Anyone turning sixty in 2022 has lived in a unique era, the likes of which humankind will probably never see again. When I think of the story of Enel, I’m reminded of a quote from the 1960s that went like this: “The thing the sixties did was to show us the possibilities and the responsibility that we all had. It wasn’t the answer. It just gave us a glimpse of the possibility.”
It’s a quote that’s always struck a chord with me, for two reasons. The first is because it really reminds me of the spirit in which Enel was established in those years, and with which it would go on to approach the long journey that has led it to celebrate its sixtieth anniversary: to be fully aware of the enormous responsibility it has, and to make the best use of all the possibilities that those extraordinary years offered Italy, as well as much of the rest of the world.
The second reason is because I associate that quote with a line from the famous song, Imagine. In actual fact, the quote and the song were by the same person: John Lennon. The line goes like this: “Imagine all the people sharing all the world,” and it perfectly summarizes our Group’s current vision in terms of the future of the planet and what needs to be done to make that future a reality.
Enel (Ente Nazionale per l’Energia Elettrica) was officially established on December 6, 1962. It was a Thursday. As the sun rose on the Friday, the organization faced an enormous challenge, the very reason it had been established in the first place: to electrify Italy, a country that was experiencing rapid development, like few others in the world, and which needed all the energy it could get in order to maintain it. And we delivered: just eight years later, in 1970, Italy was united by a single grid that crossed the entire peninsula from north to south, and even reached the islands via submarine cables. The number of people connected to the grid had doubled: from 13 million to 26 million.
Challenges that became opportunities
Over the next decade the challenges just kept on coming and, in keeping with our spirit, we took them on and turned them into opportunities. In 1973, with the onset of the oil crisis and the impact it had on Italy, both financially and socially, due to the country's over-dependence on imported energy sources, we put an ambitious national plan in place. The objective was to liberate the country from that dependence as much as possible, by adopting an energy mix that, for the time, was visionary and to a certain extent prophetic: because for the first time it focused on renewable sources – at the time called “alternative” sources – particularly hydropower, plus the first wind and solar power facilities.
In other words, the challenge was to make the country energy self-sufficient, while the opportunity was to start the energy transition process: we did both. So much so that by the 1980s, when the concepts of environmental consciousness and sustainability were slowly beginning to take hold across the world, we had already included them in our business plans.
We had been on the path towards renewables for a while and, thanks to the experience we had already gained, we were in a privileged position to drive forward a decisive change in the country's energy future. And not just Italy’s, because a little while later, after becoming a limited company in 1992 and being listed on the stock exchange in 1999, we launched an international expansion plan that led the Group to acquire control of energy companies in other countries, particularly Spain, the United States and Latin America.
The digital revolution
In the meantime, new opportunities were coming over the horizon: those of the digital revolution, which we exploited in order to continuously improve the service we offered to our customers and to bring technological innovation into every sphere, until it became one of the company’s cornerstones. It’s thanks to innovation, a powerful tool that we’ve used to turn so many of our visions into reality, that we’re now a global leader in the smart grids sector and the largest private renewable energy operator in the world.
Our tradition of looking towards the future
Naturally, we want more. We’re always looking toward the future in order to try and preempt it, never more so than today, in an increasingly unpredictable situation which, with ever greater urgency, is asking us for solutions to protect the planet and preserve it for future generations. It’s precisely with this in mind that we’re working to decarbonize our energy production, to strengthen the role of the distribution grids - the enablers of the current energy transition process - and to electrify end-use consumption in the residential, industrial and electric mobility sectors, thus making our customers the key players in the transition process. It’s in this spirit that, in Sicily, we’ve built what will become Europe's largest solar panel production plant. It also explains why we experiment with technologies that are capable of making Italy even more sustainable, secure and independent from an energy perspective, and why we’re committed to facilitating the sustainable development of our supply chain.
Sustainability, accessibility and security are the three key points in the Group's strategic plan for the next three years, the achievement of which can best be pursued through a single, simple objective: decarbonization. It’s the same objective that the whole world is aiming for, a world whose inhabitants are increasingly aware that this is the only planet we have, and that, as the song Imagine suggests, it’s time we learned to start sharing it and looking after it. We’ve known this for sixty years, and we’re ready to play our part with the exact same energy and enthusiasm that we started out with on that Friday in December 1962. This is because we’re convinced that at our age you’re simply three times as young as when you were twenty.