Electric blue. Water that creates energy

Published on Friday, 15 July 2016

Once upon a time, there was and there still is…Water usage for energy generation is an adventure that started when the electricity company was established, more than 50 years ago. Since then, our blue gold mine has become an extraordinary asset that presently includes over 760 plants and 1500 groups in 13 countries, with fully-featured competences that range from facilities with surge plants to run-of-the-river, from small hydro to pumping stations.

Hydropower is the renewable source with the largest share in the Group’s generation portfolio, with different size plants in Europe and the Americas, accounting for a total installed capacity exceeding 27,000 MW*. In the past we used to manage the organisation of large plants and small hydro separately.

The latter consists of small scale plants that can harness short landings or limited water flows, producing a minimal environmental impact both during construction and maintenance, and providing a secure, predictable energy source. This technology is one of the most interesting fields for development, especially in countries with the most mature energy markets, such as Italy and Spain, and greatly contributes to the system’s security, within the new model of distributed generation.

Today, our presence in many countries increasingly requires a common ‘technical language’, and this is why we have integrated the management of large hydropower facilities into the Renewable Energy Division. “This integration will improve the way we work. Enel’s hydropower generation had two parallel souls, albeit aligned. Now we can pool all our experiences and best practices, from the technical skills developed in the large hydro to the flexibility and ability required to manage small facilities”, said the Head of Enel’s O&M Renewable Energy Division Luigi La Pegna.

This path towards growth is underway, with differences based on local peculiarities, from the Po to the Amazon rivers. In order to fight climate change, the European Union has launched an ambitious CO2 emission reduction plan, which also includes an increase of the renewable energy share in the generation mix. In this process, hydropower plays a key role, as highlighted by The Hydropower sector‘s contribution to a sustainable and prosperous Europe, a report commissioned by Enel and other utility companies to analyse the economic and environmental impact of this sector on the energy system. With annual investments ranging from between 8 and 12 billion Euros, hydropower can ensure more than 100,000 jobs worth 650,000 Euros per year, the equivalent of about eight times the average production of Europe’s manufacturing industry.

Across the world, in Latin America, since the recent completion of the El Quimbo plant (Colombia), we have some 10,000 MW of installed capacity, mostly from large-scale plants, which can provide 35% of the overall hydro generation. In this continent, hydropower accounts for 20 percent of the industry’s global production, and Brazil alone hosts 12 percent of the Earth’s fresh water reserves. These numbers clearly show how the oldest renewable source still has significant margins of development in an area where energy demand will continue to grow over the next decades, driven by economic and population growth.


*Last updating as of: December 31, 2016