A taskforce against drought

Published on Friday, 7 July 2017

A winter with scarce snow and a year with even less rain. But there is no alarm: the situation is under control and there is no risk of drought for the time being.

“It was among the driest springs in the last 50 years, but if we look at the situations of our basins, it is more or less the same as in 2016,” explained Carlo Pignoloni, Head of Europe and North Africa Area at Enel Green Power. “There are different situations: it rained more in north-western Italy and less in the Veneto, but if we consider all of the basins in the alpine area, the overall situation is good.”

Even because the heat wave in June melted the snow early on providing “a water stock that we need to manage,” added Marco Formenton, Middle Office and Risk Management Italy, at Enel’s Global Trading, the global business line that constantly monitors even the weather situation as part of its broader risk management work.

We have visited the main hydroelectric power plants managed by Enel around the country to understand whether there were any concerns, thanks also to collaboration with regional and cross-regional basin managers, which, is more intense in critical situations.

“We signed a protocol for the management of the various uses of the water of the Lake Barrea dam (an artificial lake in the province of L’Aquila) and now we are at a level that will ensure a substantial water stock over the summer,” stated Corrado Coletta, Manager of the hydroelectric power plants in the Lazio, Abruzzo and Marche regions. The early summer did not catch Enel off guard. “We have set the rules of the game with the local stakeholders and we are able to handle this period without any concerns.”

Enel manages a natural resource like water for power generation based on detailed plans agreed with basin managers.

“If there is a specific need, the competent authorities organise round tables that we participate in closely following their instructions,” added Pignoloni. “A cross-regional authority of the Po basin must coordinate many regions so that activities in one region do not impact negatively another.”

And it is the Po River that we are watching closely. “However, the situation has improved today thanks also to last week’s rain,” says Pignoloni. The level of the Po River depends on two lakes, Lake Maggiore and Lake Como. Today, these two lakes are filled up to about 80-90 percent. So, the situation is less concerning that it looks.” Pignoloni went on to explain: “When there are expectations of long drought spells, it is important to have more accurate water releases, according to the input from authorities and in this order of priority: drinking, irrigation and power generation.”

The Alpe Gera dam, in Lombardy, contains up to 68 million cubic metres of water. “At present, there are 42, but we are growing about 1 metre a day,” said Paolo Tartaglia, Ubh Lombardy Manager. “The latest rainfall has brought large amounts of water, the lakes have greatly benefitted from it, especially Lake Maggiore, Lake Como and Lake Iseo, so we can say that the situation in Lombardy is back to normal.”

“It has been a year with scarce water supply and we are below the average rainfall, but there is no critical situation,” confirmed Mario Sciolla, Ubh Piedmont Manager at Enel, from the Chiotas dam, at an altitude of 2,000 metres and one of the most powerful hydroelectric power plants in Italy. “There are some points that call for attention, but we are over 80% of the water stock in the basins. We have managed to fill them even this year.”

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