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The turning point for electricity: an interview with Francesco Starace

More jobs, less waste, less environmental impact: the advantages of electricity according to Francesco Starace


The world system is moving towards electricity: this shift is “getting stronger and is impossible to stop.Francesco Starace talked about this in an interview with “Il Grande Libro della Sostenibilità e Comunicazione” (“The Great Book of Sustainability and Communication”), a special publication by “Prima Comunicazione” (Italy’s leading monthly magazine dedicated to communication and the media industry). According to Enel’s CEO, it is an “inexorable” process but, like any “profound shift,” it “takes a long time for everyone to appreciate it.” The image outlined by the CEO is that of a “rising tide” that “will continue to rise quickly or slowly”: from a technological point of view, decarbonized electricity is indeed significantly competitive and therefore “it becomes cost-effective to shift consumption for transportation, heating, almost all civil uses and most industrial ones.

There is still a long way to go: “There is a lot that needs to be done. And, as always in these cases, it is impossible to do it all at once. It will be a very long process which has, however, now begun.” In terms of production, renewables will be the backbone of future electricity generation, replacing energy from thermal generation. However, the big news will be the breakthrough of thermal and gravitational energy storage systems within the world of electricity. “We are putting their strength aside,” Starace explained: “Batteries are already largely cost-effective for storage periods ranging from zero to four or five hours. Within five years, they will be cost-effective for night-day periods.

“We are witnessing an ever greater shift in the world system towards electricity. I don’t think it’s possible to stop it. Like any profound shift, it takes a long time for everyone to appreciate. It’s an inexorable process”

Francesco Starace, Enel CEO

In the interview, Enel’s CEO stressed that electrification is necessary in order to “prevent CO2 emissions into the atmosphere, while progressively decarbonizing.” It also makes energy use more efficient while helping to reduce waste: “Energy generated for transportation is being wasted significantly. Transportation with internal combustion engines wastes about 70-80% of the energy input. Only 20-30% is transformed into kinetic energy. This is a considerable waste.” Not surprisingly, electricity can be digitally managed far better than gas: “Household devices and sensors make the supply of energy more precise and help save energy.

According to Starace, electricity will therefore change everything. In the interview, he also spoke about some of the most debated topics concerning the energy transition: first and foremost, the loss of jobs. “A study we prepared together with The European House - Ambrosetti showed that, in terms of Europe, the transition towards electricity would provide an estimated net increase of between one million and 1.4 million new jobs in Europe, while the figure for Italy is between 100,000 and 170,000,” said Enel’s CEO, reiterating that jobs are not lost but created. It is clear that “people who risk losing their jobs naturally seek reassurance about their future.” However, “today we have the opportunity to proactively involve the industrial sectors which are affected by this change and to implement policies that can shift sectors from one technology to another.” In short, Francesco Starace is convinced that “it can be done.


Enel editorial staff