Enel SpA history, profile and corporate video
Enel SpA is engaged in the development of gas and renewable energy. It operates through seven segments: Sales, Generation & Energy Management, Infrastructure & Networks, Iberia & Latin America, International, Renewable Energy and Others. The Sales segment sells electricity to the customers. The Generation & Energy Management segment offers services in the field of electricity and energy such as generation and sale of electricity, the supply and sale of energy products as well as the development of nuclear power plants, natural gas extraction projects and storage plants. The Infrastructure & Networks segment operates the electricity and distribution and transport networks. The Iberia & Latin America segment operates electricity and gas markets in Spain, Portugal and Latin America. The International segment manages and integrates the foreign businesses, as well as engaged in monitoring and developing its business opportunities in the electricity and fuel markets. The Renewable Energy segment engages in the development and operation management for the generation of electricity from renewable resources. The Others segment provides facility management services, information technology services, personnel training and administration, general administrative, factoring and insurance services. The company was founded on December 6, 1962 and is headquartered in Rome, Italy.“
The Amici del Mondo
In 1960, an important conference on nationalisation of the electricity industry was organised by the Amici del Mondo (English: Friends of the World, a thinktank group that had split from the Liberal Party), backed by the Radical Party. The introductory report was given by Eugenio Scalfari, who stressed the probable beneficial effects on the price system and from the technical point of view and mentioned, exemplified by the experiences of nationalisation that had already taken place in France and the United Kingdom.
The conference provoked a great political debate. The electricity system, because of its very nature, was extremely influential at the political level.
The conference almost immediately turned into discussions preparatory to the law, in which the most controversial point was the method of compensation to the former shareholders (these included a large number of small investors).
The opinion of Guido Carli, governor of the Banca d’Italia, prevailed and compensation was immediately paid. Riccardo Lombardi, on the contrary, had proposed deferring payment of compensation over four years, to be guaranteed with bonds. Carli had threatened to resign if his plan was not adopted, which would have thrown the country into chaos since such an act would have been seen, to international commentators too, as a very serious attack on the credibility of the political and economical system.
The first task that Enel faced was to take over no less than 1,270 companies operating in the electricity industry and give them a common management, technical and operational organisation. One of the most complex technical operations was the creation of a so-called “dispatch” centre, that is a super-centre to coordinate all supplies to Italian users and procure supplies from abroad. It was the starting point for reorganising the system to make it less fragmented. Over the years, the system was put in order and the reorganisation carried out then still forms the operating framework for the current setup.
The Vajont disaster
Enel was involved in the Vajont Dam disaster, which took place at the Vajont reservoir, which was artificially created to produce a large quantity of hydroelectric power. On October 9, 1963 a huge landslide of 260 million cubic metres fell into the reservoir. The dam and power plant had been built by SADE (Società Adriatica di Elettricità – Adriatic Electricity Company) and then sold to Edison and had just been transferred as part of the nationalisation process to the newly set up Enel.
The impact of the landslide created huge waves in the Vajont reservoir, which partially flooded the villages of Erto e Casso and swept over the dam, totally wiping out the towns in the valley below it: Longarone, Pirago, Rivalta, Villanova and Faè. Approximately two thousand people died in the disaster. Enel and Montedison, were charged at the ensuing trial as the companies responsible for the disaster, a responsibility considered all more serious because of the predictability of the event. The two companies were forced to pay damages to the communities involved in the catastrophe.
Widespread use of electricity
When consumptions increased along with rapid changes in lifestyles (due for example to the huge popularity of home appliances), Enel achieved the second highest industrial turnover in Italy, second only to Fiat.
Over the next few years, priority was given to “rural electrification”, that is expansion of the electricity network to country districts as a political commitment; geographical irregularities undoubtedly made this operation costly, requiring construction of a high number of infrastructures (from substations to transmission lines supported by pylons), to guarantee the right to electricity of almost all citizen-users.
The international oil crisis which was to lead Italy to adopt “austerity” policies (1974), was a spur to numerous research projects on possible alternative fuel sources for power production. Enel resumed research into nuclear power and was given permission to build new power plants. Research into other forms of energy, such as wind power, despite the fact that they had for some time been the subject of in-depth analysis, were set aside in favour of upgrading of the old hydroelectric power stations, many of which were fitted with equipment to repump the water. Yet inconveniences regarded many aspects of daily life: exceptional regulations involving such measures as compulsory early closing of shops and closing down TV transmissions earlier, plus countless other expedients, were introduced to drastically reduce consumption of electricity that up to only a short time previously has been so strongly promoted. Consumption dropped and the government issued a National Energy Plan (1975) which essentially marked a decided shift towards nuclear power. Consumption, however, dropped due to a slump in industrial production too, a sign of a crisis that had originated in energy but had spread to the overall economic situation; this had an impact on the population who for once were more willing to accept restrictive regulations, such as limitations to home heating (still in force).
The antinuclear decision
Italy remained, however, the major European country most dependent upon thermoelectric power generation, and thus the country which suffered most on each of the numerous occasions when there were problems for supplies of oil or increases in its cost. Such problems were leading to new plans for nuclear power when the disaster struck at the Ukraine nuclear power plant in Chernobyl in 1986. This event certainly had an influence on the proposal and above all on the result of the referendums held on 8 November 1987, when the population voted to reject the use of nuclear power.
Law 9/1991 authorised Enel to set up companies operating in the sectors where it did business, at the same time paving the way to partial liberalisation of electricity production.
The next year a law by decree (no. 333) was passed on 11 July 1992, and converted into law 8 August 1992, no. 359, as a result of which Enel became a joint stock company whose main shareholder was the Italian Treasury.
In 1999 the so-called Bersani Decree led to the setting up within the Enel Group of a new company called Terna to which all the company assets related to the high voltage power grid were transferred. Enel remained the sole shareholder of Terna until 2004 while its management, to guarantee neutrality, was entrusted to a newly set up public agency: GRTN (Gestore della Rete di Trasmissione Nazionale – National power grid manager). Subsequently, Terna was listed on the Stock Exchange and 30% of its shares were assigned to the Cassa Depositi e Prestiti.
In 2001, the telecommunications company Infostrada was bought for 12 billion euros from the German company Mannesmann, and was then merged with Wind, a mobile phone company already controlled by Enel. In May 2005, Enel sold 70% of Wind to Naguib Sawiris, President of the Orascom Telecom Holding, through a corporate vehicle (Weather Investments). In December 2006 Enel completed its exit from the telecommunications industry with the sale of a further 26.1% to Weather Investment.
Monopoly and free competition
Liberalisation of the electricity market took place in 1999 with the so-called Bersani Decree, which certainly had a huge impact on the subsequent development of Enel.
The issue of Enel’s monopoly in the specific market of electricity had been raised when legal aspects related to the principles of free competition were discussed. The case had some similarities with the one previously handled for Telecom Italia, a state-owned telephone monopoly. In order to encourage liberalisation, Enel was forced to transfer management of the power grid (Terna) subsequently giving up its ownership too, and to sell 15,000 MW of power plants (a capacity similar to that of the whole of Belgium) to its competitors, as well as selling the distribution network in major cities (Rome, Milan, Turin, Verona, Brescia, Trento, Modena, etc.) to the former municipal companies.
The Italian electricity market, one of the most liberalised in Europe, currently comprises around 100 utility companies including major European groups such as France’s Électricité de France and GDF Suez, Germany’s E.ON and RWE, Switzerland’s Atel and Retia, and Austria’s Verbund. The Electric Energy and Gas Authority has often cited the case of liberalisation of the electricity market as a success.
In its strictest sense, denationalisation means transfer to private parties of more than 50% of shares in the corporate capital or in any case of a sufficient portion of the shares to ensure the relative majority of the voting rights and control of the company is privately owned. The Treasury is still Enel’s controlling shareholder, but over time has sold approximately 70% of the company’s shares, now owned by around 1.3 million small Italian investors, investment funds, banks and insurance companies all over the world.
Devolution of energy and renewable sources
After the denationalisation of the single centralised agency that managed energy, the production of which was concentrated in very few “large sized” power plants, discussions began on energy devolution whereby each community would produce, and use locally, the energy it needs. The aim of this energy policy is the construction of medium-sized power plants, principally generated from renewable sources.
Solar energy provides only a marginal share of the national electricity requirements: less than 0.001%, while in Germany it accounts for as much as 0.3% of the energy produced. Enel operates in this sector, which in any case represents an extremely interesting option for future electricity generation: Enel Green Power runs the 3.3 MW power plant at Serre Persano, one of the largest photovoltaic plants in the world and is completing around 50 MW of photovoltaic installations elsewhere in Italy, with major plans for growth over the coming years.
At Priolo Gargallo, Enel has started up the Archimede Project, a 5 MW solar thermal plant jointly designed with ENEA (Ente Nazionale per le Nuove technologie e l’Ambiente – National Council for New Technology, Energy and the Environment). This plant, inaugurated on 14 July 2010, is based on an innovative idea for making use of solar energy which consists of a process of industrial integration between a solar thermodynamic plant and a conventional gas combined cycle power plant. Over the past three years, with Enel.si, the leading company in the photovoltaic market at national level, Enel has supervised the installation of over 50 MW of photovoltaic plants for industrial, service and domestic customers.
These plants will permit production over the coming years of about 61,500 MWh per year of electricity from solar sources at national level, equivalent to the consumption of around 20,000 Italian families, with a total annual saving of around 36,000 tons of CO2.
Wind power has increased exceptionally over the past few years. It is estimated that it will continue to grow in the near future at a rate of approximately 30% per year. In Italy over the past decade it has been the source that has had the greatest increase. Enel Green Power currently runs 17 wind parks, with an overall capacity of 331 MW. Enel.si has also recently launched a new offer of miniature wind turbines for families: small wind power generators that can power individual houses, cottages, farm holiday establishments, but also small weather stations, or even boats, provided that there is sufficient wind in the area.
In the field of renewable sources, Italy can claim world leadership in geothermal energy know-how (with 31 geothermal power plants in Tuscany and a production of over 5 billion kWh per year) which it is exporting to the United States and Latin America. Further increases in geothermal power production in Italy is an important target in the strategy of Enel Green Power.
Additionally hydroelectric power makes a significant contribution to satisfying Italy’s demand for electricity covering around 15% of its requirements. Enel has therefore built up an impressive level of know-how that makes it a world leader with regard to development of this renewable source. Today, since potential hydroelectric sources are now almost fully exploited, the company is looking with particular interest at the development of small-scale hydro power which could provide a significant contribution to coverage of the demand for electricity. Small-scale hydro power plants can be constructed and run using methods that have little impact on the territory and can be managed by small communities, as well as being integrated into a multiple and balanced use of water resources. Enel Green Power currently manages over 270 local hydroelectric plants in Italy, with a total capacity of 1,507 MW.
Enel is also taking part in a European platform for research into smart grids, the distribution grids of the future, which permit consumers to interact in real time with the grid: finding out the current price of energy, deciding whether to consume electricity at that moment or to put off consumption to times when there is a lower load, analysing whether it is convenient to generate power for their own consumption. The result will be an electricity supply grid similar to an internet network in which the various users, consulting each other and exchanging the necessary information, can define energy flows locally, while respecting technical and safety restrictions.”
*Information from Forbes.com and Wikipedia.org
**Video published on YouTube by “enelvideo“