The race for renewables

Published on Friday, 16 December 2016

According to forecasts of the World Economic Outlook, presented in Rome at a meeting organised by Enel, electricity generation worldwide will be increasingly sustainable and green: a reassuring prospect against global warming.

By 2040, 60% of electricity generation worldwide will come from renewable sources, with wind and solar power accounting for the lion’s share, producing more than half of this percentage. The forecasts are included in the World Energy Outlook 2016 (WEO) that the International Energy Agency (IEA) published in November. Regarding this document, key to understand trends in this industry, Enel promoted – on December 12 at its headquarters in Rome - a meeting aimed to expand the debate on energy transition.

The forecasts describe the transformation of this industry over the next few years, anticipating the decline of fossil fuels, especially coal, and the transition of the energy system - accountable for two-thirds of carbon emissions - towards an increasingly sustainable production.

According to the analysis prepared by WEO, green energy is set to become the major source of electricity generation. However, this will not be sufficient to achieve the Paris climate agreement goals, regarding which Enel has set itself ambitious targets.

In the opening meeting speech, Group Chairman Maria Patrizia Grieco pointed out that over the last few years, in the green tech industry “We have developed projects that led us to be acknowledged as consolidated leaders across the world. Our current installed capacity is 36 GW and we have a diversified presence in 24 countries. With over 1,000 plants worldwide, we have developed a diversified mix that includes every major renewable technologies, wind, solar, hydropower, geothermal and biomass”.

The WEO reports that in 2015 the growth of renewables was extraordinary. Moreover, the race is set to continue, as indicated by IEA Executive-Director Fatih Birol, also driven by the governments’ commitments against global warning, which however appear insufficient to limit global temperature rise to 2 grades centigrade. In fact, to heal the Earth’s fever it is necessary to boost the development of zero-emission sources and reduce the dependency from fossil fuels in fields such as transportation and home and industrial warming. “It is essential –Birol highlighted – that governments set clear rules strengthening the role of utility companies and promoting the development of a sustainable and remunerative energy system. In this revolution, companies like Enel play a critical role”.

Enel CEO Francesco Starace closed the meeting by reaffirming the urgent need for a shift in the global economy to a decarbonised and efficient energy model.

“Technological evolution and the uncertain current scenario require decisions that must be enacted promptly”, Starace explained. “Our strategy in mature markets consists in gradually replacing thermal plants with renewable technologies at the end of their life cycle, a process that will require 10-15 years”.

An example of this vision is Futur-E, the withdrawal and transformation programme involving 23 thermal plants that have become obsolete (totalling a capacity of 13 GW), launched in 2015 in Italy and based on a circular economy model. Through the direct involvement of local individuals and organisations, it aims at giving a new life to these facilities, creating value for the communities. In addition, within a mature market such as the Italian one, Enel will aim at promoting services and products for energy efficiency and for a responsible use of energy. Digital technologies, enabled by innovative tools such as next-generation smart meters, will drive the change.

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