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Francesco Starace: Enel is investing in the future

In an interview with “La Repubblica”, CEO and General Manager Francesco Starace talked about sustainable mobility, digitalization and zero emissions

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In an interview with the Italian newspaper “La Repubblica,” which was published on January 13, CEO and General Manager Francesco Starace talked about the “still unexplored” worlds of electricity and the “great opportunities for our customers and for Enel.” First and foremost, he talked about mobility: “We started four years ago with the idea of installing a public charging infrastructure in Italy; now we have almost 20,000 public charging points around the world, 150,000, if we include the private ones. These will reach 4 million units in 2030.” People who own electric cars therefore have a vast array of services, but this also opens up new business opportunities: “For example, the possibility of making car batteries available to the electricity grid when they are not in use. The electricity grid needs more and more batteries in order to be balanced. In this area, we will launch on the market a company dedicated to this great new world, which will see the light of day in the coming months and will subsequently be put on the global market.

As Starace explained, this can only be done through digitalization, which is essential for enabling grids to manage supply and demand in an intelligent way: “There is a need for flexibility on the grid, because demand is volatile and renewables do not have constant production trends. Today we have nearly 8,000 MW of active demand management from industrial customers around the world. They are in our system and, when the grid needs more electricity, they can disconnect themselves from the grid and be rewarded for their availability.” Being paid for not consuming in some moments was an unimaginable opportunity until a few years ago, whereas now it is “an important part of our business, enabling us to enter countries such as Korea, Japan, Poland, the UK and Ireland.” This will lead to the establishment of a new entity: “With 70 million customers worldwide, just by supplying digital meters to ourselves we have become the second largest global player in the sector. Gridspertise – as the new company is called – will start operating later this year as a separate organization in order to enhance and make services available to all customers around the world. It will already have an industrial partner this year and we expect the company to be listed by 2023. The same goes for another company which will operate in the electric car charging sector: it will be created when Enel X is split in two.

“We want to reach zero emissions by 2040. Change is not a cost, but an investment in the future”

Francesco Starace, Enel CEO

In the interview, Starace also talked about the zero emissions goal, which Enel has brought forward to 2040: “We set the date of 2040 with good reason from an economic point of view and with double benefits: firstly, we can reduce the costs of energy production and shift them to renewables; secondly, we can end dependence on fossil fuels which, as we have seen in recent months, have very volatile prices.” Furthermore, “we will stop emitting C02, and this is good for everyone, seeing as we are committed to being zero emissions, and not net zero emissions. What does net mean? Often there is little transparency and room for confusion about this. In short, this step is beneficial from every point of view: the cost is not in doing it, but it would be in not doing it.

According to Starace, there is also a “degree of semantic confusion” regarding the concern for the costs of the transition: “Implementing the transition is convenient and what we face today is not a cost, but an investment in the future. In 2019 we prepared a study together with The European House - Ambrosetti showing that the transition is worth up to 23 billion euros in Italy, while providing an estimated net increase of between 100,000 and 170,000 new jobs. Then it is clear that, as happens in every technological change, there are those who adapt first and those who are unable or unwilling to adapt and therefore risk disappearing.” In this regard, Francesco Starace recalled that Enel plans to invest approximately 210 billion euros, between now and 2030, according to its industrial plan: “About 160 billion euros invested by us and another 50 billion by third parties who will co-invest with us in common initiatives.” These investments “will focus on electricity grids, which are essential for the progressive electrification of consumption, and on renewables, which are essential for the progressive decarbonization of electricity.

 

Enel editorial staff