from the various businesses meet and ex- change knowledge on issues related to the world of data.
More than 40 initiatives on various topics of strategic interest to the company were organised through the Acea Innovation Garage in 2021 organised, both in person and remotely, including:
- 30 digital workshops and in-person initiatives dedicated to sharing new ideas on: Circular Economy, Smart Water, Smart Energy, Smart Organization and Human, Business Process Management and Customer Experience Transformation;
- 8 meetups dedicated to the Innovation Community aimed at exploring and narrating the world of innovation in Acea;
- 1 Hackathon, in an Open Innovation perspective, to search for innovative solutions to be implemented on Digithall, Acea's dig- ital
The Innovation Model involves the use of market analysis, continu- ous scouting and development of national and international part- nerships, with players in the innovation ecosystem active in sectors of strategic interest to the Group. This allows Acea to activate priv- ileged channels of access to ideas, business and technological op- portunities, academic research and provides new talents to innovate business, processes and corporate products.
To this end, in 2021 Acea participated in the following programmes:
- Startup Europe Partnership, which promotes a sustainable and global entrepreneurial ecosystem thanks to programmes and activities intended to support combinations between scale-up sand international corporations, supporting the growth and development of relations through innovation. Acea can thus access highly innovative companies that, compared to a startup, have already gone through all stages of development and have an advanced business model and a product already on the market. Thanks to this valuable collaboration, Acea participates in summits with innovative European companies, the Israeli ecosystem that represents a point of reference for innovation, and is also given the opportunity to meet scale-ups from Silicon Valley, the cradle of innovation par excellence;
- Elis Open Italy: the objective is to support dialogue and coop- eration between large companies, Italian start-ups/SMEs and innovation enablers such as accelerators, research centres, ven- ture capitalists and young talent, through concrete innovation For some time now Open Italy has created “a venue” where various stakeholders can meet and work together to in- centivise the introduction and development of innovative solu- tions within the Italian economy, supporting an open innovation culture in Italy;
- Osservatori Digital Innovation [Digital Innovation Observato- ries] of the Politecnico University of Milan, a point of reference for digital innovation in Italy, in which Acea participates mainly through the Startup Intelligence Observatory, a community of discussion and open innovation at the apex of innovation. In 2021 Acea participated in the Space Economy Observatory, to explore the opportunities of space technologies;
- Zero Accelerator, the startup accelerator born from the col- laboration between the National Network CDP Venture Cap- ital SGR - Fondo Nazionale Innovazione, Eni, LVenture Group and Elis to support the best startups and innovative SMEs that develop projects and solutions in the greentech/cleantech field aimed at minimising carbon impact, facilitating the reduction of emissions, optimising the waste cycle by speeding up energy transition processes and promoting the circular economy;
In addition, in 2021, collaborations continued with Talent Garden on digital transformation and corporate innovation projects In- novUp (formerly Italia Startup), the non-profit association rep- resenting the Italian start-up ecosystem, extended to include all private and public entities, to encourage the emergence of a new Italian entrepreneurial fabric; and ANFOV, an association that pro- motes dialogue between companies and institutions involved in the telecommunications sector and monitors, analyses and encourages the development of the contiguous ICT scenarios.
Finally, Acea is a partner of the Italian National Young Innovators Association (ANGI) and, as part of the “National ANGI Award”, collaborates in the awarding of the special “Innovation Leader Award” for young talent.
In recognition of its achievements, in 2021 Acea again received prestigious awards in the field of innovation (see box).
AWARDS IN THE FIELD OF INNOVATION
Acea 's commitment to innovation has been recognised by impor- tant institutional initiatives.
Acea won the SMAU 2021 Innovation Award with the “Lean Pro- curement for innovative start-ups and SMEs”, a new subsidised model to engage innovative start-ups and SMEs that calls for a dedicated procurement process that overcomes the obstacles of traditional processes. In December, GORI won the Innovation Award at SMAU Naples, with the pro- ject "Smart Metering. Use of IoT technology in Integrated Water Services management”.
Finally, at Ecomondo 2021 Acea won the ecohitech Award with the PASO project "for the value of a solution concerning the aspects of maintenance and intelligent monitoring of critical infrastructure for energy efficiency".
With reference to the Group’s industrial processes and infrastruc- ture, the following boxes illustrate, by way of example, the main re- search and innovation projects carried out in 2021 by Acea SpA’s Technology and Solutions Function, Acea Innovation, Acea Elabori and the industrial segments of the Group. We also recall what has already been illustrated in the paragraph Relations with institutions, and in particular Projects for the innovative and sustainable develop- ment of the territory, Customers and the community and the section Relations with the environment.
RESEARCH AND INNOVATION AT ACEA SPA
In 2021, the Innovation unit of Acea SpA's Technology & Solutions Function with the involvement of all the company's entities and external start-ups, launched and/or realised numerous experiments and initiatives for the innovation and digitalisation of services, including:
the implementation of SIDE, the innovative project, developed in collaboration with Areti and the startup BlueTensor, which uses Artificial Intelligence and Computer Vision algorithms ap- plied to images of secondary substations to uniquely identify and catalogue substation components;
the launch of the "OCR" experiment, in collaboration with Acea Energia, to simplify the management of utilities by customers;
the development, in cooperation with Acea Ato 2, of the DepurArt App usable by all citizens visiting some of the major purification plants, which guides them with audio descriptions, photos and videos, along the wastewater treatment cycle; in 2021 the project was developed at the Fregene plant;
the testing of a system of preventive detection of malfunctions or disturbances on Rome's public lighting network, such as interference caused by vegetation, using satellite images and artificial intelligence, carried out in synergy with Areti;
the project for the usage of sensors and development of artificial intelligence algorithms in order to perform predictive maintenance and ensure real-time monitoring of values of interest at the Scafati water purification plant, developed with Acea Elabori and GORI and in collaboration with the startup Ammagamma.
the creation of a new navigable web bill for water;
the digitalisation of the services offered to citizens with the consolidation of the digital counter and the launch of the first Waidy Points in the territory managed by Acea Ato 2;
the launch of the project for the evolution of the IT system for customer management (CRM), which provides for the complete redesign of commercial processes on the new SalesForce tool, according to the principles of customer centricity, complete digitalisation, flexibility and eectiveness drivers. The pro- ject will continue over the next two years with the progressive re-engineering of all business processes;
the consolidation of the Waidy Management System project, which envisages the creation of an IT platform to support decisions for the core water business, in order to protect the water resource and reduce losses, improve the quality of the resource, and promote measures in favour of environmental sustainability;
the launch of the SAP Asset Management project, which en- visages the evolution of the app used by technicians within the workforce management model, by improving the user interface and the complete digitalisation of operational activities.
RESEARCH AND INNOVATION IN THE ENERGY AREA COMMERCIAL AND TRADING
In 2021, Acea Innovation was very active in the electric mobility area. It has further developed the Charging Point Operator plat- form, integrating it in interoperability with 3 EMSP (E-Mobility Service Provider) and created the Acea Energia EMSP (Electric Mobility Service Provider) platform, which launched in April.
As part of its activities in the sale of electricity and gas commodities and non-commodity services, Acea Energia has launched or implemented the following innovative projects:
- the first releases of the E2CRM digital transformation programme, which involved adopting the SalesForce CRM platform, enabling all processes to be implemented digitally, with a consequent reduction in contacts through traditional channels and paper-based flows; developing new functions on the portal reserved for customers in the Large&Business segment; activating a new funnel that makes customers converge towards the Acea.it website, in line with the latest digital developments; creating new reporting models and implementing tracking on all sales and post-sales processes;
- the launch of the 'digital consultancy' channel on the Genesys platform, a new way of interacting with customers that does not require the physical exchange of documents;
- implementation of PoC (Proof of Concept) to verify the application of artificial intelligence (AI) model mechanisms in the claims classification phase. The results of the PoC showed that large-scale implementation, planned for 2022, could increase the accuracy of complaint classification, with economies insofar as resources are concerned;
- the start of the implementation project based on the datalake, with the release of the first reports on the Qclik platform, which allowed an improvement in data monitoring aimed at preventing critical issues for customers and operations;
- the completion of technical implementations for the activation of application-to-application communications with third parties where required (IIS, Distributors, etc.). This reduces the processing times of requests and in the number of sta involved in handling cases.
RESEARCH AND INNOVATION IN THE ENERGY INFRASTRUCTURE AREA
In 2021, Areti launched, continued or concluded several innovative projects as part of its electricity distribution activities, including:
the PlatOne project, which was financed by the European Community and was coordinated by the company. This project involves 12 partners from Germany, Belgium, Greece and Italy and experiments with innovative management of distribution networks through the direct involvement of end customers. Electricity service interruptions are resolved by a coordinated change in consumption and/or production of customers who are connected to the portion of the network aected by the event. The variations of individual customers are small and can be ag- gregated by a market participant (Aggregator) and organised into oers according to a predefined scheme. The most convenient oers that are technically compatible with the limitations posed by the infrastructure, are activated and monitored by a device, developed by Areti, that receives the Distributor's commands, transfers them to the actuators and interfaces with the new gen- eration meter to read the measurement data in real time. The measurement data are then used to calculate the remuneration to be received by the customer for the service provided;
the POLEDRIC project, for the construction of an intelligent public lighting pole in the city of Rome, is able to improve the public lighting service (through sensors and the use of advanced technologies) while enabling additional environmental, security and communication services (environmental sensors, traffic and parking monitoring sensors, video surveillance and video analysis services, etc.), from a smart city perspective. At the end of 2021, the partnership tender was concluded;
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. In 2021, the testing of the solution continued with the setting up of a recharging box in which the drone, at the end of the mission, can recover and re- charge itself, and the data collection and management platform was created, which is necessary for the integration of the new solution in the current inspection processes;
the Automa per Selezione Guasto in TLC [Automated Fault Selection in TLC] project, aimed at supporting and automating human operations by means of Robotic Process Automation techniques for remote fault selection on the network. During the year, a demonstrator project was implemented to perform fault selection on a portion of a real network, using logic developed in matlab which, thanks to innovative Robotic Process Automation techniques, interacted with the SCADA system. The demonstrator project made it possible to verify the validity of the approach and to define the integration solution when fully operational;
the project Automation of Low Voltage Lines, aimed at enabling remote control and automating the reclosure of low voltage lines from the secondary substation on disconnection for excess power;
the Bilateral LTE Automation project, which involves the implementation of a field automation solution to select the fault line and uses the 4G network to make the switches along the line communicate. During 2021, development and testing of the solution was completed and mass deployment in the field began. The project also included the development of a central device management platform for the remote management of peripheral Industrial IoT devices that support the other remote and service monitoring solutions for the secondary cabin;
a pilot project for the application of "IoT Internet of Things" technologies to secondary substations, with the aim of collecting and analysing measurements of environmental parameters and electrical quantities from the low-voltage network, to improve plant maintenance and energy loss control. Testing of the prototype on four secondary substations was completed in 2021.
RESEARCH AND INNOVATION IN THE WATER AREA
With the aim of improving operational performance carried out in collaboration with Acea Elabori, Acea Ato 2 conducted research activities and technological-digital innovation on:
- the satellite radar technique for remote monitoring Intasar Functional monitoring of the stability of elevated structures on the ground (e.g. tanks) with specially designed reflectors to improve accuracy and resolution;
- monitoring of emerging organic micropollutants (EOM) and endocrine disruptors in the wastewater of medium- to large- sized plants, selected according to process scheme and territo- rial location; monitoring activities continued at the CoBIS and Roma Sud plants and those of the Tiber River relating to envi- ronmental risk assessment and analysis;
- the advanced sensichips sensors, completing in-depth tests with impedance methodology in different test modes (batch tests in wastewater);
- ultrasound, completing the VTA GSD technology trial that be- gan in 2020, to assess achievable performance in sewage sludge disintegration pretreatment;
- the study on the "SARS Virus CoV 2 carried out with the Isti- tuto Superiore di Sanità, concerning the circulation of the virus in waste water with participation in the SARI circuit, as ST3 lab- oratory, validated from sampling up to the quantitative results;
- characterisation of the floating residue from the desanding/ de-oiling process of urban wastewater and assessment of the best treatment technologies; a number of plants deemed suit- able for carrying out the study were selected and the qualitative and quantitative monitoring phase continued;
- full-scale experimentation of Taron technology at the Santa Fumia wastewater treatment plant, which uses a dynamic rotat- ing disc filtration system that combines secondary sedimenta- tion and tertiary filtration in a single step, optimising the waste- water treatment process;
- lysis technologies for optimising biogas/biomethane produc- tion, with the launch of an experimental study to increase biogas production from anaerobic digestion plants at some purification
With regard to innovation applied to the management of water distribution networks new generation techniques - satellite, noise recorder and fibre optics - were tested for hidden leak detection (Noise Logger and Satellite Radar Interferometry).
For the waste water purification the main projects carried out by Acea Ato 2 concerned:
- the installation of the new ozonolysis station for sludge reduc- tion 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 compart- ments, activated at some of the managed treatment plants, in- cluding in relation to the biomethanisation power of the sludge (primary, secondary, etc.);
- the commissioning of the thermal dryer at the Ostia water treatment plant;
- the renovation of the Fregene purification plant, where the DepurArt project was developed in collaboration with the Inno- vation unit of Acea SpA's Technology & Solutions function (see also the dedicated box - Research and innovation in Acea SpA).
Satellite monitoring of water resources continued in protected areas, for detecting morphological variations (new constructions, earthworks, etc.) followed by the relevant verification activities.
During 2021, the company designed, created and commissioned an in- novative experimental plant for potable water that can remove arsenic. In addition, with reference to forecasting the availability of water resources, Acea Ato 2 has implemented a machine-learning algo- rithm based on the random forest technique to identify meteoro- logical proxies (temperature and/or precipitation) or management proxies (volumes) correlated to the variability of the state of pres- ervation of the resource, with reference to the different collection sources (springs, well fields, etc.).
With the support of a specialist firm, Acea Ato 5 conducted an en- ergy analysis on one of the main well fields managed and imple- mented a corrective action to significantly reduce the plant's ener- gy consumption. A predictive maintenance project was launched involving some key assets for the management of water systems (external electric pumps in lifting stations) and sewage (compres- sors), with the installation of wireless sensors capable of carrying out real-time analysis to prevent irreparable breakdowns of the moni- tored assets and the consequent plant stoppages.
AdF has carried out:
- the completion of the experimental Augmented Reality pro- ject, in coordination with Acea Innovation, to approach the new technology on field processes and empower the frontline workforce;
- massive remote reading of meters across the territory through drive-by and walk-by reading, covering around 50% of the in- stalled base of meters. In addition, an analysis platform (NEX- Tex) has been developed as part of an internal project to con- trol and monitor data from remote This platform allows the analysis of field measurement information and instrument alarms, thus enabling effective asset management and detailed control of water consumption;
- the completion of a PoC aimed at defining a platform for man- aging and integrating data from smart meters, both drive-by and nbIOT, and no-meter sensors, with the aim of creating a data hub, performing advanced management of events and alarms and feeding analytics systems;
- the construction of a centralised platform for the treatment of sludge from sewage treatment plants by means of thermo- chemical
As part of the protection of water resources effort, experimentation continued on various technologies concerning network efficiency, satellite monitoring of leaks, a predictive methodology (Rezatec al- gorithm) was implemented on the Grosseto municipal network was implemented aimed at prioritising interventions and pre-locating leaks which, on the basis of historical, geomorphologic and hydrau- lic data of the aqueduct graph, identifies the areas at greater risk of rupture; the installation of a system of multi-correlator geophones was also started with the same objective of promptly and accurately identifying leaks.
Finally, within the framework of internal projects implemented in agile mode, AdF has developed two dashboards integrated with SCADA systems and analytics tools, for monitoring water requirements, planning water production, creating consumption forecast scenarios using predictive algorithms, and for monitoring the elec- tricity budget and the energy performance of the main plants.
GORI continued its implementation of IoT technologies and ad- vanced sensor technology for environmental protection, with the installation of 300 sensors and remote monitoring of wastewater flood drains.
RESEARCH AND INNOVATION IN ENGINEERING AND SERVICES
n 2021, in collaboration with the Technology& Solutions Function of Acea SpA and the start-up BeamDigital, Acea Elabori carried out experimentation on the Safety Check project, for the remote mon- itoring of the safety conditions of the personnel working at the sites. Implementation continued of the 'Master Reclamation' project, a data retrieval system able to retrieve customer master data, using machine learning and artificial intelligence, and automate internal data quality processes.
With reference to business process innovation in 2021, Acea Elabori's achievement of BIM (Building Information Modelling) certification for engineering design is of particular note. The BIM methodology employs intelligent digital models throughout all phases of a project’s life cycle and works on seven dimensions, visualising not only progress and costs, but also the sustainability of the project and encouraging the implementation of choices oriented towards a positive impact on the environment.
Numerous other projects have been carried out by Acea Elabori for Group companies.
RESEARCH AND INNOVATION IN THE ENVIRONMENT AREA
In 2021, the following research and innovation activities carried out by the Environment business 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 scaleup;
- the filing of the application for an experimental authorisation for the plasmix treatment pilot plant. The plant is part of a much larger project to sustainably recover mixed plastics (plasmix) and transform them, through the GASIFORMINGTM process, into pure methanol that can be sold on the market. The project im- plements circularity: it recovers material from waste destined for landfill or waste-to-energy, vertically integrates the plastics chain, and produces methanol from a renewable source.