Discover the Acea Group online 2019 Sustainability Report

The company as a stakeholder


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 prospects, consistently with the aims expressed in the business mission and the strategic plan.

In 2019 investments totalled € 792.8 million, up 25.7% (€ 630.8 million in 2018). These were distributed by business segment as follows: € 51.9 million for the Environment segment, in particular for the revamping of Monterotondo Marittimo, for works on the WtE plants in Terni and San Vittore and for the expansion of the landfill in Orvieto; € 42.5 million for the Commercial and Trading segment, especially on activities related to the acquisition of new customers and for IT implementation and licensing projects; € 381.9 million for the Water segment, also including the Engineering and Services segment, mainly related to reclamation and expansion works on water and sewerage pipes in the areas served, extraordinary maintenance of water centres, works on purification and recovery of water leaks and improvement of the relationship with users; € 287.8 million for the Energy Infrastructure segment, mainly for works on MV/LV networks and works on cabins and meters and partly for revamping works on some power plants. Finally, the Parent Company with investments for about € 21.7 million.


Distribution of investments by macro areas


Depreciation, amortisation, provisions and write-downs amounted to € 524.2 million (15.3% higher than 2018). Specifically, amortisation and depreciation amounted to € 409.6 million (€ 366.8 million in 2018), mainly due to the change in the scope of consolidation. Write-downs of receivables amounted to approximately € 66.8 million, down by 11% compared to 2018 due to dynamics of an opposing sign: the increase due to changes in scope and the reduction mainly as a result of ARERA resolution 2019 that intervenes positively on the GALA dispute. Provisions for the year amounted to € 47.8 million.


The protection of the company’s assets, the prevention of fraud and compliance with current security regulations, with particular reference to the protection of privacy and sensitive data (GDPR Regulation 2016/679) are handled by the Risk & Compliance Function, which includes the Company Protection Unit.

(GRI 102-15, GRI 102-44) (GRI 413-1, GRI 416-1) This Unit is entrusted with the task of defining the Guidelines and policies in terms of the safeguarding and protection of property and of coordinating the implementation of plans for the continuity of operations and the management of emergencies prepared by the competent structures and Companies of the Group. In line with the procedure regarding accessing company premises with reception services, the Corporate Protection Unit manages the security and reception facilities and personnel and controls the Security Room (SS), the video surveillance, anti-intrusion and alarm systems active within the company, and in collaboration with the relevant structures and companies of the Group coordinates the proper performance of the activities required by judicial authorities, security institutions and the police.

In 2019, surveillance and reception activities were unified and a project was launched to define new guidelines and procedures for corporate protection.

The protection of the Group’s information assets and central ICT systems in order to minimize system down times and ensure business continuity includes guidelines and procedures that define the conduct required of the staff, the methods for using IT resources and the controls.

In line with the guidance of the Ministry of Economic Development, the Ministry of the Environment and the Security Information Department, Acea has expanded the protections in the domain of cyberspace, improving the measures for the protection of networks and IT and OT systems that include SCADA (Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition) devices, and has launched a project to assess the status of central and field systems, especially those of a strategic nature, to be able to then implement increased security in the systems.

Acea has also developed organizational, procedural and technological measures to monitor and manage cyber risk. In particular, in 2019 it adopted a new cyber security model at the Group level, with the establishment of the Strategic Committee for Information Security (CSSI), a strategic coordination structure in contact with the relevant institutions, and the Computer Security Incident Response Team (CSIRT) of the Group, a technical-operational structure to support the Strategic Committee, dedicated to the coordination of responses to security events/incidents at the Group level.

Finally, a vulnerability assessment campaign was conducted on the entire external perimeter (services and systems exposed to the Internet) and systems and programs were developed to support CSIRT and combat fraudulent behaviour on the main corporate databases, with machine learning, advanced analytics and big data.


Scientific and technological innovation at the service of business processes is one of the pillars of the Group’s strategic planning, which in 2019 invested approximately € 27 million on this aspect.

In order to manage the Group’s innovation, during the year the company Acea Innovation was established with the mission of developing innovative projects with high added value for the Group and creating an ecosystem conducive to innovation and an entrepreneurship culture, and the Innovation Board was established, composed of the innovation representatives of the industrial segments, which defines and implements the Group’s innovation strategy in a shared manner. Workspaces dedicated to the development of innovation and a corporate innovation programme were also created.

Acea’s new innovation orientation is built on three pillars:

  • the Model of Innovation as a service, where innovation is at the service of the business and involves the entire company (see box);
  • the promotion of a culture of innovation, supported by an internal crowdsourcing platform that allows employees to propose ideas and participate in innovation projects, and is also carried out through the Digital Academy (see also the chapter Personnel, paragraph Staff training and development) and dedicated programmes such as Acea Innovation Garage (see box);
  • the innovation factory, an agile model of market analysis in sectors of strategic interest involving all industrial areas, divided into 12-week cycles, at the end of which a pilot is launched to validate the idea through a market test. The initiative made it possible to launch three strategic projects on digital health, e-mobility and waste transition.


In 2019 Acea Innovation developed Acea Innovation Garage, the entrepreneurship programme for employees aimed at promoting a culture of innovation, with the goal of supporting the Group in achieving its objectives through the enhancement of internal know-how.

Based on 4 Challenges of Innovation Needs, the programme launched a Call4Ideas open to all Group employees.

The Call gathered 120 project ideas, 10 of which were selected and 3 were successful, undertaking a 12-week incubation and development of the project iin specific spaces and with dedicated working times and with the support of coaches and technical mentors. During the incubation process, the 3 teams developed the prototype of their idea which was then presented during the Investor Day to an audience of potential investors, with the strong support of Acea’s top management.

Also during the year, Acea organized its first Innovation Day, an event dedicated to artificial intelligence at the service of businesses (see the box for details).


In May 2019 the first Acea Innovation Day was held, a day dedicated to the new frontiers of artificial intelligence and the use of data that are changing the way of doing business.

Conceived and organized by Acea, the first part of the day featured the participation of the CEOs of Italian companies in the energy and infrastructure sectors, including Italgas, Terna, A2A and Open Fiber, and the contribution of the Management & Innovation Systems department of the University of Salerno, in the presence of an audience of professionals, students, Acea employees and the press. One of the topics discussed at the roundtable was the application of new technologies and their effects on industrial processes, including the creation of new opportunities for growth and employment.

The event continued in the afternoon with the involvement of startups and key players in the innovation ecosystem, including the Country Manager of Google Cloud Italia and the CEOs of Green Rail and Solenica. The most innovative projects of the Acea Group, illustrated by the Director of Innovation, Technology & Solutions, in line with the Acea 2019-2022 Business Plan, which includes € 500 million of investments in innovation and technology, were presented on the occasion.


The Innovation Model defines governance (management of phases and methods for the involvement of actors), The innovation model at the service of business
processes (standardisation of actors’ phases of engagement) and supporting tools.

It is open to the involvement of external and internal actors and operates in a structured and systemic manner, generating synergies and sharing innovation projects in a widespread manner.

The Model envisages a process divided into four phases starting from the identification of innovation needs, through the participatory generation of ideas and experimentation and ending with implementation of the projects in collaboration with the Industrial Segments and innovation actors outside the Group. The innovation process is fuelled by the continuous scouting of innovative organizations.

During the year more than 1,000 innovative startups were analysed and 12 trials were carried out.

With reference to the Group’s industrial processes and infrastructure, the following boxes illustrate, by way of example, some of the main research and innovation projects carried out in 2019 by Acea Innovation, Acea Elabori and the Group’s Industrial Segments. In any case, we also recall what was illustrated above in the paragraph Relations with institutions, and in particular in the sub-paragraphs Some projects for the development of the territory and The comparison with the reference context, see also the chapter Customers and the community, paragraph Quality provided and the section Relations with the environment.


During the year, Acea Innovation together with all the Industrial Segments, Acea Elabori and external start-up, initiated and/or carried out the following experiments:

  • the development of a system for the safety of car drivers capable of identifying dangerous situations and preventing accidents;
  • the use of virtual reality and immersive technologies to carry out technical training in greater safety;
  • the development of an artificial intelligence algorithm to autonomously cluster tickets sent by employees for computer problems;
  • the development of a method of eliminating arsenic from water as well as other types of pollutants and materials using state-of-the-art nanotechnology to produce protein-based carbon membranes;
  • the Urban Intelligence project to use satellite technology to monitor the quality of public lighting;
  • the Pedius solution adopted by Acea Energia to make the call centre accessible to the deaf.
On the electric mobility front, Acea Innovation is testing an electric mobility services management platform with car sharing services, currently only for internal use, and recharging.


As part of its electricity distribution activities, in 2019 Areti initiated or developed numerous innovative projects, including:

    • the PlatOne project, funded by the European Community, coordinated by Areti and participated and 12 participating partners distributed between Germany, Belgium, Greece and Italy, promotes a new approach to the management of distribution networks that makes them more stable in the presence of large amounts of energy from variable renewable sources through the use of flexibility measures, storage and demand response services, with smart grid technologies and tools for automation and control of the network and distributed energy sources;
    • the LIGHT+ project for the engineering and mass use of an intelligent public lighting pole capable of managing sensors and functionalities of the public lighting service while providing useful services to the electrical distributor (such as integrated modems, etc.) and third parties (such as environmental sensors, video analysis, etc.). As part of this project, 5 patent applications for industrial inventions were submitted during the year;
    • the G.I.M.M.I. project. (Mass Inspection and Targeted Infrastructure Management) to reduce faults not found on overhead lines and asset monitoring through periodic analysis of satellite images and targeted inspections carried out with drones;
    • the AUTONOMOUS project to reduce the incidence of failures in the primary station by means of preventive inspections independently or remotely guided by an UGV (Unmanned Ground Vehicle) ground drone;
    • the FIBRE project for the construction of the fibre optic network in synergy with Open Fiber.
With regard to electric mobility during the year Areti developed design solution for the interaction between electric vehicles and the distribution network as part of smart grid development. Also during the year, Acea Produzione launched the technical-economic feasibility study for the creation of an electric battery storage system.


In collaboration with Acea Elabori, Acea Ato 2 carried out technological and digital research and innovation during the year with the aim of improving operating performance.

With regard to process innovation in the management of water distribution networks, cutting edge techniques – satellite, noise recorder and fibre optics used to search for hidden leaks (Noise Logger and Satellite Radar Interferometry) – were tested and more than 6,000 km of network were divided into districts, with the integration of a mathematical model for the preparation of pressure control valves and the installation of instrumentation for advanced remote management.

With regard to wastewater treatment, the main projects concerned:

  • the evaluation of innovative sludge reduction technologies, with the experimental study of the ozonolysis system and the experimentation of a sludge dehydration system by solar drying at the Ostia treatment plant;
  • optimisation of the anaerobic sludge digestion sectors, activated at some of the major treatment plants, also with respect to the sludge’s biomethanisation power (primary, secondary, etc.);
  • research into emerging organic micropollutants (EOMs) to limit their release into the natural environment as they are potentially dangerous (endocrine disruptors, non-target substances and transformation products);
  • the study of RAMAN spectrometry technologies and techniques for micro-nanoplastic monitoring, in collaboration with ENEA;
  • the development of process-modelling analyses concerning the residual capacity of the purification plants and the simulation of the propagation of odours in the atmosphere produced by the treatment plants.

As for the protection of water, satellite monitoring of the protected areashas continued, aimed at detecting morphological variations (new buildings, earth movements and others) and carrying out any needed inspections.

During the year, the process of identifying a technological partner for the development of the Water Management System (WMS) project continued: a multi-channel, user-friendly application solution capable of representing, analysing, monitoring and reporting huge amounts of data and information from multiple information systems.

With reference to water purification, studies were carried out at the Grottarossa plant on emerging micropollutants in treated water (Tiber) and their fate during the treatment phases, as well as on the formation of disinfection by-products (chlorine dioxide and sodium hypochlorite), and experiments have been launched to detect emerging viruses in drinking water intended for human consumption.

Acea Ato 5 conducted experiments on:

  • a drying bed system consisting of a permeable geotextile tubular for the dehydration of excess sludge mixed with polyelectrolyte;
  • hydrocarbon abatement techniques in sludge with mixtures of micro- organisms in the stabilisation tank;
  • a magnetic polariser for drinking water

Moreover, with regard to the areas for the protection of drinking water springs, studies have been carried out to study the areasurrounding the springs (geological, stratigraphic and groundwater circulation aspects), proposals have been drawn up for the delimitation of areas of absolute protection and safeguarding of certain springs (derivations of Anagni Tufano, Castrocielo Capodacqua, Collepardo Capofiume and Posta Fibreno) and instrumentation has been prepared at three additional springs to locally take water level measurements for the monitoring needed to prepare for the study of the protected area.

Gori has implemented IoT technologies and advanced sensors for the monitoring of wastewater overflow dischargers.


In 2019 in the Environment Segment the following research and innovation activities are worth mentioning:

  • the completion of the study on the development of a solution aimed at recovering sodium bicarbonate and calcium chloride dihydrate (by-products of reaction) from the treatment of the Residual Sodium Product (RSP) resulting from the neutralisation of acid fumes produced by the waste-to-energy plants, currently under contract negotiations;
  • the initiation of an experimental study for the treatment of fly ash for the recovery of the inert fraction and its treatment for the purpose of reducing its hazardous characteristics;
  • the collaboration with the Polytechnic University of Milan and the National Inter-university Consortium for the Science and Technology of Materials to launch a study on the implementation of a type of conversion of the energy content of plasmix (waste not otherwise separable from the mechanical selection processes of plastic) for the production of methanol;
  • the Sludge Mining project for the production of fertilizers, biofuels and biomaterials from sewerage sludge;
  • the Acea SmartComp project, launched by Acea Elabori for the waste transition and the development of diffuse and proximity composting with mini-plants equipped with sensory technology able to locally transform organic waste into compost through an aerobic process that in about 90 days produces fertilizer ready for use. The first Acea SmartComp was installed at the canteen of Acea’s headquarters, which has thus become organic waste free, and Acea aims to install 250 Acea SmartComps by 2022.