Circular cities: the future is today

Published on Friday, 5 July 2019

Cities are of undeniable importance when it comes to understanding global transformations. They are the main vectors of consumption, but also vulnerable epicentres of the effects of climate change.

Urban areas are therefore the first places that need to adopt circular economy models, intended not as merely practicing recycling, but as fully fledged operational strategies geared to achieving change and ensuring sustainability.

The challenges and opportunities of this paradigm shift were at the centre of debate at the conference on “Circular Cities – the future is today”, which was held on 3 July at the Link Campus University in Rome.

Renewable resources are a perfect example of circularity. For this reason Carlo Tamburi, Head of Enel Italia, listed the benefits of the current energy transition. The move towards a more sustainable system is a great opportunity for Italy, and not only in terms of the environment: it will also lead to a reduction in the imports of both primary materials and electric energy. Furthermore, it will lower energy bills, thereby making companies more competitive, in addition to helping to launch a high quality national technological supply chain.

The opening speech at the conference was given by Riccardo Amoroso, who is Head of the e-City division at Enel X. He talked about solutions for making cities both smart and sustainable. Here strategic priorities include efficient street lighting, the electrification of new sectors and recharging infrastructure for public and private mobility. Digitalisation plays an important role in all of them. Amoroso then reiterated the importance of involving the general public and spreading the concept of circularity and its benefits, which are also economic.

The need for a pathway shared with local communities was underlined by Guido Castelli, President of the IFEL – ANCI Foundation. Giorgio Zampetti, General Manager of Legambiente, and Mariagrazia Midulla, Head of Climate and Energy at WWF, on the other hand, emphasised the environmental and social aspects. Circularity is inherent to the rhythms of nature, which needs to be incorporated into circular cities through green areas, repurposing spaces on the outskirts of urban zones and improving the quality of life for all.

Marco Rosso, CEO of Develop92 GREEN BUILDING, told the story of a rather singular example of “urban reuse,” a project in Turin involving our Group in the energy upgrade of an entire neighbourhood, with the installation of photovoltaic panels, energy efficiency interventions and an Enel X smart grid.

Some of the most innovative solutions on the theme of electric mobility were described by Damiano Frittitta, EV Mobility Section Manager at Nissan Italy, one of the most cutting-edge companies in the field of e-mobility, which has trialled various projects together with Enel. Arguably the most significant solution is the bidirectional Vehicle to Grid (V2G) technology that turns electric cars into mobile batteries, enabling users to store energy and then export it to the grid in order to provide stability.

Marco Ravazzolo, Head of Environmental Policy Coordination at Confindustria, cited some virtuous examples of companies that reward directors based on environmental performance and drew attention to the model of circularity reports, an approach pioneered by Enel X.

Then it was the turn of the world of finance: Francesco Mazzocco, Innovation Specialist at Intesa Sanpaolo, shared some futuristic circularity projects, and Oscar di Montigny, Head of Marketing, Communication and Innovation at Mediolanum, brought the discussion full circle by telling the story of how his organisation is based on innovation and sustainability inspired by Enel’s Innovability® model.

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