Global trends and the electricity sector
Marina Migliorato Head of Sustainability Innovation and Stakeholders Engagement Sustainability ENEL SpA.
Enel is a multi-national power company and a leading integrated player in the world’s power and gas markets, with a particular focus on Europe and Latin America. The Group operates in more than 30 countries across 4 continents.
A focus on the environment, social development and economic sustainability are three key factors that are strongly guiding the Group’s strategy and accelerating its growth worldwide. Today, our industry is undergoing a profound transformation and, once again, Enel takes the lead in shaping a new, digital, and participatory era of energy.
Indeed, the combination of these factors with the strategic need to intercept, develop and exploit new opportunities led Enel to adopt what we call an Open Power approach. Open Power is our platform for growth, combining the strength of our global organization with the opportunities of a new, open and connected world.
We are witnessing right now one of the biggest change ever, whose speed and scale is unprecedented. It is driven by rapid population growth, urbanization and economic development. Indeed, one of the greatest questions of our time is how to provide the energy needed for a growing and more prosperous global population, without damaging the environment beyond repair.
Billions of us need better access to energy to meet basic needs and to industrialize. Yet at the same time, our energy systems need to become cleaner, to support long-term prosperity. The energy decisions that will be made in the next 15 years will determine whether both of these objectives can be met.
The big story in the electricity sector is now clearly that the business model of conventional utilities has no future. The energy industry is currently characterized by the huge impact of new technology: digitalization, the internet of things, new low-cost technologies, storage systems, and the evolution of customer’s role and needs are just some of the elements at the heart of the new energy paradigm.
Access to Electricity
All things need energy. Without energy, schools do not function effectively, health centers will have limited capacity to provide services, energy deprived communities will not deliver these basics at all and employment opportunities will be limited because no enterprises can function or grow.
Yet when the UN’s millennium development goals were set in 2000, energy didn’t feature. That has now been remedied: sustainable energy access is one of the key new UN sustainable development goals (SDG 7), that will shape the global post-2015 development agenda. Then energy is globally recognized as an enabler.
In terms of electricity alone, the global population without access to electricity was 1.1 billion people in 2012. Within this framework, Enel has been fully supporting SDG 7, as well as the UN Sustainable Energy for All initiative since its launch in 2011, and has been responding to the energy deficit in 10 countries with its ENabling ELectricity program. Involving more than 2.5 million people so far, the program works in both rural and urban areas worldwide.
Through the same program, Enel is committed to SDG 7 to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy to 3 million beneficiaries in Africa, Asia and Latin America by 2020, thanks to several initiatives for abating economic barriers to access electricity, promoting technical training and capacity building on energy, fostering energy efficiency to lower the cost of energy, promoting energy awareness and education on energy sources [2.5Mn]; and also includes projects to provide technological and infrastructural accessibility to clean energy – such as the development of mini-grids [500K].
Enel also committed, as in SDG 4, to support education activities involving children, families, schools and colleges, thus ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education to 400 thousands beneficiaries by 2020, such as through the Powering Education project in Kenya. And, as in SDG 8, to promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth and employment for 500 thousands beneficiaries.
There are over seven billion people on Earth now, and in 2050 there will be more than 9 billion. Again, one of the fundamental issues is the world’s population growth and, with more and more developing countries wanting to offer their growing populations the opportunity to consume fossil fuel products, it is obvious that the global oil supply will not sustain an overpopulated planet.
That’s the reason why it is crucial that even large companies understand the evolution of renewable technology, where it is going and stop swimming against it. Renewable energy has now reached a point where no one can really change its course.
Renewables represent a fast and effective response to the need of energy, crucial to provide energy access or to respond to the increasing electricity demand of emerging markets. As Enel, we are deeply aware of the urgency to take action to combat climate change and its impacts, and renewables will be the enablers of the de-carbonization process we are now leading to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.
Along with energy access and renewables, a fully effective implementation of Energy SDG calls for scaling up the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency. Since its inception, the SE4All initiative has been emphasizing the need of rendering energy use in a more efficient way, as one of the world’s most crucial contribution to mitigate climate change.
The Sustainable Energy for All initiative (SE4All) today urged governments, businesses and financial institutions to act much faster and go much further to deliver on the ambitious goals of ensuring sustainable energy for all while keeping the global temperature rise within two degrees Celsius.
SE4All, a unique multi-stakeholder partnership backed by the United Nations and World Bank, is acting as a catalyst for a huge global movement for revolutionary change in the world’s energy systems, helping to build working alliances across the public sector, private sector and civil society and foster innovative policies, markets, technologies and financing mechanisms.
Finding cleaner ways to produce energy – responsible for 60 percent of current greenhouse gas emissions – and more efficient ways to distribute and use it, is central to the fight against climate change.
And since its launch, Enel has been supporting the SE4All to this target and consequently we have been invited to become co-convener of the SE4All Energy Efficiency Accelerator Platform for the Power sector.
As a global electric utility, we are then called to focus on the following energy-efficiency opportunities concerning transmission and distribution infrastructure:
- Maximize the impact from technology by investing in smart meters in order to improve the operational performance of the network and tackle both technical and non-technical losses;
- Accelerate the Digital Transformation of the network.
On the other hand, in developing countries, one of the biggest challenges of electric utilities is the distribution losses reduction. Energy losses represent an economic loss for the country: its optimization and improvement on energy efficiency would partially cover the expected demand rise in electrical consumption, without the necessity to increase the installed capacity. On average, electricity utilities in Sub-Saharan Africa lose 25% of all power supplied due to operational inefficiencies. To illustrate the potential of energy efficiency, SE4All partner Accenture has calculated that just 75 of these new pledges by a range of businesses across the developed and developing world represent an estimated total energy saving in 2016-2020 of 62,000 gigawatt hours (GWh) – the equivalent of nine months’ energy use for the whole of Paris.
“This is the tip of the iceberg. The potential is vast – but it won’t be realised without a massive scaling up of this kind of action to levels far beyond what we have seen so far,” said Rachel Kyte, incoming Chief Executive Officer of SE4All and Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for Sustainable Energy for All.
“In the next few years we have a historic window of opportunity to shake up business-as-usual, building on the momentum of the SDGs and COP21 and the goodwill of this growing global movement. But unless we grab that opportunity, the window will quickly close,” added Ms Kyte.
A step-change in financing will be crucial. SE4All’s Global Tracking Framework 2015 estimates that investment in sustainable energy will need to triple from current levels, to more than one trillion US dollars a year from now to 2030, to meet the SE4All targets and Sustainable Development Goal 7.
Action is coalescing on several fronts to bridge this investment gap. For example, some 140 banks and institutional investors managing close to USD 4 trillion have recently committed to a major increase in energy efficiency lending and investment in their portfolios.
 United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs – The World Population Prospects .
 Washington, D.C.: International Monetary Fund — Energy subsidy reform in Sub-Saharan Africa: experiences and lessons .