The Secretary-General of the United Nations is the latest person to have raised the alarm. When António Guterres opened the recent COP 24 Climate Summit in Poland, he said that the world is “way off course” when it comes to the targets that were previously set to cut CO2 emissions and combat global warming.
These are targets that a large Group like Enel, which is leading the energy transition, cannot fail to heed. As Giulia Genuardi, Head of Sustainability Planning and Performance Management at Enel, explains, Enel has set targets to increase renewable energies, in order to reduce emissions and expand low-carbon growth, and meet the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in particular SDG 7 (Affordable and Clean Energy) and SDG 13 (Climate Action) and, naturally, SDG 17 (Partnerships for the Goals).
The international agreements
As our Sustainability Report 2017 makes clear, we have set up a specific unit to represent our international positions on the emissions market, environment, energy efficiency, pollution, electric mobility, circular economy and low-carbon policies, to the European Union.
Moreover, we are involved in numerous initiatives working towards the energy transition and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions: the Alliance of CEO Climate Leaders (World Economic Forum), the Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition (World Bank), and the Electriﬁcation Alliance, promoted by the most significant of European organisations in support of the key role of electricity.
In 2015, Enel also signed a letter in support of the guidelines laid out on the financial impacts of climate change, prepared by the Financial Stability Board’s Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosure (TCFD). Furthermore, we have made decisive contributions to the new Industry Vision, supporting the energy transition, produced by Eurelectric, the association that brings together Europe’s electricity companies.
A more sustainable energy mix
The Enel Group, however, has actually gone further than the targets fixed by international organisations. In 2017, we signed the “A more ambitious EU-wide renewable energy target for 2030” Declaration, with five other energy companies, which proposes a 35% target for energy consumption from renewable sources in Europe by 2030, in contrast to the 27% target agreed upon at the 23rd United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Bonn.
As Francesca Gostinelli, Head of Group Strategy at Enel, explains, “in 2018 the quota of renewable capacity will reach 45% of the total and installed renewable capacity will be over 39 GW.” Targets for the near future are even more ambitious: “We are counting on further increasing renewables to reach 48 GW by 2021, equivalent to 55% of total capacity.”
“Enel is at the forefront of the energy transition and business sustainability thanks to a strategy whose priorities are the development of renewable energy, digitalisation and the fight against climate change”
– Seeding Energies – Sustainability Report 2017
Furthermore, we aim to minimise the climate impact of our thermo-electric power plants, by applying the best international environmentalisation techniques: for this reason we invested 130 million euros in 2017 and we have allocated a further 500 million for 2017-2020. We have also developed the Futur-e project for the 23 decommissioned energy plants: this is a circular economy project that aims to repurpose each plant, transforming it so that it becomes a new opportunity for the surrounding area. The projects are managed through open calls to action, in keeping with our Open Power approach: we are looking outwards for innovative ideas, and we are moving towards the design phase with those plans that we believe offer the best in terms of environmental and social sustainability. As Gostinelli says, “the substitution of the thermal plant with renewable options does not simply support the reduction of emissions, but also presents an opportunity to create value.”
Circularity is an essential component in our approach to sustainability: “Enel is considered a reference point in the circular economy, both for how it applies this approach across all the business areas and for how it actively involves and supports its ecosystem of reference in this transition,” explains Luca Meini, Head of Circular Economy at Enel.
When it comes to carbon dioxide emissions, i.e. emissions calculated in proportion to the energy produced, the Enel Group has already produced significant results, that it intends to improve upon further: “Emissions for each kWh produced will drop to 0.39 kg in 2018 and we forecast a drop to below 0.35 kg in 2021,” adds Gostinelli.
In order to reach both these targets and the decarbonisation of the energy mix, we are also working in other strategic areas. One of the main tools is energy efficiency, particularly for the distribution grids, a prime field of application for digitalisation, which is a key pillar of our innovation and SDG 9 (Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure).
We were absolute pioneers in digitalising the grids with smart meters, but that was just the first step: smart grids guarantee a more efficient distribution of energy, while demand response creates increased flexibility in the electricity system through smart, efficient management of the client portfolio. Storage systems also provide great support, both in terms of balancing the grid and the spread of renewable sources: Enel is active in this sector too, and intends to reach 600 MW capacity by 2020.
“Enel has accelerated its decarbonisation programme by developing new business opportunities in the field of renewable energy, energy efficiency and new digital technologies in the end-use market”
– Seeding Energies – Sustainability Report 2017
More electricity for everyone
The other great resource for the reduction of emission is electrification, i.e. converting equipment so that it is powered by electricity in substitution of previous, more polluting sources. Typical examples include heat pumps replacing gas for heating and, above all, electric mobility: two areas that contribute to SDG 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities).
In the field of transport electrification, Enel was the first utility to adhere to the Platform for Electro-Mobility, an initiative by businesses, associations and NGOs promoting e-mobility in Europe.
From a technological point of view, Enel is concentrating on charging infrastructures. It is working to create the most comprehensive network of charging stations possible, also on roads that are distant from urban centres, and to develop innovative solutions for smart, fast charging. The objective is to remove those obstacles that are responsible for delaying the large-scale spread of electric vehicles, and to make EVs increasingly competitive from a sales perspective. Reaching this target will have an enormous impact: road transport alone is responsible for 22% of the European Union’s greenhouse gas emissions (not to mention air quality in cities). This statistic alone should be enough to convince any business concerned with sustainability to opt entirely for e-mobility, as an immediate resource for protecting the climate and the health of city residents.
Flexibility and resilience
If our activities are directed towards reducing greenhouse gas emission, then reliable forecasts of future scenarios are also essential for focusing our investments and improving our strategies. This is why we have begun a collaboration with ICTP (The Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics) in Trieste, a centre of excellence in scientific research in Italy.
As Claudio Dicembrino, Head of Group Macroeconomic and Energy Analysis and Forecasting at Enel, explains, the “Climate Change and Resilience” project aims “to develop long-term climate scenarios with a high level of detail in order to evaluate potential impacts on business in terms of both risks and opportunities.” In particular, he goes on to say, “information on the development of variables like temperature, solar rays, precipitation, wind and data on the evolution of extreme weather events, in terms of frequency and intensity, will be integrated in the process of strategic and industrial planning.”
This project will benefit our approach, which is characterised by flexibility and resilience, and our decarbonisation policies. “In-depth knowledge of the impacts of climate change – concludes Dicembrino – has great value, not simply because of the enormous implications for the Group’s activity, but also as a tool to promote the value of an efficient energy transition at all levels.”