“In the discussions about the National Energy Strategy, we said that we were not going to consider 2030 as the finish line for the United Nations Sustainability Agenda, but as a point on the journey towards 2050, by which time greenhouse gases must be eliminated, not simply reduced. Without sufficient room for manoeuvre, the risk is that the challenge is abandoned at the start and the difficulties, rather than the possibilities, become overwhelming”
Enrico Giovannini believes that the search for the perfect solution is often used as an alibi to avoid making an immediate commitment to achieving the targets outlined in the 2030 Agenda: as the number of businesses adopting responsible development models grows, it will be less possible for others to stand on the sidelines of the transition.
“There are still some businesses in Italy that have not yet understood that sustainability also offers financial salvation: it is the only way for our world to continue to exist, and today’s consumer is supremely aware of this fact. Non-sustainable production will eventually push customers away, leading to an isolation on the market that will culminate with bankruptcy”
Renewables are ready
Participating on the panel “Quale energia?” (Which Energy?), Giovanni Tula, Head of Sustainability and Innovation at Enel Green Power, explained that the conditions are already in place today to achieve SDG 7 (affordable clean energy for all), one of the four goals to which Enel has made a formal commitment. Today, renewable energy is a mature technology, competitive on the market and more easily accessible worldwide. According to the latest Bloomberg New Energy Finance report, 178 GW of new capacity was installed in 2017 worldwide, with a total investment equal to 330 billion dollars. Over the last 7 years, the overall installed capacity has doubled, while estimates suggest that by 2020 the present 2,300 MW will increase to 5,000 MW.
“This is not only about caring for the environment, it is also about being competitive. Renewables are compatible with the environment, inclusive and affordable, and they create employment and shared value for many communities”
The Enel Group was one of the first to understand this concept and to work towards becoming leaders in renewable production at a global level. Our projects for the development of new renewable plants demonstrate that it has become much simpler to roll out this technology: construction of the Diamond Vista wind farm in the United States began in February and will be completed by December, with an installed capacity of 300 MW, entering into service within a rapid timeframe that would have been unthinkable several years ago.
The technology exists and when projects like these are accompanied by an uptake in the culture of sustainability, neither politics nor bureaucracy present any obstacles, not even in developing countries. Renewable energy can be developed everywhere, also through the smallest of micro plants, opening up great opportunities even in the most remote areas of Africa or Asia. Enel’s Barefoot College project, which teaches women how to assemble photovoltaic panels, is a successful example that also contributes to SDG 5, Gender Equality. In Italy, the Futur-e project based on the circular economy model is working with local institutions and communities to convert 23 decommissioned power plants into sustainable projects.
On the crest of the changes introduced by digitalisation and with new possibilities opening up in the field of renewables, the energy sector was one of the first fields to recognise the need to reorganise production and distribution. Luca Barberis, Sustainable Development Director for Gestore Servizi Energetici (GSE, the Italian Energy Services Manager), described how his division was created specifically to manage the establishment of a much more dynamic system. Grid infrastructures today need to communicate rapidly between one other, in an integrated way, as renewables can be generated everywhere, but may not always be available due to intermittence and the non-programmable nature of some renewable sources.
Sustainability is a pipe dream without the right culture
Pippo Ranci, President of Wame&Expo2015, believes it is necessary to develop tools to measure progress in providing access to mobility and energy outside of Italy and Europe. If these processes are not supported by a growing culture of sustainability, the risk is that the targets of the 2030 Agenda, in particular SDG 7, will not be achieved in time in those areas where there are no great concentrations of production. Maria Grazia Midulla, Head of Climate and Energy for WWF, recalled the need for Italy to step up its commitment to achieving SDG 13: as the latest COP23 Conference in Bonn demonstrated, the international community is extremely far behind in adopting efficient tools to combat climate change. Even a 1.5 degree rise in temperature (not even the 2 degrees foreseen in the Paris Accords) would have devastating effects on a country with an ecosystem as complex as Italy’s. Toni Federico, Coordinator of the Scientific Committee of the Foundation for Sustainable Development, believes that not even the complete elimination of fossil fuel emissions by 2050 will be enough to rebalance the climate, so unless a way to absorb the emissions already present in the atmosphere is found, the Earth will continue to heat up.
Many solutions, and much criticism, emerged during the Rome meeting. The progress made must not, however, lead to excessive optimism, but equally it should not be underestimated. When it comes to taking stock of the international progress towards sustainability and the ASviS Festival, there is still time.