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Covid-19: “Avvenire” interviews Starace

Starace: eliminating the superfluous in order to guarantee services. Focus on renewables
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For many governments and economies, the recovery will come through the ecological renewal of the energy system. This is what Francesco Starace had to say in an interview with “Avvenire”, which was published on 5 April. The Group’s CEO analysed the effects of the Coronavirus emergency on the energy sector in general and Enel in particular. “From the outset we understood that this wasn’t going to be a two-week crisis, whether we were talking about Italy, Spain, Russia, South America or any of the markets where we operate”, Starace explained. The Group had to face a double challenge: to reorganise its activities in such a way that all employees could work in conditions of the utmost safety, while guaranteeing the continuity of the service to citizens. “Even though we had some experience of employees working from home, it was like stepping into another dimension. In the beginning, all those who could carry out their activities remotely switched to telework, first in Italy, Europe, and the United States, and then in South America”: today, over 37,000 people are working remotely. As for those employees in networks and plants, who cannot do so, actions were immediately taken in order to ensure both limiting the risk of infection and the proper functioning of the system: “Other employees are at home in standby mode, but ready to intervene if necessary”.

We are focusing on what is essential to guarantee services by eliminating the superfluous. And we are ready to accelerate in the renewable energy sector

Francesco Starace, Enel CEO

This experience is “important” for Enel, which in recent weeks has also witnessed a drop in consumption of between 20% and 30%, and a consequent increase in domestic demand: “The system is working well, we are exchanging ten times more data than before. We have created a real-time system to monitor the fundamental operating parameters: energy consumption, number of customers, protection of power plants and network failures. These indicators tell us that Enel is working well, the electricity system has reacted to a major transformation in its functioning in all the countries where we operate”. As Starace pointed out, the Group has therefore focused on what is essential for guaranteeing services, by postponing non-urgent operations: “Some investments, such as the replacement of electricity meters, have been postponed. In this way we can maintain short-term results”.

 

In his interview, the CEO also focused on the possible changes in the energy sector: the drop in oil prices is leading many hydrocarbon companies to cut back on investments. Can the renewable energy sector benefit from this? “For some time now, we have decided to follow this path and, since this has proven to be a correct choice, as renewables are becoming increasingly competitive, we are accelerating on our path”, said Starace. According to the Enel CEO, the emergency should not affect the efforts that large companies are making in order to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): “The Covid-19 emergency highlights the fact that we are all connected and interdependent. What happens in one country has an impact on the others, as in the case of this global pandemic: there is no better lesson on planetary sustainability”. Furthermore, “Once the crisis is over, I also believe that the financial world will follow sustainability more closely because it needs to find a solid support”.

 

Therefore, even if the emergency is negative, it can also teach us something: “More or less consciously, we are all taking an intensive digital course, and we are learning a lot about our work and the possibility of increasing efficiency with technology”. It is a “2 or 3 year step forward towards digital”, Francesco Starace pointed out. “Personally, I have also discovered that digital helps people listen more and pay more attention. Sometimes those who are more extroverted and speak louder prevail during face-to-face meetings, while digital mitigates these aspects and allows everyone to be heard”: listening is a value that we have to protect when things return to normal.

 

Enel editorial staff