There is no sustainable development without a circular economy: this is the conclusion reached in recent years by institutions, companies, associations and many private citizens, to the point that the simple term "economy," without that adjective, is beginning to sound obsolete. And sustainable development is, in turn, a must, the only path that, through innovation, can ensure competitiveness and at the same time environmental sustainability.
The Futur-e project has been acknowledged by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) as one of the most relevant applications of the circular economy at an international level. How did the project earn such lofty praise?
In order to understand the answer, it is necessary to clarify exactly what the circular economy is. The concept can be summarised in three points: first, to use renewable raw materials and energy as far as is possible; second, to maximise the use factor of goods and products through all possible solutions, from sharing to selling in the form of services, to extending the useful life of products; and third, to reduce waste to a minimum, recovering goods as much as possible at the end of their life through reuse and recycling. To achieve these objectives, they need to be taken into account in a systemic manner at every stage of the production and consumption chain, from design to recovery.
Enel's commitment to the circular economy began about five years ago with the decision to prioritisenew investments in renewable energy sources and the launch of the new 'Open Power' philosophy, aimed at openness and collaboration with the outside world. These two steps created the conditions for a structured approach to the circular economy.
The Futur-e project has played a crucial role in the Group's growth, both in terms of its size and its vision, which is based wholly on the principles of the circular economy, and theseform the basis of every phase of the project. Futur-e came into being due to the change in the energy production modeland the Group's decision to invest heavily in renewables, when it became necessary to decommission 23 thermoelectric power plants located around the country that had reached the end of their working life. What to do with them? This is the quantum leap of Futur-e: to consider them not as 23 valueless prehistoric hulks, but as a portfolio of enormous resources at the service of the country, taking full advantage of these structures to transform them into something new (theme parks, new industrial districts, tourist attraction centres) and useful for improving the quality of life of the local communities that live and work around those facilities. And due precisely to the project’s circular and inclusive approach, those communities are always involved, together with local authorities, universities and design studios, in deciding what the old power station will be transformed into.
This is the perfect application of the concept of circularity in economics: extending the life of the assets that characterise these 23 sites (infrastructure, connections, skills) enables thecreation of shared value without consuming new resources in terms of land take, materials and energy.
Find out more about "Futur-e, powering new beginnings".