World Cities Day: what we are doing already and what else we can do to make our cities more livable

World Cities Day: what we are doing already and what else we can do to make our cities more livable

October 31 is World Cities Day. Here we explain all the things we’re doing to make urban areas increasingly inclusive, safe and sustainable.


We all dream of cities which are safer, more sustainable, on a human scale and livable and that offer more services. This is why World Cities Day has been held every year since 2014. Its aim is to promote cooperation between nations to tackle present and future challenges and provide impetus to sustainable urban development. This year’s edition takes place in Shanghai on October 31 with a focus on “Act Local to Go Global.”

The urban transition is a fundamentally important issue because cities create around 60% of global CO2 emissions and consume almost 80% of energy generated. This is in addition to accounting for 50% of the waste produced despite covering just 2% of the Earth’s surface. By 2050, around two thirds of the world’s population will be living in cities which will, as a result, have to be redesigned to combat future climate change. This is why the concepts of sustainability and the circular economy are becoming central, together with the whole process of decarbonization.


Cities in the UN’s 2030 Agenda

World Cities Day has a double link with the 2030 Agenda’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Number 11 which was signed in September 2015 by the governments of 193 UN member countries: “Sustainable cities and communities.” Enel has worked toward this goal not just in terms of vision and definition but also business solutions. Every year since 2018 we have in fact published a global paper on the subject which stimulates debate, by involving stakeholders and companies from other sectors, and inviting everyone to get to know more about these issues.  

And we’ve gone even further: why confine ourselves to discussing areas of critical importance when we can also test out solutions? Such as in Bologna, where, thanks to adaptive public lighting (street lighting that can be changed to suit actual traffic, weather and lighting conditions), Enel X Global Retail improved traffic management, made the city safer and also showcased its artistic and architectural heritage while simultaneously cutting electricity consumption by 35%.

Between April 2020 and the end of 2021, when Covid-19 containment measures were still in force, Enel X Global Retail in partnership with HERE Technologies made the City Analytics – Mobility Map available free of charge to public authorities in Italy, Spain and Brazil. Thanks to this tool, it was possible to rapidly redesign and monitor urban mobility when restrictions were in place, enabling effective policies to be implemented for a gradual return to normality.

The island of Procida, near Naples, is the Italian Capital of Culture for 2022, and E-Distribuzione brought its Cabine d’Autore urban regeneration project to the island under the patronage of the Municipality. This permanent open-air art exhibition uses E-Distribution electricity substation cabins and street boxes located across the island as its “canvases.” Specifically, five substation cabins painted by famous street artist Neve – aka Danilo Pistone - reference unusual characteristics particular to the island and its identity. The artist found in the “threads” or leitmotifs a theme that recalls the bond and connections that locals have to an area, as well as the way people meet and interact. The patterns created by the powerlines that allow E-Distribuzione to reach its users and provide them with power and services, are also leitmotifs.

Grid Futurability® Matera was our first living lab for grid-applied technologies. We created it with the aim of improving not just the management of our infrastructure but also the quality of the service and the grid’s ability to connect with renewable sources across the entire Region. We have also begun the Grid Futurability® journey in Genoa. This is our industrial vision for a participatory, resilient and sustainable grid. It is the global Enel model for transforming distribution networks into Smart Grids, through a combination of traditional systems and advanced digital solutions that make them more reliable, sustainable and efficient, as well as open to participation from stakeholders. Smart Grids are the primary driving force in creating a Smart City system. Grid digitalization puts citizens at the very center of this evolution, and Matera, Genoa and Naples will have a flexible open infrastructure that adapts to customers’ needs.


Energy conversion and urban areas

Aside from improving services and dealing with emergency situations, it is also important to be able to reuse the existing infrastructure, by offering it new development opportunities. A case in point is the former Porto Tolle power station where, to ensure the site would be converted for new uses, Enel launched a competition for projects for its sale and regeneration. One of the leading Italian companies in the sector, the Human Company, was selected to regenerate the site. It will be giving it a bright new future by turning it into Delta Farm, a tourism project spanning 30 hectares of woodland and a further 80 for visitor accommodation, a multifunctional sports hub with a watersports area, recreational spaces and experiential trails.

There will also be a major emphasis on the local area’s points of excellence with visit centers dedicated to the environment and countryside, in addition to the development of fish farming and traditional local agriculture.

Conversion goes hand in hand with design: alongside transforming old power plants into something new that creates value for the local area, we also need to rethink the plants of the future. How do we want these new energy spaces to be? This is why we launched the eponymous Enel competitions, the first of which focused on the Andrea Palladio power station in Fusina. It was won by a project to create an integrated energy hub with different energy production technologies, all of which will be integrated with the environment and with spaces open to the community. The project will also reuse some of the existing facilities in line with our sustainability and circular economy focus.


Promoting e-mobility

People who live in cities today now have more and more opportunities to get around easily, thanks to our e-vehicle charging infrastructure. Enel X Way and Q8, for instance, signed an agreement that will allow Q8 customers to use the Italian Enel X Way EV charging network, which is 100% powered by renewables, through an app. They will be able to locate the nearest charging station to them, book a socket 15 minutes before they arrive, monitor charging status and receive notification when their vehicle has finished charging. They will also be able to charge their vehicle at any convenient point during the day, such as while shopping at the grocery store: this is already possible at the Milan branches of the IperCoop and Carrefour chains.

Another agreement, this time between Enel X Way and E-GAP, has brought on-demand charging to some of Italy’s leading tourist destinations where electric car drivers can even request a fast charge at home which will be provided by a zero-emissions van. And in the legendary seaside resort of Portofino, we created the first example of integrated e-mobility by providing charging for both electric vehicles and boats.

A further major partnership between Enel Grids and Hitachi Energy resulted in the creation of the first reduced carbon emissions transformer that uses natural ester, a completely biodegradable vegetable oil, as its insulation fluid.  

The entire Enel Group is moving in a tightknit manner to promote renewable energies, electrification, the development of efficiency solutions for consumption in buildings, digitalization, automation and innovation. World Cities Day will provide yet another opportunity to reflect on how we can work to turn our Planet into a better place for everyone.