The shift from traditional thermal power generation to the widespread use of renewables has become an unavoidable transition for the energy sector, and Enel is one of the world’s most active utilities in this process. The Group has identified 23 plants in Italy - thermal power plants with a total capacity of 13 GW - which have exhausted their life cycle. Through the project Futur-E, the Group aims to identify alternative solutions to convert or reuse these plants with the help of institutions and local communities.
In a recent interview with Bloomberg during the New Energy Finance Summit held in London, the Group’s CEO Francesco Starace explained Enel’s take on the issue. ‘Generation plants are bound to change, and we must find new and more productive uses for these facilities. We can transform them into museums, shopping centres, data centres.’
Such a path is facilitated by different factors, starting from the environment. Fighting climate change means reducing emissions, and Enel has announced its plans to become a carbon neutral company by 2050. At the same time, renewable sources are increasingly affordable and efficient, as well as the quickest way to respond to the growing demand for energy in developing countries. Enel Green Power is therefore developing renewable projects, from the United States to Brazil, from Italy to Chile, and has acquired a company in India. Large nuclear power plants and thermal power plants, explained Starace, require substantial longterm investments and are unable to keep up with new technology. On the contrary, renewable energy is the best option to enter new markets, with small plants and less risks for businesses. ‘Enel's strategy consists of many small plants distributed throughout the territory in granular fashion, allowing for a flexible way to adapt to the world we live in.’
Enel has also invested in data analysis from hundreds of plants around the world, in order to ensure a greater efficiency and new opportunities for the company. ‘Big data explains consumer behaviour and is very important to predict longterm needs. Information regarding plants is immediately and easily applicable for optimum performance.’
Innovation and in particular digitalisation will increasingly become key factors for Enel's strategy in the near future. The development and application of new technologies, which once only applied to start-ups and small companies, is now becoming crucial for leading players. Enel is therefore investing in technologies that can potentially revolutionise the energy industry, such as storage systems that store excess energy generated by renewable sources during peak production hours (during extremely windy or sunny days) and supply it to the grid when it is most needed.
‘We believe there is a great development potential for storage in the next five years. We are investing in batteries of all kinds, in hardware and software management, putting storage in people’s homes and electric vehicles,’ concluded Starace.