The present and the future. Today batteries play a key role in two crucial areas of the energy transition, e-mobility and storage, above all in balancing the fluctuating electricity production from renewable sources. Other innovations are already emerging or coming into view on the horizon, such as medical and robotic applications, electric aircraft and the Internet of Things.
In such a promising sector, Europe, and Italy in particular, can play a decisive role and regain a competitive edge in relation to the Asian countries, especially China.
This requires wide-ranging collaboration on a political level, as no European country can make the difference on its own. But also technological and economic partnerships are required, bringing together academia and industry.
One example of this synergy was the convention “Il ruolo delle batterie nella transizione energetica” (The role played by batteries in the energy transition), held in Rome on 24 June. Organised by Enea (Italy’s National Agency for New Technology, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development) in collaboration with the Polytechnic University of Turin and hosted by Enel at our head office, this event was one of the results of the collaboration between Italian centres of excellence in research and innovation.
Applications across the board
Ernesto Ciorra, Enel’s Chief Innovability® Officer, played host at the event, emphasising the need to open up to innovation from the outside – research centres, startups and other companies. Ciorra also recalled some of our Group’s most important practical applications in the sector, starting with the “Second Life” project in Melilla in Spain, a storage installation linked to a thermal power plant, created by reusing e-car batteries. This pioneering solution was selected as a “member initiative” by the World Economic
Forum, as it improves supply security and helps reduce the plant’s emissions.
One of the major technological challenges was identified by Gian Piero Celata, Director of the Energy Technology Department at ENEA, who explained that there is no single overall solution, but many solutions providing responses to individual cases. For electric vehicles, for example, it’s important to reduce battery size and above all make them lighter, while this problem simply does not arise in the context of a large storage installation in a power plant, where financial factors are of greatest importance.
Towards a Leadership Role for Europe
One of the key sessions of the day was the presentation of EU-financed Battery European 2030+ project, launched in March to develop the batteries of the future and ensure a current and future leadership role for Europe. The Polytechnic University of Turin is a partner, while ENEA is a “supporting organisation”.
The main subjects of research will be new materials, the technical aspects of manufacturing and recycling, smart sensors to monitor battery health and the futuristic concept of self-repairing batteries. These were described by Kristina Edström and Simon Perraud, project coordinator and vice-coordinator, together with Aymard de Touzalin, from the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology.
New technology and materials
Echoing Ciorra, Gian Piero Celata stressed the need for close links between research and industry. Attending a round table held on this very topic were Luigi Lanuzza, Head of New Technologies at Enel X, Stefano Saguatti (Manz), Andrea Baccino (Fiat Research Centre), Luca Marchisio (Terna) and, through a live link, Nicoletta Amodio (Confindustria).
Lanuzza explained that batteries are a shared element in all four Enel X lines – home, industry, cities and e-mobility. He went on to list some of the main guidelines for promoting the large-scale development of e-transport – further enhancing safety, driving down costs and accelerating recharging times.
In a spirit of cooperation the Rome event drew to a close with a “pitch corner”, a series of excellent Italian research projects in the field of batteries, developed by a number of universities, from Rome’s Sapienza to the Bicocca in Milan, the universities of Pavia, Camerino, Padova and Siena, as well as research centres (CNRs), innovative companies and startups like Sensichips and Bettery. Of course, our Group was also present, in the person of Gianluca Gigliucci, Head of Energy Storage Innovation at Enel Green Power. Gigliucci described some trials carried out on the optimal use of batteries in electricity grids. The range and quality of the projects presented provided further proof of the great potential Italy has to offer. As Kristina Edström reminded the audience, Italy is, after all, the country where everything began thanks to the groundbreaking discovery made by Alessandro Volta.