Circular Economy

Enel has started down this path several years ago. Today, the circular economy represents a true strategic driver in the business and a growth accelerator along the entire value chain.

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In order to apply circularity systemically as a strategic business driver, Enel takes an integrated, cross-business approach to cover all business areas and involve all suppliers and customers. This creates a structured and effective pathway for rethinking its business model, and developing connections and synergies with the reference ecosystem.

Global Power Generation

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The photovoltaic value chain is being redesigned, first by developing the circularity of input materials (evaluating the use of materials such as recycled plastic), and second by identifying solutions to maximize the value recovered at the end of their service life. Furthermore, to make the wind supply chain more circular, innovative technologies are being tested to recover the wind blades at the end of their service life, also by exploring cross-sectoral collaborations, such as the possibility of reusing the recovered material in the construction sector.

 

Spare parts and equipment – New Life

Applying sustainability and circular economy approaches to decommissioning coal-fired plants has produced environmental and economic benefits. The Spare parts and equipment New Life project, which was launched in February 2020, aims to give new life to equipment from warehouses and decommissioned coal-fired power plants, and to obsolete materials from all other fossil fuel plants. This has been made possible by choosing from the identified and defined target options, i.e., five business models derived from circular economy principles: reuse, resale, donation, recycling and, if applicable, in-house Enel projects. So far, the project scope covers inventory materials and equipment in five countries – Italy, Spain, Russia, Chile and Argentina – and 14 plants. We have taken many key opportunities, for example, reusing materials and components at Enel facilities in Italy, Spain and Chile. In addition to the sustainability and circular economy benefits, this has resulted in a cost savings of approximately €1.4 million. We have also started selling equipment to third parties, for example, equipment from the R-GRES warehouse in Russia and the Teruel coal mills in Spain. Many opportunities are in the pipeline involving each of the five business models. As a result, the focus of the program for the months to come will be to make these opportunities a reality. Progress is measured through indicators that are specifically defined for the project and monitored on a regular basis.

Global Infrastructure and Networks

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The value chain of grid assets is currently being analyzed, in order to create long-term value by focusing on two main drivers: recovering end-of-life asset materials and integrating a circular approach into the design phase. In 2020, experiments were conducted in Italy to recover plastic from decommissioned meters and use it to produce new ones. A similar process was developed in Brazil. Experiments were also initiated to recover materials from of other grid assets (e.g., electrical infrastructure supports and boxes enclosing the electronic meters).

 

The Circular Open Meter

Enel has embarked on a challenging path to redesign the value chain. This involves implementing a circular economy model to reduce environmental impacts by maximizing the recovery of end-of-life products and materials. With the progress in Italy on the plan to replace 32 million first-generation meters, Enel has decided to transform their disposal into an opportunity, by using the material from the decommissioned meters to produce new Circular Open Meters. In designing this device, a process was developed to select and recover the polycarbonate removed from the decommissioned meters. This process can be replicated in all countries where the Group operates, if possible with the physical and mechanical characteristics of the recycled plastic material. In June 2020, the NMi (Nederlands Meetinstituut) Certification Body for the MID Directive (Measuring Instruments Directive) approved the use of the recovered plastic for the Open Meter. Thanks to this certification, which guarantees the quality of the recovery process, production was launched on the first batch of the 30,000 Circular Open Meters. The new meters, which are made of 100% recovered plastic, minimize the environmental impact to benefit customers, the local area and the environment. Using the application of the “Life Cycle Assessment,” a standardized international assessment method that quantifies the impact of a product on the environment, the first batch was estimated to have reduced carbon emissions by 210 tons compared with the traditional process. Not only that, the reuse of waste material from old devices in the production process of the new Circular Open Meters (mainly plastic) is estimated to have reduced waste by 31.5 tons. In terms of percentage, 48% of the new meters (by weight) are made with recovered materials. It is also estimated that 79% of the materials used by weight in Circular Open Meters (in addition to plastic, metals and steel) can be recycled at the end of their service life. Circular Open Meters are therefore a perfect example of the circular economy, an important step forward towards a more sustainable, innovative and efficient industrial model along the entire value chain. Hypothesis: 90% recycling rate of the polycarbonate used as input; 95% recycling rate for end-of-life materials (polycarbonate, steel, copper, polyamide, and others such as silicon and aluminum).


The Enel X Laboratory, continuously evolving

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To push the market toward higher standards that can be both an example and a driver for other companies, suppliers and customers, Enel X provides innovative advisory tools to support companies and governments in defining and implementing sustainability programs. The whole process, which is unique in its comprehensive and innovative nature, is called the “Enel X Circular Economy Boosting Program.” This is in order to underline and emphasize the acceleration/boost aspect and therefore the strength and commitment that the entire company continuously demonstrates in working to achieve its sustainability and circular economy targets. The advisory service, which supports the recovery of Italian companies and public administrative bodies, includes the following tools:

Enel X Circular Economy Client Report

In 2020, about 50 Circular Economy Client Reports were completed. These provided customer companies with solutions to generate yearly savings of more than 7,000 tons of CO2 and 10 GWh of energy.

In Italy, Enel formed key partnerships with the country’s main agencies and strategic companies. The purpose is to transfer expertise on the circular economy as a sustainable business model capable of creating opportunities that are economically attractive and competitive, both for the country and for customer and partner companies internationally.

Enel X Circular Economy PA (Public Administration) Report

To guide governments towards a more sustainable and circular approach, Enel X has developed an assessment model to measure the circularity progress of municipalities and identify a set of solutions to implement within a roadmap of concrete actions that have an impact on the local area. This assessment is performed on both levels of analysis: at the level of the entire urban/city scope and at the level of one or more specific sites (buildings and public structures) with a focus on energy circularity.

In order to find out more:

Circular Economy Enel Position Paper

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Città circolari. Le città di domani

PDF (29.64MB) Download

Circular Economy

Enel’s commitment to sustainability is also clear in the application of circular economy principles. The Group applies them to all its business areas.