Electrification is one of the central focuses of Enel’s strategy, but what exactly does it mean? It means using electric power as much as possible and ensuring that it becomes a zero-emissions carrier when generated by renewable sources, even in sectors such as heating and transport, in which other types of energy have been used until now.
Grid infrastructure, particularly in terms of distribution, has the essential job of carrying electric power to customers’ homes, regulating energy flows in real time to guarantee a constant balance between the power being sent to the grid by plants and that consumed by end users. Although this is more or less taken for granted in most of the more industrialized nations, International Energy Agency (IEA) data reveals that around 733 million people were still excluded from access to electricity in 2020 – that is a tenth of the world’s population and more than the entire population of Europe. 75% of the people not served by electricity grids live in Sub-Saharan Africa while the remainder are from large areas of Latin America and Asia. Even where there are grids, they are often not efficient enough to provide the entire population with effective and reliable electricity. The increasing spread of renewable energy is also demanding newly designed grids that are capable of managing the intermittent and often bi-directional energy flows typical of distributed generation.
Guaranteeing access to energy
At Enel, we are actively working in all the countries where we are present to improve access to electricity in line with one of the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals. SDG 7, in fact, calls for access to “Affordable and clean energy” for everyone by 2030. There are many, many examples and all of them are tailored to suit the situations facing the local communities involved.
Electricity – not an asset to be wasted
In Argentina, for instance, as part of our Leadership Network developed in Lanùs (in the province of Buenos Aires), we flanked I&N (Infrastructure and Networks) work with a major communications drive for the communities served by an upgraded and efficient grid. This was in order to raise awareness of the importance of customers using electricity efficiently.
In order to spread the message even more efficiently in an area where there is a high level of social vulnerability, we developed partnerships with organizations already active on the ground and with testimonials who were well-known and liked in the community. Above all, our aim was to demonstrate the advantages of electricity distribution managed by a reliable company like Enel which people could turn to for technical requirements, advice on better usage and, if necessary, complaints. This message was communicated by organizing events and shows, providing support for artistic activities and distributing LED light bulbs to help people make more efficient use of their electricity. We also provided community support by distributing food in meal centers for people in difficulty.
Development and employment opportunities
In Peru, the “Energia para Crecer” (“Energy to Grow”) project aims to double our electrification effort which over the last 15 years, has seen Enel Perú connect 265,000 homes to the grid. This is not just a commitment to distributing more energy in areas without electricity and combating the dangerous practice of illegal connections. It is also a social project as we have launched various tools to support local communities in promoting the development of businesses, small companies and stores. We want to help both citizens and these new businesses to save on their consumption and obtain special rates for their electricity and the purchase of electric appliances and other electrical equipment.
In the Chilean capital Santiago, we are organizing training courses at the Enel Distribución Centro de Excelencia Operacional. These are for students attending high schools that are part of the “Sofofa” network which promotes the development of the manufacturing industry. In a mix of theoretical and practical lessons, we explain how the city’s electricity grid, which celebrated its centenary in 2021, works and is managed. This is done in part through a dedicated interactive website. The aim of this educational program is not just practical – it is also a response to the UN’s SDG 8 which calls for “Decent work and economic growth” for everyone. The youngsters on the courses will in fact learn the basics of a job – maintaining electricity lines – which could provide an interesting career opportunity.
Grids designed for the future
Other initiatives reference long-term projects aimed at launching a zero-emissions future. In Colombia, for example, we have begun the 10-year Bogotà-Region 2030 project, one of the most ambitious of its kind in Latin America. It will involve the construction of over 30 substations in the Bogotá and Cundinamarca regions which will serve a population that currently stands at 10 million, but by 2030 will have grown to 12 million. The Colombian government has also set itself the goal of using only electric vehicles for public transport by 2035, making further modernization of the distribution network necessary.
In Romania, through E-Distributie, we are setting aside a half a million euros for three photovoltaic plants equipped with storage systems installed in three primary substations. The three sites, in the regions of Muntenia, Dobrogea and Banat, have 570 high efficiency photovoltaic panels altogether and can supply 110 MWh of electricity annually. To do this, and to ensure optimal grid management, they have been equipped with storage batteries of 100 kWh apiece, located in the substations that distribute the electricity generated to the grid. The plants serve 23,000 users in total.
From flexibility to big data
In Italy, we have also launched a series of activities aimed at creating increasingly flexible electrification in a short space of time, including in the service of e-mobility. The “Edge” project aims, over the next three years, to develop new flexibility services designed for electricity distribution managers to allow energy production to be increased or decreased depending on consumption requirements which are measured in real time. The cities of Benevento, Cuneo, Foggia and Venice were selected to test out the new solutions. Italy is also where our new Enel X Way business unit has launched a new “evolutionary” activity for e-mobility through which we are offering a new series of services for the market. These are designed to provide a single reference point to CPOs (Charge Point Operators), who install and manage charging points for e-vehicles, thereby fostering the development of their business. The ultimate aim is to promote the rapid spread of services and solutions to accelerate the electrification of mobility, not just on the roads but also on waterways and in ports.
In Spain, the Pastora project, which began in 2019 and is due to be completed this year, is developing an AI system which uses big data collected from a smart grid to predict potential malfunctions in advance and then activate an actual check on distribution which translates into better service for the public. The project is underway in Malaga, a city that has become a real-life laboratory in which new solutions have been tested on 20,000 domestic, 300 industrial and 900 service users.