An Ever Greener Planet

Published on Friday, 22 January 2016

The year 2015 sent a clear message to the industry directly from Paris, where the twenty-first United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP21) was held: in order to limit global warming to two degrees, we must drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The energy sector plays a key role in this process, and must intensify energy production from green sources.

The data provided by the Bloomberg New Energy Finance green economy report confirms that we have undertaken the right path. In fact, two records were attained in 2015: investments in renewables reached 329 billion dollars (4 percent higher than in 2014), while the installed capacity of wind power reached 64 GW and solar PV rose to 57 GW – a series of record figures, which are to be considered even more significant given that they were achieved despite the drop  in oil prices and a slowdown in some emerging economies.

Indeed we are undergoing a true and proper energy revolution that is likely to consolidate even further in the near future. Sources such as wind and solar power are in fact the perfect solution for the increasing energy demand in developing countries, since they can be installed much more quickly than thermal power plants and their costs are more competitive. It’s not surprising that the regions that are driving investments are the Far East and South America.

Following a  phase of rapid expansion, the renewables market is undergoing a period of consolidation, also due to overcapacity and to the presence of stable and strong electrical grids already capable of meeting demands. There are various booming areas, starting from Denmark, where wind power contributed with 42 percent of the country’s total energy production in 2015. “Denmark’s record is a window to Europe’s possible future,” explained Oliver Joy, spokesperson for the European Wind Energy Association. “But Denmark is not the only positive example. In 2014, the island of El Hierro in the Canaries, received 100 percent of its energy from wind and hydro power, while in Scotland, wind power generated enough energy to supply the electrical needs of 97 percent of the country’s households.”

Enel contributed to El Hierro’s record, the first island in the world to achieve energy self-sufficiency thanks to renewable energies alone, through its company Endesa. The Group’s Spanish subsidiary owns 30 percent of Gorona del Viento S.A (60 percent owned by the island's government and the remaining 10 percent by the Canary Island government), the company that designed the island’s electrical system. Energy production is entrusted to a hydro-wind plant, which each year saves 40,000 barrels of oil and avoids the emissions of 18,700 tonnes of CO2.
Wind energy, in particular, “is a mature industry, which supplies Europe with more than 10 percent of its energy, in addition to 262 thousand jobs,” Joy explained. “In 2030, we could reach 25 percent. Consumers would save 400 billion euros per year in gas, coal and oil imports.”

The Enel Group, which has been committed to zero emissions energy production for years, last year increased its installed wind power capacity by about 900 MW (net of the power plants ceded in Portugal), reaching nearly 6,600 MW in wind power. Between the end of 2015 and the beginning of 2016  we commissioned a part of the Dois Riachos wind farm (118 MW) two Enel Green Power wind farms in the US, Goodwell (200 MW) and Little Elk (74 MW), and we have also started  the construction of two new plants in Chile (Sierra Gorda, which will have an installed capacity of 112 MW), in the US (Drift Sand, 108 MW) and in Brazil (Delfina, 180 MW). The green revolution has begun, and a 100 percent renewable energy system no longer seems to be a utopia.