Italian Energy Summit: sustainability first

Italian Energy Summit: sustainability first


“2019 will be remembered as the year of sustainability,” explained Fabio Tamburini, editor-in-chief of Il Sole 24 Ore, as he introduced the latest edition of the Italian Energy Summit, organised by the 24ORE Business School and hosted at the publishing group’s Milan headquarters on September 23 and 24. This was, however, a very special edition as it coincided with the Climate Action Summit called by UN Secretary General António Guterres to accelerate the drive towards achieving the decarbonisation goals and the fight against climate change. Goals that newly-appointed president of the European Commission Ursula Von Der Leyen also put at the very centre of the “Green New Deal announced during her inaugural address to the European Parliament. 

The system joins forces for decarbonisation

“The Commission is committed to making Europe the world’s first zero emissions continent,” Claudia Canevari, Acting Head of the Energy Efficiency Unit at the European Commission Directorate General for Energy, explained in Milan, reminding those present of the “very ambitious” goals also set by Italy in line with the European targets. “Challenging and shareable goals,” is how Confindustria Energia president Giuseppe Ricci described them, adding: “But now we need to move on to how we can achieve those goals by involving the entire industrial production chain and adapting our energy infrastructure.” 

The transition to renewable energies must also be equitable, added Canevari. A massage that is of fundamental importance in our eyes and one that we also emphasised at the last European-House Ambrosetti Forum when we presented the “Just E-volution 2030” report.

Sustainable financing

Sustainability creates value and is increasingly connected to the world of finance: the search for a common criterion for measuring companies’ green investments and performance is now of utmost importance. As Starace explained the aim is “to build simple financial instruments that won’t prove difficult to manage over time and will allow interested investors to pinpoint the sector they wish to invest in and then allow them to do so without too many practical complications”. It is no coincidence that the “big three” global credit rating agencies have committed to defining an agreed sustainability metric also.

“For companies this is no longer just a question of purpose but a matter of profitability,” confirmed Francesco Gagliardi, Partner Head of Energy at consultancy giant KPMG. “This is why investments are increasingly being planned with reference to the UN’s SDGs. In fact, 17% of listed companies worldwide make their sustainability data public”. In the words of Eni CEO Claudio Descalzi, “We are facing a new cycle, a structural transition in business.” 

Electricity and new services

And what about Italy? The new government’s announcement of a “green new deal” to point the energy system towards decarbonisation through investments in renewables, energy efficiency and electrification, was greeted with enthusiasm by the audience at the Milan event. So what are those incentives exactly? “First and foremost we need a nationwide strategy, an industrial strategy, to work out what we want to become and where we want to go, and then push on every possible front to achieve that goal. But without the right strategy behind them, incentives are just a waste of resources,” said Enel X CEO Francesco Venturini who also talked about how a business model could be built around e-mobility. Enel X is currently involved in creating a charging infrastructure network “because it is impossible to develop services without hardware. Our goal is to create a series of ecosystems (for cities, homes, business, etc.) where we can make valued-added services available,” explained the Enel X number one, also hinting at the Enel X Pay e-money service due to launch shortly.

Digital customer services were also the subject broached by Nicola Lanzetta, Enel’s Head of Market Italy as part of a panel discussion on the sector’s new framework in view of the end of the enhanced protection system scheduled for July 2020. “The issue now is how we can build and then grow a relationship of trust with the consumer. There are three main levers with which to do this: the value of the brand itself, ease of use and digitalisation, which is now allowing us to acquire a new kind of client through an app. Energy consumers also buy other things, other services. Amazon has become a model not because it sells anything better or at a lower price but because it has built up a relationship of trust with the people that use it: that is the route to go down.”