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L’Economia interviews Francesco Starace

The interview with Francesco Starace published in Corriere Della Sera

Decarbonisation by 2025? According to the Enel CEO, this is “a goal we can achieve”. This was the message from Francesco Starace in an interview published in L’Economia, the weekly in-depth business and finance supplement of Italian daily Corriere della Sera. “We are ahead of the global average and last month we passed the milestone of 50% of energy from renewable sources. We must be realistic about coal and take note of the Italian situation. The goal of 2025 is absolutely within reach, but to be on the safe side and to ensure we can achieve it without creating problems for the grid, we have to consider including some open-cycle or combined-cycle gas plants if necessary.

Decarbonisation in 2025 is a goal we can achieve. By 2022, 28 thousand electric charging columns will be in place, even on the motorways

Francesco Starace, Enel CEO

There will be no change of course, he explained in the interview. Gas is a fuel “which impacts on the climate, produces CO2 and its production chain has significant effects on the environment.” However, “it could be useful during a transitional period, which I think can be much shorter than it is commonly thought.” A certain optimism can be detected in Francesco Starace’s words: according to the CEO, in fact, in the future “Italy could achieve a level of 100% renewable energy if the network system allows.” Of course, we need to digitalise the networks, add high-voltage lines, and mesh networks to a greater extent. “But it doesn’t mean stratospheric levels of investment if seen within the context of the electricity system of a country like Italy.

However, a further effort is needed to achieve the scenario outlined by Mr Starace. For instance, in the sector of batteries and storage, which are crucial for a renewable energy-based system, we are lagging behind. The CEO explained, “It’s a shame. We have lobbied the ministry on this issue, but we are also working on how we can make up lost ground. Here, it may be the case that we and the Italian system can recover at a later date, perhaps through the recycling of used electric car batteries.” In this particular field, Enel already has several projects in various states of development. “We want to develop technologies to extract reusable materials, such as lithium, from electric car batteries or silicon from disused solar panels. We are convinced that this activity, which is still under-developed, will find its economic balance and we are supporting innovation and business people in developing advances in this field.

Another challenge that Enel has been tackling for some time is that of sustainable mobility. In his interview with L’Economia, Mr Starace stated that the Group will install 28,000 public charging stations by 2022, even on motorways. It is a race against time: 2021 will be the year zero of electric vehicles for automobile manufacturers and, as the CEO points out, “by that date we will have to be ready with an adequate infrastructure.” Also, because the auto industry is estimated to bring investments of around 300 billion dollars.

The transition is not a process that destroys value or jobs,” stressed Mr Starace in the interview. The CEO cited data from the Irena study, according to which the renewable energy industry has created 11 million jobs from nothing, and the International Labour Organization forecasts a further 18 million by 2030 thanks to the energy transition. “The destruction of employment is one of the false myths that is quickly exposed by the actual facts. As we move towards decarbonisation, the number of jobs increases.

Enel editorial staff