The opportunities deriving from investments in renewables to overcome dependence on gas and the urgent need to act to digitalize and innovate infrastructure: in an interview with “Limes” magazine, Francesco Starace spoke about the main energy issues at the center of international debate.
“The security and affordability of energy supply must be pursued by diversifying suppliers,” Enel’s CEO explained in the interview. “Burning gas no longer makes sense in sectors such as electricity production, domestic heating, automotives, and many less energy-intensive industrial processes that can be directly or indirectly electrified.” It no longer makes sense not only for economic reasons but also for technological and strategic reasons, as “today’s technologies make it possible to do without gas, reducing costs and increasing energy security”. This is not new: these processes “would have taken place anyway, but in a slower and more gradual way”. The geopolitical tensions that have erupted in recent months now make it necessary to accelerate in this regard. As the CEO observed, this is also confirmed by Repower Eu, which makes “the developments already visible in Europe faster and more incisive” and further raises the bar by “bringing renewables from 40 to 45% in the European energy mix (almost 70% in the electricity sector) by 2030, allocating new funds, and acting on administrative simplification to guarantee certain timeframes”. This is an approach “that goes in the right direction and that the economic system would have adopted anyway”.
“The security and affordability of energy supply must be pursued by diversifying suppliers”
Francesco Starace, Enel CEO
According to Francesco Starace, today more than ever it is important to look at the energy transition without fear: “As shown by the recent controversy that arose in the European Parliament over the banning of combustion engines by 2035 – a controversy that has since disappeared – it is obvious that there is resistance to the energy transition in those economic, social, and industrial sectors which are directly penalized. Like all major technological changes, this also benefits some people immediately and penalizes others. But this does not affect its opportunity and convenience, as long as the socio-economic repercussions are managed and mitigated as far as possible. From a historical point of view, the effects of progress are not countered by defensive battles, but by leveraging innovation and trying to direct its results.”
During the interview, the CEO also focused on the need to intervene on infrastructure: “Planning must enter into the adaptation of medium and low voltage networks, which must be digitalized to manage multiple and discontinuous sources such as renewables. In this sense, renewables are very different from the classic model of large thermal power plants that produce and distribute energy on command. Furthermore, networks must be equipped with storage capacity in order to manage production and consumption peaks.” As Francesco Starace observed, Italy is “very far ahead” in this: “We are currently the only ones in Europe with a completely digitalized network. It is no coincidence that the 13,000 MW of photovoltaic energy did not cause any problems in the three-year period 2010-2012. It is now necessary to strengthen electronic management capacity, but above all to add storage capacity. We already plan to install over 1,500 MW of batteries, which will provide us with a greater storage capacity than the current one in the rest of Europe. If the rest of the continent accelerates the adaptation of national networks now, also thanks to Repower Eu, Europe will be at the forefront of the world.”
Enel editorial staff