Open innovation to tackle the challenges of the business. In line with its Open Power vision, the Enel Group is promoting an approach that is based on opening up all the areas of the company to startups, industrial partners, small and medium-sized businesses, research centres, universities and crowdsourcing platforms.
Innovation is a key pillar of our Sustainability Report. We coined the “portmanteau word” Innovability from Innovation and Sustainability, to demonstrate how the two concepts represent an essential combination for our Group: there is no sustainability without innovation and innovation must always be directed towards sustainability.
The digital era
A digital revolution has already begun and we are all part of it: consumers, businesses, government institutions and the voluntary sector. Change has always been a characteristic of human evolution but the speed at which these transformations are happening is unparalleled. We are living in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, a radical transformation generating new models, strategies and paradigms: the so-called Industry 4.0. The challenge is knowing how to use the opportunities offered by new technology and the significant amount of available data in the best way. This makes digitalisation an essential tool for responding to multiple external stimuli and for creating an efficient strategy at all levels of the organisation. On the basis of this vision, in 2016 we included digitalisation in our Strategic Plan, confirming it again as a key element in our 2018-2020 Strategic Plan.
Digitalisation also has a significant impact on social and environmental issues. In terms of sustainability, it contributes to three of the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals - SDGs: SDG 9 (Industry, innovation and infrastructure), SDG 11 (Sustainable cities and communities) and SDG 12 (Responsible production and consumption).
At our Group, digitalisation is a transversal process that embraces both its traditional business and the development of new models that are ready to adopt new technology.
For an industrial group like Enel, whose core business is the production and distribution of energy, power plants are naturally in the front line when it comes to digitalisation. Our DGPlant project is based on the most up-to-date IoT (Internet of Things) systems that connect equipment with inanimate objects by providing them with sensors. Examples of the various initiatives that have been implemented through this project include our power plants in Torrevaldaliga Nord (Italy) and Besós (Spain). Here we installed innovative monitoring systems: a network of digital communication that transmits data received from the sensors measuring temperature and moisture.
Digitalisation is also significant for our distribution networks. Among the numerous projects active on this front mention should be made of the Demand Response platform. This was developed by a Group subsidiary, EnerNOC, and balances the grid in real time using modern IoT technology. The same technology is also applied to micro grids (small local networks): these have been installed in some of the most diverse places, from the Marcus Garvey Village residential complex in New York to remote communities in Paratebueno, Colombia, where we brought electricity in a sustainable manner.
Storage systems for the accumulation of electricity are also essential to micro grids and to the development of renewable sources. Our many initiatives in this field include the “La Graciosa” project in Spain which was launched in order to demonstrate how storage systems can assist the spread of renewable energy while maintaining service of the highest quality in the distribution networks.
Digitalisation also helps the environment by reducing the movement and consumption of paper. In 2017, for example, video communication services helped us save on travel and trips, avoiding 284,172,487 km of air travel and 2,508,607 km of car travel and thereby saving 32,783 tons of carbon dioxide emissions. This was in keeping with SDG 12 (Responsible production and consumption).
Innovation for e-mobility
The IoT is an essential tool in promoting the use of sustainable mobility. This is a field to which our Group has been committed for some time and where the Group is active on three fronts: interconnecting charging stations, smart charging services and aggregation services linking homes, vehicles and networks. By working with several automobile manufacturers, we have launched many innovative projects including EVA+ (Electric Vehicles Arteries). This project is co-financed by the European Commission and will install quick charging points, compatible with all the e-vehicles available commercially, on motorways (there are 180 of these charging points in Italy, and 20 in Austria).
Furthermore, eMotorWerks, a US-based company owned by the Enel Group, has created JuiceNet. This platform manages the intelligent charging of e-vehicles, remotely controlling the flow of electricity and accessing the V2G (Vehicle-to-Grid) system which allows cars to return excess electricity to the grid.
And from four wheels to two: our quick charging system was designed for the FIM Enel MotoE World Cup electric motorcycle championship of which our Group is Title Sponsor. This technology makes it possible to charge in the box from the grid, or in any other area on the circuit, with a mobile charger.
The culture of innovation
We use innovability as part of our daily commitment to reach SDG 7 (Affordable and clean energy), SDG 9 (Industry, innovation and infrastructure) and SDG 11 (Sustainable cities and communities). Additionally, the activation of 200 innovation projects and 124 partnership agreements, on both local and global levels, contributes to SDG 17 (Partnerships for the goals).
Our projects are the product of a culture of innovation that we promote as part of our mission for continuous improvement. We have launched three global projects to share and expand this culture: #nomoreexcuses works to identify the reasons for resistance to change and to promote an alternative, favourable approach; Innovation School fosters new working methodologies and encourages soft skills, while the Enel Innovation World Cup stimulates entrepreneurial incentives to develop new business lines within the Group.
Innovation is not simply a question of technology, it is in every part of our work. The Enel Idea Factory, for example, was set up to tackle future challenges with innovative work methodologies and creative techniques while the four Ideas Hubs in Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Spain encourage and promote the culture of innovation and creativity.
We have established eight Innovation Hubs across the world – in Tel Aviv, San Francisco, Moscow, Rio de Janeiro, Madrid, Santiago, Pisa and Catania – to facilitate the exchange of ideas and solutions, with the external innovation ecosystem. Through the scouting and support of the most promising startups, we facilitate innovation and contributes to the economy and employment (therefore, also social sustainability). At the same time, constant contact with new partners helps develop innovation, thanks to the ideas that come from outside. This is the underlying motivation for the Enel Open Power model and the Open Innovability platform: opening up to both external and internal ideas to ensure constant improvement and innovation.