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The Recovery Plan: “Il Sole 24 Ore” interviews Francesco Starace

Starace: the future challenges for the Recovery Plan, sustainable mobility and renewables

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Projects that can be implemented are a priority. In an interview with “Il Sole 24 Ore” (Italy’s leading financial newspaper) on March 18, Enel’s CEO and General Manager Francesco Starace talked about the challenges facing Italy in the coming months, one of which is the Recovery Plan: “The current government is well aware of the different speeds of implementation regarding various projects in the PNRR (National Recovery and Resilience Plan).” According to the CEO, it is a question of “organizing, summarizing and prioritizing the existing material”: in this perspective, it’s essential “to re-establish a well-defined order for the commitments that can be made immediately.” In other words, those projects which can be financed with resources that can be requested and spent in the two-year period 2021/2022, and which differ “from projects that require more time to be implemented.”

Electric mobility and the implementation of recharging infrastructures, as well as the development of renewable energies, are areas in which investment is already being made and are therefore suitable for further acceleration. This can be properly supported if bureaucracy is simplified. In particular, as Starace pointed out, the green energy sector has “a strong industrial base and an extraordinary number of developers who are frustrated by the slow progress; in this case, it is a question of eliminating constraints, rather than stimulating the offer.” On the contrary, there is a lack of demand in another crucial sector of the PNRR, namely Local Public Transport (LPT) and, more specifically, the replacement of buses with less polluting electric models. There are about 60,000 of the former in Italy, and municipalities are in charge of their management: “The demand, which is a driver for investors, will never grow without input from the government.”

“The world of finance is asking for sustainability criteria to be adopted. Europe, together with other countries, can be the driving force behind this”

Francesco Starace, Enel CEO

For this reason, “we have asked the new government to include a binding target in the PNRR, such as a percentage for electric models in the bus fleet.” According to Starace, “entrepreneurs are motivated to invest if they know that 10,000 or 20,000 buses will be replaced in the next 10 years.” This is a classic “business case”: “There is now a great opportunity for the industry and its supply chain to grow, as there is no electric bus industry in Europe. There are thus great opportunities for whoever can provide an industrial policy direction that is clearer and more long-term.”

Furthermore, Enel’s CEO also spoke about Europe’s photovoltaic panel industry: “Our factory in Catania (3Sun, which produces innovative bifacial solar panels – ed) has a current production capacity of 200 MW per year and is the largest in Europe. With the acceleration of the Recovery Plan, we can increase our production to 3,000 MW, more than half of which will meet the Group’s global needs. We must have the courage to develop this entrepreneurial project.” According to Starace, Europe would do well to support this process: “After all that happened in 2020, I believe it is necessary to start thinking that it is good to have some kind of strategic production in the EU.”

Europe has one of the highest social and environmental sustainability indexes in the world, a competitive advantage on which it should rely more at an international level: “The world of finance is asking for sustainability criteria to be adopted. Europe, together with other countries, can be the driving force behind this; for example, in tackling child labor in mining or in curbing the environmental disaster in the Amazon. Europe can use tools similar to the Carbon Border Adjustment mechanisms (a sort of tax on non-EU goods based on their carbon content – ed), which are currently being discussed in Brussels.” There “aren’t enough” European countries taking part in the High-Level Dialogue organized by the United Nations prior to COP26, which is due to take place in Glasgow later this year: “In my opinion, this depends on each country’s self-awareness. Italy should play a role in this forum, if we consider the sustainable path it has taken. Otherwise it would be a missed opportunity.”

 

Enel editorial staff