The Living Lab in Savona, welcome to the city of the future

The Living Lab in Savona, welcome to the city of the future


“Here in Savona we are testing out the future. A world where, in a dynamic and interconnected system, renewable energy will be emitted onto a smart and sustainable grid integrated with the most innovative technology, the lifeblood of e-mobility.”

Professor Paola Girdinio was visibly thrilled to be inaugurating the brand new Living Lab Microgrid at the University of Genoa’s Savona campus. Attending the event were the Minister of Defence Roberta Pinotti, Enel Chairman Patrizia Grieco and a packed audience seated in the library. First of all Girdinio wanted to thank the team of technicians and young students, whose passion had made it all happen. “Thanks to them the complex in Via Magliotto has been transformed into a miniature city, an ‘energy island’ for testing increasingly efficient smart grids and innovative systems for energy management.”


“At the Savona Campus we are testing out a world where renewable energy will be emitted onto a smart and sustainable grid, integrated with the most innovative technologies”

– Paola Girdinio, University of Genoa

Housed in a former barracks built in the 1930s, with its 55 thousand square metres and approximately two thousand inhabitants (mostly students of the faculties of Social Science, Medicine and Engineering), the Campus is a small urban neighbourhood of Savona. The real challenge has been making it energy sustainable by using renewable sources of energy andstorage systems, connecting all of the buildings on the Campus to the network and creating the centrepiece at the heart of the complex, the Smart Energy Building (SEB). The SEB is the first completely self-sufficient building in Italy; it is connected to a smart gridand produces zero emissions of carbon dioxide. Entering the SEB is like journeying into the future: the building is equipped with thermal and acoustic insulation and with high efficiency lighting systems and connected solely to the university microgrid and not the public electricity grid. The energy is supplied entirely by a photovoltaic plant, a heating plant powered by a geothermal heat pump, but also, to a lesser extent, from the digital U-Gym, where it is possible to convert into energy the physical exertions of those working out on the exercise bikes and the elliptical machines.

The Living Lab, the control centre that gives life to and manages this complex smart grid, has been financed entirely by public money as part of the University of Genoa’s Energy 2020 project (8 million euros from the Ministry of the Environment, the Ministry of Education and the Liguria Regional Administration) but it would not have been possible without the collaboration of Enel and Siemens. A five-year agreement was signed in May 2016 between our Group and the University of Genoa, enabling the creation of the campus microgrid, using systems that belong entirely to Enel, such as the 70 remote-control nodes, three charging stations for electric cars and a sophisticated energy management system for the supervision of analyses and tests.


“The challenge is to satisfy the growing demand for energy through technological innovation and sustainable development that respects the environment”

– Patrizia Grieco, Enel Chairman

“Humanity,” began Patrizia Grieco, “is experiencing the largest ever wave of migration towards the cities. In 2050 over 60% of the global population, around six billion people, will live in urban areas. Cities are, therefore, in a phase of complete transformation. They are no longer just spaces in which to live and work but the venues for opportunity, growth, research and development. So the real challenge will be to satisfy the growing demand for energy through technological innovation and sustainable development that respects the environment. This is exactly what is being tested here at the Savona Campus, which recreates on a smaller scale the dynamics of future cities.”

For some time, explained president Grieco, Enel has been aware of the importance of renewables, the growth of digitalisation and a greater emphasis on customer focus as part of its Open Power approach. Open Power means innovating, openness and listening to new ideas, and listening to universities, naturally. For some years here in Savona, via a microgrid, experiments have been taking place on energy transmission and distribution networks that are increasingly efficient and reliable. The Campus has also been included in the International Sustainable Campus Network, a network of 84 universities around the world that have been recognised for their excellence in the field of sustainability.


“With the Savona Living Lab we are celebrating an important partnership for development and research in the field of microgrids, smart grids and energy management systems. Here we are developing and testing the technology of the future, uniting Enel’s industrial credentials and experience around the globe with the research and innovation of the University of Genoa”

– Livio Gallo, Head of the Global Infrastructure and Networks Division at Enel

As Federico Delfino, Head of the Smart City Projects at the Savona complex explained, “the Campus offers ideal conditions for experimenting: it is a laboratory in which to improve not only energy flows but also flows of data and the communications between networks and smartphones and to make the entire structure energy self-sufficient (today around 20% of the energy requirements are satisfied using energy from fossil fuels.) We are growing and we are optimistic, just as the mathematician from Savona Pietro Oliva taught us. Oliva was a deep and humorous teacher; following his death in 2014, we decided to dedicate the energy intelligence building to him.”


“Creating a smart city is not simple because cities are made up of multitudes of individuals and entities that are difficult to coordinate. Here at the Campus, however, we have the ideal conditions for experimentation”

– Federico Delfino, Head of Smart City Projects, Savona Campus