FMHL+ project: more efficient and cost-effective thanks to pool organisation

Within the framework Alpiq’s overall management responsibility for the Forces Motrices Hongrin-Léman SA (FMHL) pumped storage power station, which also includes the management of the construction project for the new turbine groups (FMHL+ project), Alpiq has established an efficient organisational structure for large-scale projects that aim at increasing electricity production. By creating a project team based on a pool of internal staff, Alpiq was able to achieve considerable efficiency gains and cost savings while simultaneously ensuring that the competencies within the team are sustainably secured.

In its role as an electricity producer, Alpiq is increasingly evolving into a provider of services to third parties, offering comprehensive asset management solutions for hydropower facilities. In order to consolidate its expertise in this field, Alpiq is the first European electricity company to have obtained ISO 55001 certification and is currently in the process of obtaining ISO 9001 certification. The company has already taken on the role of owner representative in a number of major construction projects, including FMHL+.

The new FMHL+ facility, which has been fully operational since January 2017, has doubled the output of the Veytaux (FMHL) hydropower plant from 240 to 480 MW, with 60 MW acting as a reserve. Already when the feasibility study was carried out in 2006, Alpiq planned to create a small and agile internal team that would remain in place even after the project was completed. "We did not want to create a company with the sole purpose of managing a construction project, as we have in the past. That would have meant that the company would have had to employ staff, with the risk of losing their expertise when the construction project is completed," says Nicolas Rouge, Head of Support Hydro Asset Management at Alpiq, and in that role also the representative of the owners on the FMHL+ project.

It is wearing these two hats, so to speak, that has enabled him to gain an overall view and identify and mobilise the necessary resources as requirements changed. Because creating such a pool of experts makes it possible to quickly respond and set priorities across the various projects that the staff works on in parallel. The project teams can thus count on operational reinforcements being rapidly made available when the project workload increases, or progressively redeployed to other Alpiq projects when it lessens again. As Gaël Micoulet, the head of the FMHL+ project, emphasises, the prospect of new projects keeps the team motivated and thus reduces the risk of people leaving before the construction project has been completed. “For a project like FMHL+ that runs over a period of 10 years, this continuity is a crucial factor, because it is the only way to ensure that the experience and technical know-how is retained. It also results in a considerable increase of efficiency and cost savings, although it is difficult to put a precise figure on these benefits."

Sustainably securing talent

On a human level, this stability also made it possible to establish a particularly strong climate of trust, which also has a positive impact on the project. "When Alain Jaccard was appointed manager of the project in 2007, in anticipation of his retirement during the project period, we appointed an experienced engineer to assist him. While we were able to benefit from his many years of experience with complex projects abroad, Alain Jaccard organised his succession by passing on his know-how to his deputy Gaël Micoulet, who had joined the team in 2008. This resulted in a smooth transition," Nicolas Rouge says.

Now that the FMHL+ project is slowly coming to an end, some members of the team are gradually moving on to other Alpiq projects, such as the Simplon (Gabi / Tannuwald), the Z’Mutt project at Grande Dixence and of course Nant de Drance. At the same time, the final tasks associated with FMHL+, mainly administrative and documentation work, are calmly being wound down.