Sustainability is always the same and always different. Always the same because it is a unique and universal value, always different because it is expressed in different forms and ways depending on the historical, geographical, economic and social – in a word, human – contexts.
These contexts are also extremely varied when it comes to the vast world of Enel, which is present in more than 30 countries and five continents. For some time now, sustainability has been the lodestar guiding the daily activities of our Group and our people.
These experiences in various, distant fields can become a source of encouragement and inspiration for everyone. For this reason, Enel has launched the “Sustainability Stories” project to give everyone an opportunity to share best practices and thereby keep the virtuous circle of sustainability moving.
Solar energy in Argentina’s barrios
One of the most interesting stories to emerge from the project comes from Argentina. The initiative is called Leadership Networks and it concerns rural electrification: bringing electricity to those without it lays the foundations for facilitating access to education for youngsters, professional training, the opening of business activities and, ultimately, the social and economic development of local communities. And when electricity, as in this case, is produced from renewable sources, then the sustainability in question is not only social, but also environmental.
The neighborhood of Los Ceibos, in the city of Lanús (in the province of Buenos Aires), is home to population groups experiencing hardship and a lack of access to electricity. It was here that the Enel Group intervened in collaboration with the charitable organization GES (Gestión Educativa y Social) and the solar energy company Colectando Sol.
The first step was to establish direct contact with the local population, to assess the social and economic conditions of households and individuals, to create a climate of trust and accompany people on a journey of awareness towards a conscious and responsible use of energy.
Thanks to a system of photovoltaic plants, we have provided more than 2,000 people with a reliable and sustainable supply of electricity. Among other things, the solar panels will power more than 2,000 LED lights that we have positioned around a soccer pitch to allow sporting activities to continue also after dark. The energy intervention was accompanied by other social initiatives, such as the delivery of food products and a makeover for the neighborhood with the help of local artists.
Electrification reaches the Andes
Rural electrification is also a central issue in Colombia in the department of Cundinamarca, a mountainous region in the center of the country near the capital Bogotà. The Cundinamarca 100% project, which was launched in 2016, aims to bring electricity to more than 8,500 households living in remote areas beyond the reach of the electricity grid. Total coverage should be achieved by 2029, but 3,700 households had already been connected by 2020.
Electrification can be implemented in three different ways, depending on the specific context: through connection to the electricity grid if possible, with minigrids in small settlements and with offgrid systems powered by photovoltaic panels for locations that are more isolated and harder to reach.
The project, which was carried out in collaboration with the local authorities, the Ministry for Mines and Energy, the Sistema de Gestión de Regalías (SGR) and the University of the Andes, grew from the relationships established with the local communities, and it is precisely for this reason that the initiative was awarded the Corporate Social Responsibility Prize in the category of “Relationships with the community” assigned by Cámara Colombiana de la Construcción (the Colombian Chamber of Construction).
Rural electrification, moreover, is essential for sustainable development and contributes to the achievement of four of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals – SDGs: first of all, SDG 7 (Affordable and Clean Energy) but also SDG 9 (Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure), SDG 10 (Reduced Inequalities) and SDG 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities).
The city of the future in Spain
The e-City Sevilla project in Spain is decidedly different. The Isla de la Cartuja is a vast river island located between the Guadalquivir River and the Cartuja Canal, just outside the center of Seville. This was the location of Expo 1992 and, among other things, is home to the Science and Technology Park (Parque Científico y Tecnológico Cartuja – PCT Cartuja).
By 2025 this area is set to become a prototype for the city of the future and a global model for the energy transition and sustainability. This urban environment at the cutting-edge of innovation in the field of renewables, electric transport, efficient construction and digitalization is set to reach the milestone of “carbon neutrality,” the net balance of zero emissions of greenhouse gases, a good 25 years ahead of the international deadline of 2050. In fact, our project, which was launched in 2019 in collaboration with the local authorities and PCT Cartuja, aims to create an energy self-sufficient eCity using 100% clean energy.
At the heart of the project is a large photovoltaic plant, powered by sunlight in one of Europe’s sunniest regions, flanked by an energy storage system. All of the buildings will undergo energy renovation in order to optimize their efficiency, while substantial green spaces and pedestrianized areas are also planned. Transport too will be sustainable: the goal is to replace 2,000 vehicles currently in circulation with the same number of electric versions, for which a network of 200 charging points is planned. The energy will be managed through a smart grid, which will be the digital backbone of the smart city. Open Data will enable the real-time analysis of logistics, public lighting, air quality and traffic conditions. This integrated system will open the door to futuristic innovations like the use of connected vehicles, thanks to IoT (Internet of Things) technology.
These projects share the goal of bringing a cleaner and more sustainable form of energy to everyone: and this is our energy.