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ENEA “Pianeta Idrogeno” interviews Francesco Starace

Enel 2021-2023 Strategic Plan: strategic choices for renewable energy investment

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Enel’s goal is not just to create value for the Group, but to generate sustainable growth that gives prestige to everyone: customers, society in general, the environment and shareholders. This was the message from CEO and General Manager Francesco Starace in an interview published on June 10 in the “Pianeta Idrogeno” (“Planet Hydrogen”) section of the ENEA website (the Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development). In recent months, along with the 2021-2023 Strategic Plan, “For the first time, we also presented our 10-year vision to 2030, emphasizing what kind of utility company we would like to become”: investments of around 190 billion euros and strategic choices for the growing role of renewable energy, the development of increasingly digital, flexible and resilient grids, and the progressive electrification of final consumption.

The change in the energy mix by 2040, which is a consequence of the growing development of renewables, will make digital networks the backbone of the new world of energy,” said Francesco Starace: “This will go hand in hand with the implementation of storage systems, in order to improve the flexibility of the electricity system, and with an ever greater push towards electrification, in particular in public and private transport. Hence the need for a recharging infrastructure plan that can meet the users’ needs.” According to the CEO, it will therefore be essential to “harmonize the development of all these technologies, as they must go forward together because they cannot grow without each other.

Within this framework, Enel has also set itself the target of “increasing our green hydrogen capacity to over 2 GW by 2030.” With regard to this, Francesco Starace stressed Enel Green Power’s commitment to the implementation and development of projects “for the production and use of green hydrogen through water electrolysis, with electrolyzers powered exclusively by renewable energy.” Furthermore, the Group has launched studies into new business models that include the supply of green hydrogen for the decarbonization of industrial sectors, with partnerships and projects already under development in Chile, the United States, Spain and Italy: “In our country, for example, we are working on various projects, including one with Eni and one with Saras to produce green hydrogen to be used in refineries and biorefineries.

“Enel’s goal is not just to create value for the Group, but to generate sustainable growth that creates value for everyone: customers, society as a whole, the environment and shareholders”

Francesco Starace, Enel CEO

As CEO Francesco Starace emphasized, hydrogen production should not be seen “as an end, but rather as an enabling tool for achieving climate neutrality.” However, in order for hydrogen to become a vector for a sustainable energy future, we have to get rid of its heavy carbon footprint: for this reason, it is necessary “to focus on hydrogen production from water electrolysis, with electrolyzers powered by renewable energy: so-called green hydrogen. In this way it will be possible to decarbonize in a sustainable and competitive way those sectors that are difficult to electrify – the so-called ‘hard-to-abate’ sectors – such as energy-intensive industries, the aviation sector and maritime transport.” The technology is currently very expensive, “but we believe that in the next three to five years, thanks to economies of scale, innovation, strong industrialization and with great ambition, we can achieve cost parity between green hydrogen and the current polluting hydrogen, as long as we reduce the cost of electrolyzers by a factor of six.

It may seem like a lot, as Francesco Starace pointed out: however, in the past “we saw that many industries managed to do this, for example in the battery and solar panel sectors.” Everything must then be accompanied by adequate policies. According to Enel’s CEO, a rapid and ambitious spread of renewable energy in Europe is “the main enabling factor for the creation of a supply chain linked to green hydrogen production, which is CO2-neutral, competitive in terms of costs, and able to support the creation of new opportunities in the industrial world.”

 

Enel editorial staff