Whether small or large, Enel's hydro is always global

Published on Monday, 9 March 2015

Enel's hydropower facilities have reached a generation of 58 terawatt-hours, of which around 14 terawatt-hours in Italy, nine in Spain and the rest mostly in Latin America. In Italy the Group has 180 plants, in Spain 130 while in the whole of Latin America there are 'only' 35 plants in five countries, which contribute to more than half of Enel's hydropower generation. This number alone is sufficient to understand how plants diversify in the various geographical contexts, and how essential wide range technical and engineering skills - aimed to manage infrastructures with different histories, sizes and technologies - have become.

Enel's Hydro Technology Line team manages and maintain the plants that are spread throughout Europe and Latin America, and promotes know-how sharing among the various countries with the aim of capitalising a local experience that has many global aspects. If, for instance, in Europe the era of large infrastructures has been over for some time, the situation is different in developing and fast-growing countries, where the hydroelectric resource is still largely untapped. And the same applies to small hydro, which in some European countries is really thriving, and which can also become an important technology in Latin America and Africa.

Small hydro is a misleading term that could be associated with reduced quantities both of water and of generated electricity. The fact is that the 20 new plants that Enel has built in Italy – which also harness small water falls within the existing dams – have increased generation by some 70 gigawatt-hours, equivalent to that of two medium-sized plants. The fact that small hydro can be a misleading term is also demonstrated in Latin America: while in Italy a three megawatt plant is considered to be small hydro, in Brazil this denomination applies to facilities up to 30 megawatts. And based on the recent conclusions by UNIDO on the development potential of small-size facilities, which can reach nine gigawatts in Latin America, having an expertise like Enel's that allows to develop small hydro becomes an added value that raises the Group's competitiveness on the market.