Lasting sustainability is born of grassroots

Published on Wednesday, 9 September 2015

The energy of the future, sustainable and clean, is born of grassroots. This is confirmed by facts and accounts from the Mato Grosso jungle in Brazil, the salt lakes and volcanoes of the Atacama desert in Chile, and the entrepreneurship and development of the Lombard plain in Italy. These places differ as regards their history, environment, population, but they all share Enel's development model that an important article published by the Harvard Business Review in February 2011 summed up in the expression Creating Shared Value (CSV).

Building plants, putting them online and keeping them efficient over the years has never been an easy task: it involves significant engineering activities, economic investment and daily toil. Nowadays this whole process has been enhanced and simplified by new technologies. But what has made it more effective and has enabled infrastructure to produce more long-lasting effects for those who benefit from the generated electricity and those who build the plants is a new way of conceiving sustainability, in which the dialogue between communities plays an evermore important role.

In Enel the CSV model has become common practice for Enel Green Power, the renewable energy company that within the Group has over these last years developed new plants in Africa, the Americas and Europe. And EGP has produced several initiatives based on listening, addressed to the communities that are involved in the construction of new plants and the modernisation of the existing ones, which have helped to identify the different local needs and  implement local socio-economic development and natural habitat conservation projects.

In remote areas of Brazil and Chile, but also in industrialised areas in Italy, this approach has led to the creation of integrated projects involving different sectors, with the direct cooperation of local communities. For example, in the Brazilian State of Mato Grosso, Enel Green Power is building the Apiacás hydropower complex, aimed to meet the energy needs that are growing at an annual rate of 4 percent. But long before having started the construction of turbines and pipes, EGP visited the villages of the Alta Floresta municipality to discover the needs of the inhabitants and launch educational, environmental protection and reforestation, infrastructure and local agricultural entrepreneurship as well as development projects.

Another similar example in another Country, using the 'Apiacás approach', can be found in Chile, where  EGP is building Latin America's absolute first geothermal plant at  Cerro Pabellón and, together with the atacameñe and quechua communities, has set the basis for projects aimed at safeguarding protected species, safeguarding the local area and launching micro-business initiatives. Switching continents and contexts  EGP’s same CSV approach is also found at the San Pellegrino and Mura hydropower plants, that were built a century ago and that are currently undergoing refurbishment following the 'sustainable worksite' model, in constant dialogue with local public administration.