Leading Energy Company charts a bold low-carbon course

According to the Science Based Targets initiative, greenhouse gas emissions per kWh of electricity need to fall by 95 percent by 2050, compared to 2010. [1] And, the International Energy Agency suggests that to stay within two degrees Celsius of global warming by 2050, 42 percent of electricity must be generated from renewables by 2030, and 57 percent by 2050. [2]

It stands to reason that to achieve this, we need the energy sector itself to prioritize low-carbon power. Enel’s commitment to become carbon neutral by 2050 clearly puts the company in alignment with the climate science. [3] Alongside the company’s decision to halt new coal investment, this has transformed Enel’s relationship with environmental groups. [4]

Enel operates in 30 countries across four continents, overseeing power generation from plants with the capacity to produce over 90 GW of energy—equivalent to the electricity consumption in the Middle East in 2012. [5] The company distributes electricity and gas through a network spanning around 1.9 million km to serve about 61 million customers. [6]  So it’s a major player and its decision sends a clear message to other energy companies that they should follow its example.

“This should send a clear signal to energy companies across the globe that it is possible to still provide for the needs of energy consumers in a clean, sustainable way without hurting profits. It takes courage for a company historically locked into fossil fuels to chart a new course," said Kumi Naido, international executive director of Greenpeace. [7]

Getting on the right track

Enel has started to cut greenhouse gas emissions in all its regions. In 2014, the company decided to shut down 13 GW of its fossil fuel burning capacity in Italy by 2020 and cancelled two planned coal plants. [8]  

Photo:  Sebastiano PitruzzelloAt the same time, the company is developing new renewable energy projects through its specialist arm, Enel Green Power, which develops and manages energy generation from renewable sources at a global level, with a presence in Europe, the Americas and Africa. Enel Green Power is a major global operator in the field of energy generation from renewable sources, with an annual production of 32 TW/h. The company uses energy mainly from water, the sun, wind and the earth’s own heat, to meet the energy consumption of over 11 million families and avoiding 17 million metric tons of CO2 emissions every year. The company has an installed capacity of 9,985 MW, produced by 741 plants in 16 countries. [9]

Most recently, Enel Green Power:

  • was awarded 280 MW of wind power in a South African public tender, [10]
  • completed and connected to the grid Brazil’s first hybrid plant, [11],
  • became Brazil’s top solar player, [12]
  • began construction in Chile on the first geothermal plant in South America [13]
  • and invested $220M in a 50-turbine, 100 MW wind farm in Mexico.

When it’s finished, the Vientos del Altiplano wind farm in Zacatecas will be able to generate 280 GWh every year—equivalent to the yearly energy consumption needs of over 161,000 Mexican households—and contribute to the rapid development of renewables in the country. [14]. The wind farm should be working by mid-2016 and the company has a long-term power purchase agreement for selling power to the grid. [15]

Enel Green Power is fast becoming one of the world’s major operators in renewable energy. Its revenue grew by 11 percent in 2014. [16]

Checking progress

Enel has set interim targets to keep it on track for carbon neutrality, starting by reducing emissions from generation to 395g/kWh by 2020—a target that was met and surpassed well ahead of schedule in 2013.

Taking it forward

In 2009, Enel signed up to the Eurelectric Initiative, under which 60 companies are transforming the electricity sector into a carbon neutral industry. [17]   And Enel’s current CEO Francesco Starace—who earlier ran Enel Green Power—is committed to the cause. He says, “This carbon era is going to end, because it is uneconomical, difficult and increasingly problematic in its implementation; there is nothing we can do about it, better just face it.” [18]

Enel has also endorsed the Caring for Climate initiative, one of the largest global business movements to address climate change—promoted by the UN Global Compact—and under which it has aligned with the Business Leadership Criteria on Carbon Pricing.

This recent acceleration in activities has been publicly recognized, as Enel has been named in the top five of Fortune magazine’s Change the World list, a new ranking that shines a spotlight on businesses that make addressing social challenges part of their business strategy. Fortune praised Enel for leading a renewable energy revolution, something, it said, that it usually expects “to be by tiny upstarts, not established giants.” The magazine highlighted the fact that in 2014 Enel generated 38 percent of its output from renewable sources, with that figure set to rise to 48 percent within the next four years. [19][20]


[1] www.sciencebasedtargets.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/The_Sectoral_Decarbonization_Approach.pdf page 78
[2] www.iea.org/publications/freepublications/publication/ETP2012_free.pdf
[3] www.cdp.net/Documents/technical/2015/mind-the-science-report-2015.pdf)  [4] www.enel.com/en-GB/media/press_releases/senior-management-of-enel-and-greenpeace-meet/r/1663439
[5] www.iea.org/publications/freepublications/publication/KeyWorld2014.pdf
[6] www.enel.com/en-GB/group/about_us/
[7] www.greenpeace.org/italy/Global/italy/report/2015/energy/PR_Enel_Greenpeace_meeting_17.03.15.pdf
[8] energydesk.greenpeace.org/2015/03/17/enel-commits-coal-investment-phase/
[9] www.enelgreenpower.com/en-GB/company/about_us/; www.enelgreenpower.com/en-GB/media_investor/press_releases/release.aspx?iddoc=1664175)
[10] www.enelgreenpower.com/en-GB/media_investor/press_releases/release.aspx?iddoc=1663915
[11] www.enelgreenpower.com/en-GB/media_investor/press_releases/release.aspx?iddoc=1664309
[12] www.enelgreenpower.com/en-GB/media_investor/press_releases/release.aspx?iddoc=1664305
[13] www.enelgreenpower.com/en-GB/media_investor/press_releases/release.aspx?iddoc=1664099
[14] www.enel.com/en-gb/media/press_releases/enel-green-power-begins-construction-of-new-wind-farm-in-mexico/r/1664095
[15] cleantechnica.com/2015/07/17/enel-green-power-investing-220-million-mexican-windfarm/?utm_source=Cleantechnica+News&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=c6d96ecada-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_term=0_b9b83ee7eb-c6d96ecada-332047025
[16] cleantechnica.com/2015/02/10/enel-green-power-sees-11-1-revenue-growth/
[17] www.enel.com/en-GB/sustainability/environment/climate_strategy/
[18] www.nasdaq.com/video/enel-chief---carbon-era-is-going-to-end-518832389
[19] www.enel.com/en-GB/media/press_releases/enel-in-top-five-of-fortune-146-s-new-147-change-the-world-148-list/r/1664301
[20] fortune.com/change-the-world/enel-5/