Experiencing change, from fire to water


I'm always happy to start a new page,” wrote Ludwig Josef Johann Wittgenstein in his Diaries, works that are considered the foundation of the philosophy of language. Yet in his life, Wittgenstein was so many different things: a mechanical and aeronautical engineering student in Berlin and Manchester, an elementary school teacher in the countryside, a gardener in a monastery and an architect.

In order to write new pages and continue to drive change in the energy world, the Enel Group is encouraging its people to promote the treasure trove of expertise and experience gained over the years and generate new energy.

This is the story of Cesare Borgonovi, who began his career at the CESI research centre in 1992 and went on to explore different experiences in the thermoelectric and oil industry, until he finally entered Enel in 2002, where he worked in constructing large power plants (combined cycle and coal) in the Middle East and Italy, and in the Electrical coordination Division, which was subsequently extended to Chile and Spain with the birth of the Global Generation business line. Today, the challenges of continuous change continue, with the transition from the Engineering and Construction Division of Enel’s Global Thermal Generation to Global Renewable Energies.

You’ve spent over two decades in power plant design and today, at the age of 52, you’ve made a triple jump, metaphorically moving from coal fire to wind, sun and water’s green energy.

My career has featured several changes, but this time I have ventured into a completely new field, making a change that is tied to the profound evolution that the energy market is experiencing. On the one hand, there is a crisis in terms of traditional sources and thermoelectric generation, based on combined cycle and coal, with plants that require a very long period of time to build and entail greater risks than smaller plants. On the other hand, the clean tech sector and renewable sources such as solar, wind and geothermal hydropower are flourishing. This scenario, combined with Enel’s reorganisation, which began in 2014 and which has recently seen hydroelectric generation from Global Generation to Global Renewable Energies merge, has made the transferring of resources from thermal power into other functions inevitable, while remaining within Enel.

In other words, getting back in the game, wearing the same jersey?

Enel is a company that offers great potential, because it offers the chance to change while staying in the same company. Given the international crisis, it is not an opportunity to be overlooked.

Personally, I found myself opting for a substantial change at the age of 52, even though the design of electrical fundamentals are the same. It isn’t easy, but I took on this challenge because it has given me the chance to place the experience gained in these years where the company needs it most. In Global Renewable there is a very young working environment, which makes our work stimulating, since young people are the future of the company. The best part is putting the experience and expertise that I’ve gained in the management of large power plant projects at the service of young engineers, while learning new things. There is great enthusiasm in the new team working on renewable projects, distributed around the world, but with a model that aims to rapidly create smaller plants than the ones used in the past, which however feature a series of issues in terms of authorisations, environmental protection and network connections which must be addressed.

What have you left behind and what have you found?

When you face change, after years working in the same environment, it isn’t easy to leave a place which you have been dedicated to for years and which you have grown accustomed to. Leaving behind colleagues with whom you have created a team and for whom you have a deep respect and appreciation comes with great sadness. But you have to be open and follow the wind of change, especially if you’re faced with the need to create a new structure, to make it work effectively and allow young people to grow. This is the mission and I was welcomed by an open Global Renewable team.

Openness as a means of bringing solid skills and create new value. In other words, innovation and sustainability are the karma of business?

Sustainability has become extremely important. In the past, we worked according to a compensation logic, while today, innovation and the creation of shared value has changed perspectives, shifting our focus toward the needs of the territory, not only in terms of environmental protection, but also in terms of respecting cultures and populations, and the possibility of offering infrastructures and services that can be useful to communities. Sustainability in the development of new plants is also a way of creating value, by integrating all the stages of construction of a new power plant in the environment in which it will be created, by choosing innovative technical solutions: such as recyclable materials that are produced locally, using local labour, including future decommissioning procedures and infrastructure reusability starting from the design phase – factors that today are the basis of every new Enel project.

Change is possible. It may not be easy, but being open helps us to grasp opportunities in a constantly evolving context. Because, as Wittgenstein wrote, “There is a time for ploughing and a time for gathering the harvest and a time for thinking as well”.