World Environment Day: a universal human right, and a daily commitment

World Environment Day: a universal human right, and a daily commitment

For 50 years, we have been celebrating World Environment Day on June 5, and this year it’s dedicated to plastic pollution. Today, access to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment is a "universal human right" sanctioned by the UN. For us at Enel, it is also a daily commitment.


All the inhabitants of the Planet have the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment: this is a "universal human right" sanctioned by a resolution of the United Nations General Assembly in 2022, and which adds to the others already recognized in the Universal Declaration of 1948 .

The UN resolution is the result of a process that began over 50 years ago with the Stockholm Declaration, the result of the first major Conference on the Human Environment, which took place in June 1972. The Declaration brought environmental issues to the fore, starting the debate on the link between economic growth, pollution and the well-being of people around the world. For this reason, in December of the same year, the UN established the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and World Environment Day, with the aim of raising awareness of the consequences of pollution, desertification and global warming.

50 years after its first edition, World Environment Day is further enhancing its value. It is no longer just a question of promoting environmental protection, but of accelerating the implementation of obligations and commitments regarding the environment and human rights. This is done by pursuing innovative economic, social and environmental policies that address inequalities and protect people and the Planet. It’s a goal that member states, international organizations and businesses are called upon to achieve together.


Energy on a human and environmental scale

Our Group's commitment is totally in line with that of the United Nations: in 2021 we updated our Human Rights Policy, recognizing the protection of the environment and natural resources, the fight against climate change and the contribution to economic development sustainability as strategic factors in the planning, operation and development of all our activities.

We have therefore linked our industrial strategy to precise commitments. The first is the "Zero Emissions Ambition": we aim to reduce direct and indirect emissions as much as possible along the entire value chain by 2040, to help limit the average increase in global temperature to 1.5°C, as envisaged by the Paris Agreement.

We are committed to the progressive abandonment of coal-fired generation by 2027 and gas-fired generation by 2040, the year we have also set as the target for ending the sale of gas to end customers. By 2040, 100% of the electricity sold to our customers will be generated from renewable sources.

Already in 2022, over 63% of our installed capacity was renewable, with a reduction in the intensity of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG Scope 1) connected to electricity production of 40% compared to 2017. In order to make the Group’s commitments even more stringent, last year we updated our decarbonization roadmap. In the case of electricity production, we established an 80% reduction by 2030 in the intensity of direct greenhouse gas emissions (GHG Scope 1) compared to 2017, while for the sale of electricity to the end customer, the new target envisages a 78% decrease by 2030 in the intensity of direct and indirect emissions (GHG Scope 1 and 3) compared to 2017.

Our strategy is completed by the commitment to lead our customers towards the clean electrification of consumption. How can we do this? By increasing the consumption of electricity from renewable sources and extending it to other sectors such as transport and construction, where the proposed solutions (like electric vehicles and heat pumps) are also more energy-efficient than the use of fossil fuels.


Environment and biodiversity: from principles to action

As an energy company, all of our operating activities not only depend on natural resources: they also impact them. With this in mind, we constantly work to reduce our impact on nature, recover habitats and share the benefits of ecosystem services with the communities we interact with.

In order to do this, we have been following globally defined strategic guidelines for years. In Europe, in 2020 the European Commission published the Biodiversity Strategy in which national plans for the recovery of land were introduced, setting specific objectives for urban, agricultural and forest ecosystems. And, in order to constantly improve the management of our assets and services, we have proactively integrated EU principles into our Group Environmental Policy (which was adopted in 1996 and updated in 2018 and 2022) and our Biodiversity Policy (which was adopted in 2015) in which we recently implemented the indications of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework. This was defined in December (2022) at the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) during COP15, which was held in Montreal. The program defines objectives for 2030 for the reduction of biodiversity loss, the restoration of ecosystems and the protection of rights of indigenous peoples and local communities. It also provides for the adoption of obligations for large companies to assess and report the risks, dependencies and impacts on biodiversity.

These recommendations have strengthened our Group Biodiversity Policy, whereby we apply the principles of the Mitigation Hierarchy in all phases of the life cycle of our assets. The goal we have set ourselves is to achieve No Net Loss of biodiversity for new infrastructures from 2030 onwards, with its adoption on selected projects in areas of high biodiversity importance, starting from 2025. We are also committed to conserving forests and providing, where necessary, reforestation interventions in line with the principle of "No Net Deforestation " and to not building new infrastructure in areas that have been designated as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.


Biodiversity, the numbers behind our commitment

In 2022, our action plan for biodiversity materialized with the implementation of 200 projects (+9.3% compared to 2021) to defend natural habitats around operating plants. 82 of them were developed through partnerships with government bodies, NGOs and universities, while the total investment was 11.9 million euros. The interventions were carried out in all the geographical areas in which we operate and in particular concerned renewable plants in operation and network infrastructure, thereby enabling the recovery of natural habitats for 9,452 hectares (+3.9% with respect to 2021).

Projects include one that began in Chile in 2018, at our hydroelectric plants in the Laguna del Laja. It’s aimed at defining a plan for the recovery, conservation and management of the South Andean deer (Hippocamelus bisulcus), a native and emblematic species in Chile that is at risk of extinction. In February 2022, the Chilean Ministry of the Environment adopted the plan, recognizing the fundamental contribution of our company.

Another initiative was launched in 2017 in the Municipality of São Luiz Gonzaga (Brazil), although it wasn’t completed and tested until the end of 2022. It is linked to the license for the maintenance of the distribution network in the area. It is a reforestation activity with plants for phytodepuration (i.e., water purification) and melliferous (i.e., honey-producing) species, used to favor the presence of pollinating insects, and it was set up around a former landfill. Local communities were also involved in the monitoring phase of the herbaceous and shrubby flora grown in the area. Furthermore, some bird species were also part of the project, as a census was carried out based on the sighting and discovery of nesting sites.


The circular economy: designing products so as not to create waste

World Environment Day 2023 is also guided by the hashtag #BeatPlasticPollution, an impassioned plea to stop plastic pollution. It underlines the importance of actions by citizens, institutions and businesses to reduce plastic pollution and invites everyone to accelerate the move toward a circular economy.

The optimal management of waste - not just plastic waste - is another strategic objective of our environmental policy. We are in fact committed to reducing its production and identifying the best practices for reuse, recycling and recovery in a circular economy perspective of resources in line with the principles indicated in the European Union’s "Resource Use and Circular Economy" proposal. Our goal is to progressively increase the percentage of recovered materials and to reduce by 55% (by 2030) the waste produced (either directly or by contractors) in operational and maintenance activities at our facilities.

In 2015 we embarked on a path toward decarbonization, placing the Circular Economy at the heart of our strategy, in order to rethink our business model by applying it to all Group activities, along the entire value chain.

Achieving increasingly ambitious decarbonization goals requires a transformation of the energy system, focusing on renewable sources and the electrification of consumption to maximize the use of renewable energy.

The management of raw materials plays a fundamental role in our journey to decarbonization. The energy transition makes it possible to eliminate the need for fuel through the adoption of technologies which require raw materials that are different from those used by traditional technologies. An important challenge is therefore to ensure that all the material part falls within a fully circular, sustainable, resilient and competitive approach.

At the 3SUN Gigafactory, for example, technologies are being developed to introduce recycled materials into the production process (such as replacing the glass in the panels with recycled plastic). In more general terms, in addition to plastic for photovoltaic panels, we are employing innovative methods for reducing the intensity of silicon use, aiming to build a diversified and sustainable supply chain. As with other initiatives in the field of generation on materials other than plastic, the objective of the Wind New Life project is to develop a circular value chain to manage the end of life of wind turbines, at two plants in Italy and Spain. This will provide for the collection of the blades, the treatment for the production of raw and secondary material and the reuse of the same for the production of components with high added value (for example, building materials).

As regards network assets, 2020 saw the start of production of new Circular Smart Meters through a path aimed at redesigning the electronic meter value chain. This entails using the material from decommissioned meters to create new ones. Approximately 2 million circular Smart Meters were produced in 2022. In actual fact, 48% of new appliances are made up of regenerated materials, in particular regenerated plastic. Over its useful life (15 years), each circular Smart Meter saves 7 kg of CO2 and 1.1 kg of virgin material.

With regard to waste related to distribution network management activities, our commitment continues in the recovery of hazardous and non-hazardous special waste. Examples include dielectric mineral oils used as insulators in electrical equipment). Initiatives have also been launched in various countries for the sustainable replacement of first-generation smart meters and the recovery of their constituent materials, including plastics. We have also defined a Grid Mining & Zero Waste model. This treats network assets as a resource to be used at the end of their life, and enables the recovery and valorization on the market of precious metals and other materials and devices from outdated distribution infrastructure.

As part of the supply of energy efficiency products and services, Enel X Global Retail has adopted the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) model, which also includes the post-consumption phase: in addition to WEEE (waste from electrical and electronic equipment) collection, batteries and packaging, initiatives were promoted to manage the end-of-life of the products marketed and to optimize their design to maximize their reuse and recycling.

Enel X is also committed to developing innovative solutions to extend the useful life of electric car batteries: a project is underway for the development of intelligent software for predicting failures, anomalies and for modeling the degradation of lithium-ion batteries to increase reliability, optimizing operational and maintenance activities. We are also experimenting with "Second life" solutions for stationary storage systems: in the Spanish city of Melilla, we have built a 4 MW plant through the reuse of around 90 batteries and another is being completed in Italy, as part of the PIONEER (airPort sustaInability secONd lifE battEry stoRage) project with Aeroporti di Roma (Rome Airports).

Furthermore, we have been working on Enel X Way products for several years, revising their design in order to improve their circularity. Indeed, our main products for AC (alternating current) charging use recycled polycarbonate as the main structural material (100% for the Enel X Way Waybox™ and 75% for the Enel X Way Waypole™). For the Enel X Way Waypole™, public AC charging columns (which, in 2022 alone, were installed in 3,000 new points) the use of materials was also optimized, reducing the overall weight by around 32%.

The recovery and reuse of materials, a circular approach in all phases of the business, the protection of biodiversity and ecosystems, decarbonization and the fight against climate change, and the creation of shared value. These are the elements that guide our work every day, to ensure access to clean energy for an ever-increasing number of people and, at the same time, the universal right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment.