Energy transition implies the need to evolve from the current model, which is primarily based on large 'centralised' power generation plants and distribution networks designed to unilaterally service 'passive' consumption on behalf of end users, towards a system ‘that puts the needs of its customers at its core, focusing on renewable sources, smart grids, efficiency, and storage systems’. In an interview with the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, President Patrizia Grieco summarised the corporate strategies of Enel, a company that was recently included in the top five of US magazine Fortune’s list of companies that can change the world.
‘The future of power utilities is in their ability to innovate and approach the innovation process in different ways, in order to respond to the energy demand of advanced markets’, explained the President. ‘This does not entail an increase in power supply, but rather more quality products and services, whereas 'emerging' markets offer a fertile ground, but have so far been blocked by the lack of traditional infrastructure. Enel is ready to meet this challenge.’
The leading power utilities’ growth strategies will therefore travel along two parallel paths: large smart grids in industrialised countries and micro-grids for the small communities of developing countries.
The latter, which is characterised by a considerable lack of energy and infrastructure, requires the development of innovative off grid power systems (stand-alone systems that are not connected to the power grid). In Kenya, Enel Green Power developed a solar micro-grid system connected to storage systems, which for the first time will provide homes and small businesses with access to electricity. In Sub-Saharan Africa, Enel participated in the Givewatts project, which provides solar-powered lamps to students in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda. In Chile, EGP built a hybrid (wind and solar) off grid system in Ollagüe, allowing a small isolated village at 3,800 metres above sea level to have access to energy around the clock.
On the contrary, as a result of the economic crisis in so-called "mature energy markets" such as Europe, the demand for electricity has significantly decreased in recent years and is expected to remain low or to slightly recover after the economic recovery due to demographic reasons and the spread of efficient practices. In these areas, there is no need to build new infrastructures, but to digitally transform them. ‘Smart cities were born to integrate infrastructures, services and technologies for sustainable cities. Enel has created several pilot projects around the world (Italy, Spain, Brazil), and at Expo 2015 we have installed a system that is able to satisfy the energy needs of a city with 110,000 inhabitants. In other words, the biggest smart city in the world.’
However, energy transition will not be complete without the transformation of mobility systems and the widespread use of electric vehicles. ‘We believe that electric mobility represents a crucial milestone. We have already installed more than 2,300 public and private charging stations, both in Italy and Spain, and have created the first multi-standard fast charging station, which can simultaneously charge three vehicles. We have embarked on a journey that will see Enel as one of the leading players,’ concluded Grieco.