Eliminating CO2 emissions from all of Enel’s activities by 2040, and extending the Net Zero strategy to include the distribution grids, based on the use of low-emission circular components. This technological evolution, together with an overhaul of the infrastructure that we have opened up to international stakeholders in the electricity distribution ecosystem, was included in the presentation of the Open Power Grids (OPG) Association. It was part of Net Zero Grid Day, which was organized in Rome for the company’s 60th anniversary celebrations.
OPG has been created in order to share with all the operators in the sector – within an open-source environment – new standards for the grid components of the future. Its goal is to minimize carbon emissions resulting from our activities through the adoption of increasingly sustainable, safe and efficient technical solutions.
“We want to work together to meet a shared challenge. We won’t save the world if we only think about decarbonizing Enel. We have to convince the entire sector to move faster in this direction,” explains Antonio Cammisecra, the Head of Enel Grids Division. “This is a new approach that is open and collaborative. Together we can all share innovative technologies to make the journey more straightforward, safer and also cheaper for consumers.”
The spirit of Paris
Enel’s goal of Net Zero for grids aims to speed up the adoption of the principles outlined in the 2015 Paris Agreements across the entire the sector. This is in order to facilitate the energy transition through a meaningful transformation of the distribution infrastructure into enabling platforms, making energy generation increasingly decarbonized and electrifying consumption.
“Net Zero continues to be at the heart of our corporate strategy,” says Enel’s CEO and General Manager Francesco Starace, reiterating that the Group has brought forward by 10 years the deadline for achieving zero emissions set by the UN for 2050. “Grids are enabling factors for the energy transition. A profound change will enable us to ensure the excellent service quality we provide, using renewable energies. The grids will also play a key role in decarbonization.”
The new forms of electrification will increase demand in the construction, transport and industrial sectors, making final customers increasingly active in both the management of resources and the flexibility of distribution. This will accelerate the shift to digital and smart grids. At the same time, distribution grids are also set to become the main point of entry into the system. That’s because the renewable transformation will lead to a fundamental change in the average dimensions of generation plants, which by 2050, according to the Bloomberg New Energy Outlook (BNEF), will become on average six times smaller than those of today.
Betting on Grid Futurability
In order to meet this challenge, Enel has adopted Grid Futurability, the client-oriented global, industrial approach to identify and prioritize grid renewal, upgrading and expansion. Grid Futurability was presented during the Enel event held in September 2021 as part of the Italian pre-COP26 campaign. Its goal is to plot an effective roadmap for investments in the distribution grids necessary for the energy transition, for a total value of 70 billion euros in the period 2021-2030. The aim is to provide even better service quality, ensuring robust grids that are also resilient in extreme weather conditions, promoting the engagement and interaction of stakeholders in the grid and enabling a greater integration of renewable energies.
Grid Futurability is fundamental for providing infrastructure that facilitates the electrification of final consumption and the participation of various players in the new flexibility markets that take advantage of Distributed Energy Resources (DER). This is in addition to supplying energy at prices that are accessible for final consumers and local communities while respecting the environment.
The birth of Open Power Grids
The Open Power Grids concept fits into this context. The term refers to the new platform that’s open to the collaboration of suppliers, utilities and technological partners. OPG is designed to bring stakeholders, universities and research institutes together in the development of grids that are more resilient, sustainable and safer. It is the result of a long working process, as Francesco Amadei, Head of Engineering and Construction at Enel, explains: “We are making available to everyone our 60 years of history in the field of standardization of technical solutions that we have implemented at the 11 distribution companies where we work in Europe and Latin America.”
Thanks to OPG, we have started to share our construction solutions and technical specifications for the main components and devices. Examples include the use of Building Information Modelling (BIM) in the Liberty primary cabin, for the all-inclusive digital generation and management of the project, from 3D representation to physical and functional characteristics, up to work progress and final accounting. This is a first step towards common standards among stakeholders, ensuring modularity and interoperability, promoting the convergence towards standards of modularity, maximizing the creation of shared value through sustainability and safety, not to mention cost effectiveness and technical performance.
“The partnership between all those involved in the energy transition is crucial,” says Gerhard Salge, CTO of Hitachi Energy, one of the initiative’s partner companies. “It’s fantastic that Enel is launching an initiative in which we can interact and collaborate with all of the participants, working together to create all the technologies we need to overcome this challenge.”
Enel has launched OPG in order to optimize the creation of reliable and competitive primary distribution plants. This is also with a view to ensuring benefits for the community. “The role of individuals is changing. From pure consumers and passive customers to active agents in the landscape of energy production, storage and consumption,” adds Simona Maschi, Director of the Copenhagen Institute for Interaction Design. “This requires new values, new motivations and new dynamics to coordinate all of the efforts to move electricity suppliers away from a closed and centralized concept of innovation and strategies to one that is accessible and distributed, in which open innovation is the paradigm that we all want to follow.”
The greenhouse gas-free Ring Main Units
Enel Grids’ collaboration with ABB also goes in this direction. It will enable us to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while providing reliable and sustainable energy through our grids in Italy and Spain, thanks to the installation of ABB's innovative Ring Main Units (RMUs). These are compact switchboards for secondary distribution and they are free of SF6. This is the most powerful greenhouse gas in the world, but it has important insulating properties and is therefore widely used in the electricity sector. The RMUs have been designed specifically to meet Enel's needs. This partnership, which began in 2019 with the selection of ABB through an Enel Open Innovation contest, marks an important step in the creation of increasingly sustainable electricity grids. That’s because ABB's low-pressure 24 kV solution has the same performance, safety and reliability as traditional SF6 gas solutions.
How to take part in Open Power Grids
The collaboration framework that we have created is based on two pillars: a digital platform and an association. On the 'Open Power Grids Platform' all of Enel's global functional technical specifications (both for the components and the construction solutions of the different grid modules) are made available to the members of the Open Power Grids Association. Enquiries and expressions of interest can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. From here it is possible to receive information about the initiative and how to become a member. After joining the Open Power Grids Association, members will receive a link inviting them to access the Open Power Grids platform, where it will be possible to consult and utilize Enel’s Global standards, propose improvements for the existing ones and the introduction of new ones, based on the conditions and aims of the Association.
The benefit for Enel is that many more component units and many more distribution plants will be manufactured to our standards by both our regular suppliers and others, thereby increasing market supply. But the main common benefit will be the convergence towards the same innovative and sustainable solutions by more players within the electricity sector, thereby constituting an extraordinary accelerator for the industrial system in the energy transition.
Watch the event on demand: https://www.climateaction.org/events/digital/enel-net-zero-grid-day