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Il Messaggero interviews Francesco Starace

Sustainable development and digitalisation: an interview with Francesco Starace

For Enel: “More and more investments in eco-sustainable projects and innovation.” This is what Francesco Starace, Enel’s CEO and General Manager, has to say in an interview with “Il Messaggero.” Sustainable development, digitalisation and innovation will be the key points in the Group’s strategy, in order to complete the green revolution that will “change the lives of Italians.” We are facing “a unique challenge in the history of humanity”: the importance of achieving the objectives of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is now recognised in several sectors.  “Even the financial markets,” says the Enel CEO, “have understood the importance of sustainable development because, if you invest in sustainable projects, the risk is lower, and the return is higher.” 

The green Enel revolution will change the lives of Italians

Francesco Starace, Enel CEO

In the interview Starace also discusses the achievements of Enel Green Power, which celebrated its 10th anniversary in December 2018: “When we started, we were worried that we had left it too late, with respect to smaller companies which, after being attracted by incentives, had immediately seized the opportunity.” We followed another path, without focusing on subsidies, but with a long-term vision. This choice has proved to be successful over time: “Thanks to our experience, we knew that sooner or later the wave of incentives would come to an end, making many initiatives more difficult. That’s why we chose countries where there were no subsidies; virgin territory, in other words. We looked for three decisive elements:  abundant natural resources, a stable regulatory framework and economic and demographic growth.” After some initial doubts on the part of the investor, in the end "we were right because, once the incentives had gone, we found ourselves ahead of the field, with respect to other companies.”

As of today, Starace observes, renewables account for 40% of Italy’s national energy production. Within 10-15 years they will totally replace fossil fuel. It’s an epoch-making transition that is destined to change our lives profoundly: “Decarbonisation opens the energy world to new scenarios not only from business point of view, but also in terms of the way of living, consuming and producing. Enel foresaw the central role of renewables. Indeed in 2021 they will represent 50% of the Group’s total production, as opposed to the current figure of 38%.” The CEO’s words are confirmed by results. Enel closed 2018 with approximately 3 Gigawatts of newly installed capacity and in 2020 it will reach 4.4 Gigawatts: for the CEO, "these are record numbers that no one else in the world can boast."

But Enel's commitment to sustainability does not end with renewables. Great attention is also being paid to electric mobility, a sector on which the Group has been betting for quite some time: "By 2022 we will have installed 28,000 public charging points in Italy. This is consistent with the digitalisation of the distribution networks which, thanks to an investment of 5.4 billion, means that a total of 46.9 million smart meters will have been installed globally on our networks by 2021.” In short, Enel is constantly working to speed up the energy transition, by taking into consideration not only the resulting opportunities but also the risks. The watchword is "inclusive development,” as Starace points out: "Our task is to offer an easier and even happier world. But when these epoch-making leaps forward are made, we cannot ignore the fact that there are people who get left behind. It is exciting to talk about the benefits of renewable energy or digitalisation, but then there are those who could lose their job, on account of these transformations. Can we afford to ignore them? No, we must also think about their future. This is what inclusive development means.” And it was precisely with this in mind that “Futur-e” was born. This is the project for the conversion of those Enel power plants in Italy that are no longer active: their closure, says the CEO, "has no employment consequences for the workers involved, because they have already been – or will be – relocated within the Group. Furthermore, for these sites Enel has launched a process of redevelopment towards other uses, with the prospect, in agreement with the local authorities, of creating new opportunities for the areas in question, as well as new jobs.”

Enel editorial staff