8,120
workers
the induced employment generated
by Hera in 2018
62.4
million euro
for innovation and digitalisation,
22 projects in smart city, circular
economy and data analytics
68%
reused soil
in projects implemented in 2018

Diffusion of digitalization within Hera Group and its served area

Internal digitalization

Starting in 2018, the Hera Group undertook a change management process aimed at developing its internal staff and services in the area of digitalization, data analysis and smart working. The aim of this course is to accompany the Hera Group along the necessary change to successfully face the digital transformation and the change in working methods. The project acts on the dimensions of culture, processes, tools and enhancement of human capital. The range of initiatives includes: bite-sized training units, distance learning, envisioning sessions, application sessions and participation in masters/external interventions. As part of the change management process, the activities of the Community Data Analytics community also continued, with 8 meetings held in 2018.

In parallel with the change management process, internal meetings are held with the Group’s top management, coordinated by the Managing Director, in order to update the top management on the progress of the initiatives underway in the various business units and on the projects being defined in the area of digitalization and data analytics. These internal meetings involved about 20 people within the Hera Group. During the year, the work team met 3 times and monitored the progress of 18 projects. The main projects concern business intelligence systems for energy efficiency improvement and process quality, data management for waste management services and gas networks, document optimization tools, development of projects for process digitalization and advanced data analysis, technological implementations to supply energy as needed to third parties.

Digitalization for our customers

The Hera Group continues to help its customers become more digital, both by developing and updating its on-line services and by providing applications for mobile devices (Rifiutologo, Acquologo, and My Hera), described in the “Case Studies” section of this chapter.

The Group’s On-Line Services, for which we had already overhauled graphical design and content at the beginning of 2017, are a useful tool for customers to view their bills, check their consumption, submit reports, report self-readings and check the progress of their procedures.

In 2018, the online services were further developed, allowing the implementation of new methods of online payment, the activation of new contact channels (such as Live Chat, the Call Back service and the booking of tickets for visits to our physical points, which were added to the possibility of sending written requests) and the improvement of dedicated services for business customers.

Figures apply only to Hera Comm

Hera Comm’s online services proved very popular among customers again in 2018: the growth trend of the past five years is continuing and this year, 20.7% of our customers had subscribed to the services. In fact, the number of subscribers rose by almost 18% compared to last year, reaching about 350 thousand customers. The interest of customers in receiving their bills in electronic format continues: 23.7% of participating customers have chosen to receive their bills via email, an increase of 25% compared to 2017. The growth is also due to the merger of Amga Energia & Servizi Srl into Hera Comm. For customers who have not chosen the bill in electronic format, the bills are printed on 100% recycled paper and delivered by regular mail.

There are 38,856 customers registered with Estenergy’s on-line services, while those with Marche Multiservizi are 16,874 (up respectively by 32% and 20% compared to 2017), while customers sending electronic bills are 35,638 for Estenergy (+ 44% compared to 2017) and 3,557 (+56% compared to 2017).

Hera Comm Marche’s customers are also continuing to grow towards digitalization: in 2018, 11.4% of the total number of customers registered for Online Services (9.1% in 2017) and 12% of them preferred to send their bills without paper (compared to 7.3% in 2017).

In 2018 AcegasApsAmga more than doubled the number of customers who registered for online services. Electronic bill sending and the number of self-reading bills also grew considerably in 2018 (+30% bills by email; +13% bills by self-reading). During the year, a Whatsapp channel and an SMS channel dedicated to the communication of readings were opened.

Figures apply only to Hera Comm

In 2018, actions to promote the digital behaviour of the Group’s customers continued.

For example, in the 2017-2018 school year, the Digi e Lode project was launched (see the “Case Study” section), which encourages the virtuous behaviour of Hera’s customers by using the digital services offered (online services, electronic bills, applications for mobile devices, etc.). Specifically, the project financed school digitalization projects for first-degree public and state-authorized primary and secondary schools in the Bologna, Modena, Ferrara, Forlì-Cesena, Ravenna and Rimini areas with Euro 100,000 for their digitalization projects to the benefit of students. Given the success of the initiative, Hera has launched a new edition for the 2018-2019 school year and has scheduled its extension in the Triveneto and Marche regions (see section “What we will do” at the beginning of this chapter).

In 2018, Acantho’s customers’ subscription to the digital bill service reached 60% of total bills issued, avoiding the printing of around 165,600 sheets of paper. In addition, Acantho decides not to produce reports on electronic customer traffic on paper; those who so wish can consult the customer portal. Overall, the digitalization of these two processes saved more than 1,682 kg of CO2 equivalent per year.

Electronic billing in the main Italian utilities

In 2018 Utilitalia published its first sustainability report summarizing the environmental performance of 127 Italian utility companies: Hera’s result regarding the use of electronic billing for the year 2017 (20.2%) is more than double the average of the utilities considered (equal to 9.6%).

Acantho’s role in the digitalization of the territory and the Hera Group

Acantho is the digital company of the Hera Group that serves the main cities of Emilia-Romagna and Triveneto with a proprietary fibre optic network approximately 4,200 km long. The company has been developing an ultra-broadband fibre-optic network for more than 15 years, on which it offers next-generation telecommunications services. The Data Centres in Imola and Milan offer cloud services to our customers, providing high levels of service quality and data security.

Among the main services offered:

  • connectivity services up to 10 Gigabits per second;
  • virtual private grid services;
  • voice services and virtual switchboard;
  • video presence services:
  • video analysis and video surveillance services;
  • Data Centre services (housing, virtual server, virtual Data Centre, storage and backup, business continuity and disaster recovery).

Together with the Hera Group, Acantho also offers services for local Smart Cities, such as public Wi-Fi services, smart security systems and digital signage. The latter are multifunctional totems (digital signage), located near points of sale or public spaces, and which show users information or promotional content.

In 2017-2018 Acantho upgraded and extended the public Wi-Fi service for the city of Ravenna by installing 42 Wi-Fi oases, 6 of which are at UNESCO sites, and a total of 78 access points that enable free high-speed connectivity service for residents, tourists and businesses.

With particular reference to business customers, the connectivity services offered are based on fibre optic technologies, radio links and copper. The objective for the future is specifically to increase the number of customers connected to optical fibre, compared to copper technologies, also thanks to the integration with other operators (regional and national).

The Italian Ultra Broadband Network Strategic Plan has set specific objectives for 2020 and the implementation of the strategy is coordinated by the Ministry of Economic Development (MiSE) as follows:

  • Coverage at least 100 Megabits per second for up to 85% of the population;
  • Coverage at least 30 Megabits per second for the remaining population;
  • At least 100 Megabits per second coverage for public buildings (schools, hospitals, etc.), areas of major economic interest and population concentration, industrial areas, major tourist destinations and logistics hubs.

With its fibre optics, Acantho can provide ultra-wideband connectivity (with connection speeds of up to 10 Gigabits per second) to 14,571 companies out of the 28,283 surveyed in its service area, thus covering 52% of them.

The expression “digital divide“ indicates uneven distribution in the access to information and communication technologies between districts or areas, both in terms of public infrastructure and private equipment. “Digital divide” is synonymous with technological backwardness and in particular indicates the lack (or slowness) of the connection to the web.

Acantho participates, through a formal expression of interest, in the integration of other operators’ fibre-optic networks in order to reach, with its own commercial services, business users based in areas of digital divide.

In 2018, Acantho extended its commercial coverage to 10 new areas in digital divide in the municipalities of Bologna, Ferrara, Forlì-Cesena and Ravenna, by showing interest in another regional operator with positive results.

Acantho is also involved in many projects for the Hera’s digitalization, including: cassONetto Smarty; Smart drop-off point; Smart Metering and Smart Grid; Queue Management (HeraComm branch offices); Hera Meal Vouchers Management; Hera physical security and building automation.