Access to Electricity for All: European Industry’s Green Commitment

Published on Friday, 26 February 2016

Overcoming the gap that still prevents more than a billion people from using electricity is a target that can be achieved while promoting a sustainable and green approach to energy.

The great advantage of the expertise gained by the electricity industry is that it can transfer sustainable and environmentally friendly tools and technologies for electricity generation to rural and isolated communities.

This was the topic at the centre of an event held on February 25 in Brussels, promoted by Eurelectric, entitled The role of the European power sector in the advancement of sustainable and climate resilient development. Eurelectric is an association representing large European utility companies, and with this event it has confirmed its commitment to the 17 Millennium Goals of the UN’s Agenda for Sustainable Development, to which 193 member countries have also committed. One of the targets defined by the United Nations is to “Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.”

In fact, electricity is a pre-condition for economic development. Therefore, urgent action is needed to ensure energy independence and security in vulnerable countries, while providing the most innovative and low-carbon technologies for electricity generation. This is the only way to meet growing electricity needs and advance in the fight against climate change, as stipulated by the agreement reached during the COP21 Paris climate conference held in December.

Enel, a member of Eurelectric, participated in the event by bringing the expertise it has gained over the years and its own guidelines for a growth strategy based on creating shared value in all the regions in which it operates.

Maria Cristina Papetti, Head of Sustainability Projects and Practice Sharing, who was one of the speakers on the panel Challenges and Opportunities for the European Power Sector and its Customers, explained how we are ensuring access to electricity, starting from a changed perspective on which the Enel Group has decided to build the development and growth of its business, now increasingly based on the concept of Creating Share Value (CSV). As Papetti explained, this means being competitive, being in the business and having a long-term vision. Enel’s vision is based not only on sustainability, but also on researching  innovative solutions and green technologies that can make energy generation and distribution simple and environmentally friendly. Papetti recalled that for this change of perspective "we have been included in the list drawn up by Fortune of companies that can change the world".

Changing the world means developing initiatives to bring the clean tech of micro-grids and renewable energy to remote areas of the world, while directly training local resources on the skills for their use. Papetti then presented an overview of the commitments that we have taken both in fighting climate change, by setting for ourselves the goal of becoming a carbon neutral company by 2050, and in the field of energy access for all.

The major projects that were mentioned include those carried out in Latin America, such as the group’s partnership with the Indian NGO Barefoot College to electrify small villages in Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Brazil, Chile, and Panama by means of solar panels, training "solar engineers" qualified to ensure reliable power supplies. Then there is the Ollagüe project in Chile, which is allowing us to test innovative hybrid solutions (solar, wind, storage) and to bring electricity and development to an isolated village in the Atacama Desert.

Enel is also carrying out training initiatives in Brazil to develop the culture of energy efficiency and the reuse and recycling of materials. With the Liter Of Light project, that we are carrying out with the organisation with the same name, we aim to ensure access to clean water and affordable electricity in different rural communities, particularly in Africa and Latin America, and are encouraging the development of micro-enterprises and improving people’s health and safety. Other Enel projects support economic and social development, like the one benefitting the communities of San Juan de Marcona, in Peru, with the development of a hybrid off-grid system (solar, mini-wind and diesel generator), used to power a plant that dries and pre-treats algae, and the construction of a fish farm to increase local incomes.

All these projects, Papetti stressed, are based on an  ongoing process of integrating sustainability and innovation in the company’s strategy, with innovation acting as enabler and accelerator to bring not just electricity to all, but electricity that is renewable and environmentally friendly.