Enel Green Power, the queen of renewables
Ten years ago, they still called it “alternative energy.” Renewable sources like wind and solar power were merely a nice idea. We were one of the first to believe in their potential and on 1 December 2008, with the enthusiasm of pioneers, we established Enel Green Power (EGP), the Enel Group company focussed on the development of renewable energy.
Today, renewable energy is an essential component in the global energy mix and, according to the forecasts in Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s New Energy Outlook 2018, in 2050 renewables will make up 64% of global electricity production.
There are various reasons why this significant growth has exceeded all expectations. First, the significant fall in the costs of technologies, especially those for wind and solar power, has made these sources increasingly competitive in relation to traditional combustible fuels. Furthermore, the spread of energy storage systems that can help overcome the difficulties inherent to non-programmable renewable energy production, the awareness of the risks linked to climate change, plus the growing determination of institutions, governments, businesses and consumers to prioritise environmental sustainability have all played a part. This is the context in which EGP has grown and continues to develop.
Ten years of success
Enel Green Power, however, didn’t come from nowhere: the Enel Group has a history of renewable energy projects. In 1962, the year Enel was established, there was already a network of hydroelectric power plants across Italy as well as some distinguished local examples of renewable energy production, such as the geothermal area of Larderello in Tuscany that dates back to 1911 and was the first of its kind in the world. In 1981 in Adrano, Sicily, we built the first concentrated solar power plant, also the first of its kind.
At the time of its establishment, Enel Green Power (which did not include the large hydroelectric plants until 2016), brought together Enel’s active renewable plants in 16 countries with a total of 4.5 GW of managed installed capacity and approximately 17 TWh of electricity produced each year.
First and foremost, EGP grew thanks to the enthusiasm of its pioneering staff, aware that their work was paving the way to a new future. The direction taken by EGP would later be formalised by the Group and expressed systematically as “placing innovation at the service of sustainability.” However, the key achievement of those who established and grew the business is having brought together, organised and balanced so many technologies, experiences and skills.
In May 2014 the baton was passed on: Francesco Starace, the first CEO of EGP, became General Manager and CEO of Enel, taking his place was Francesco Venturini, who would stay until May 2017 when he moved to head up the newly created Enel X, and Antonio Cammisecra, the present CEO, was appointed to the helm of EGP.
From 1 to 100
Today’s milestone can be summed up with three symbolical numbers: 1, 10 and 100. The number 1 represents EGP’s position in the global rankings: with 1,200+ plants, for a total installed managed capacity of over 43 GW (almost 10 times the initial quantity), EGP is today the primary private operator in the field of renewable energies worldwide. The number 10, for the 10 years of EGP’s activities, brings with it a new record: by the end of December, for the first time, the production of energy will exceed the threshold of 100 TWh produced in one year. This is a colossal amount, especially when we consider that the 82 TWh produced in 2017 were enough to meet the needs of almost 200 million families. The Cinderella of the energy world has become the queen.
The continuous growth of EGP also contributes to the Enel Group’s increasing sustainability: almost half (48%) of the energy generated by Enel has zero greenhouse emissions and this percentage is forecast to rise to 62% over the next three years. If renewables were merely a promise 10 years ago, that promise has now been kept.
“The scenarios around us have been changing rapidly and continuously, and we have stayed at the heart of this great whirlwind, defining it, adapting to its evolution, driving it forward, growing and prospering”
– Antonio Cammisecra, CEO of EGP
In 30 countries, five continents
Enel’s global leadership has also been confirmed by the data when it comes to quality. EGP is active in all the principal renewable sources: hydroelectric (in both mini and large plants), solar (photovoltaic and thermal), wind and geothermal as well as biomass.
We have also sought to support the technology for electricity production with advances in energy storage, a sector that is indispensable for ensuring that non-programmable sources like the sun and the wind can supply energy even when weather conditions are adverse.
This technological diversification has been accompanied by geographical diversification. EGP is present today in 30 countries on five continents (almost twice as many countries compared with 2008): including advanced economies like Italy, Spain and the United States, the large emerging markets like Brazil, Mexico, South Africa and India and smaller, hugely potential areas like Greece, Panama and Uruguay. This expansion is continuing as the recent stakes in new markets, including Germany, Russia, Australia and Ethiopia, demonstrate.
Furthermore EGP is in the front line when it comes to developing integrated solutions that can guarantee full access to electricity in those parts of the world where this is a problem, such as Sub-Saharan Africa.
And, in order to make a tangible contribution, Enel Green Power has integrated the UN’s 17 SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) into its strategy.
The new frontier
Also from a technological point of view, EGP is opening up to increasingly wide horizons. One of the new frontiers is the integration of different renewable sources: for example, the Stillwater plant in Nevada combines geothermal, thermal solar and photovoltaic power, while Cove Fort in Utah uses geothermal and hydroelectric technologies. Again in the United States, the Thunder Ranch wind farm in Oklahoma also incorporates a solar photovoltaic system, while in Chile the geothermal plant of Cerro Pabellón is served by a local microgrid powered by a photovoltaic plant and equipped with a hybrid storage system, with lithium ion batteries for short-term storage and a hydrogen system for long-term storage.
Now it is time to look forward to new sources: after the rivers, sun, earth and wind, it is now the moment for the sea, a renewable source with immense potential. Using the motion of waves to produce energy is a technology that is still little developed, however the potential is huge and EGP is already on the front line testing initiatives of various types, from a prototype in the waters of Castiglioncello, Tuscany, to the creation of the Marine Energy Research and Innovation Center in Chile. Furthermore, a partnership agreement was signed in July 2018 to test the innovative CETO 6 system, developed by Carnegie Clean Energy Limited (CCE), an Australian company specialised in green tech with consolidated experience in creating technology to convert the kinetic energy of waves into electricity.
Looking back from this height at those first steps taken 10 years ago, the distance travelled thus far is dizzying. And we’re only just getting started.