Enel says out with coal, in with renewables (and lots of them)

Fri, 2015-04-03 06:00 -- SCC Staff

With numerous wind, geothermal, solar, biomass and hydropower plants operating throughout North America and elsewhere in the world, Council Lead Partner Enel plans to double its total installed capacity of renewable power generation over the next five years and increase its global reach even further. (And yes. Smart cities are part of the picture too.)

Considering that the Italy-based multinational’s Enel Green Power has 734 plants in Europe, Africa and North, Central and South America, it would be an easy guess that the planned expansion has a hefty price tag -- and it does.

Greentech Lead reports the company’s 2015 business plan includes investments of $26.7 billion  in renewables and smart grid sectors in that five-year period, with $8 billion earmarked for smart grids, metering and emerging markets globally.

More renewables, less coal (and how Greenpeace fits in)
Last month, Enel announced it will gradually shift away from spending on coal and more aggressively invest in renewables, energy efficiency, smart grids and energy storage, another area in which it is already heavily involved. And the company is heading in that direction with environmental activism organization Greenpeace.

While Enel and Greenpeace have some differences to work out regarding the mechanics of the withdrawal from coal, the company said in a statement that “Enel plans to move with Greenpeace in this direction, on a path upon which the new management has already embarked and, by accepting Greenpeace’s invitation, Enel is establishing itself as a progressive company in the international energy industry. Enel’s new strategic commitments are in line with the expressed aims of Greenpeace in their campaigns specifically targeted at Enel, one of the seven largest electric companies in the world.”

Enel announced plans last year to retire 13 gigawatts of fossil fuel-fired generation by 2020 and also decided against building two new coal plants in Italy and Chile, according to Greenpeace Energydesk.

The trigger for Enel’s renewables growth plan in partnership with Greenpeace is climate change. “Enel shares the same concerns about the future global climate expressed by most of the international scientific community as well as the goal to keep the worldwide temperature rise below 2°C.” The company said its new strategy should enable it to reach its own goal of carbon neutrality before its target date of 2050.

More renewables requires more (and better) energy storage
As integration of renewables  continues on a massive scale – roughly 150 gigawatts of wind and solar were added in Europe alone over the past five years – solutions to buffer their well-known intermittency and store their power when it’s not needed and make it available when demand increases become essential. And that means energy storage technologies.

From smart cities wanting community-based power either for emergency backup or daily use to off-grid regions of the world completely dependent on renewables for power, energy storage coupled with renewables generation is widely seen as the solution. And countless companies, partnerships and government agencies are exploring the variety of storage technologies and implementing pilot projects or more mature installations.

That explains why storage is such a big part of Enel’s plans and why the company has been involved in storage technologies since 2010. Its latest effort has been the launch of two new off-grid storage projects in Spain’s Canary Islands and a remote area in Chile, in addition to its ActiveRES, a grid-connected project that integrates three different storage technologies with renewable power generation.

But what about cities?
Enel’s storage technologies also are part of a multi-faceted turnkey solution for smart cities that includes smart grids, smart meters, EV recharging, smart public lighting and network resilience. The company is installing a smart city which will no doubt be a featured attraction during the Milan Expo 2015 later this year.

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Doug Peeples is a Portland, Oregon-based writer specializing in technology and energy. Follow @smartccouncil on Twitter.

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