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Electricity’s role in the energy transition: a webinar to explore possible electrification pathways

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December 4, 2020

Enel Foundation, in collaboration with Politecnico di Torino and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) carried out the study “Electrify Italy” and jointly presented it on December 4th during the webinar “Electricity’s role in the energy transition: the Italian case study and the challenges for Europe”.

The energy transition is a crucial challenge for humanity. The present energy paradigm is not sustainable and we need to find new ways to satisfy the global energy need in a fair and environmentally sustainable way. Electrify Italy explores possible electrification pathways in Italy up to 2050, showing that in thirty years renewables’ generation will reach more than 85% of the energy supply, thus cutting by more than half CO2 emissions. The energy transition will also foster consumption’s electrification, that will exceed 45% even in a relatively conservative scenario, and will offer benefits for the environment, the economy and public health, quantified in a reduction of 17% of the share of household income devoted to energy and a decrease of 692 billions euros on health spending.

The study served as building block for the article “An electricity triangle for energy transition: Application to Italy” that addresses the so called “electricity triangle”, that represents the concept of an energy transition characterized by power generation from renewables, the growth of the electrification of energy end-uses and both transmission and distribution of energy through smart power grids.

Put into practice the “electricity triangle” requires a comprehensive assessment that relies on an analysis of technological, societal and environmental aspects. The research calculates the specific contribution of electrification in the energy transition scenarios, measuring it by using environmental, economic and societal parameters.

This approach was applied to the Italian case, but it also inspires the recent research Marshall Plan for Middle America - held with Enel Foundation’s scientific and financial contribution. The MP4MA underlines a link between the socio-economic, environmental and energy spheres, highlighting the urgency of policies and investments to achieve a structural, equitable and sustainable economic reinvigoration for four Middle American states. In this case, the paradigm of the “electricity triangle” has been used to show that it is important to focus not only on generation, but also on consumption patterns and smart grids.

During the webinar on “Electricity’s role in the energy transition: the Italian case study and the challenges for Europe” the key points of Electrify Italy were presented. The webinar was opened by Michele Crisostomo - Chairman of Enel and Chair of the Scientific Committee at Enel Foundation - who commented:

The study, developed together with two partners of undisputed scientific prestige such as the Politecnico di Torino and MIT, shows that the energy transition, with a boost to renewables, electrification of consumption and digitization of networks, is the only path to take in order to allow for an effective improvement of environmental, economic and social conditions. Enel was among the first utilities in the world to understand the potential for change towards a more sustainable model and to invest in its development. A commitment that we have confirmed with the new Strategic Plan, in which we have planned investments for 190 billion euros over the next 10 years to accelerate the energy transition and create shared and sustainable value.”

Guido Saracco - Dean of Politecnico di Torino - and Francesco Profumo - President of Compagnia di San Paolo - who co-wrote the paper with our very own Carlo Papa and Giuseppe Montesano, also spoke at the event together with Ettore Bompard - Director of EST at Energy Center at Politecnico di Torino -  and Audun Botterud - Principal research scientist of “Laboratory for Information and Decision Systems” at MIT.

"It is a common belief that an energy transition is unavoidable. A traditional commodity such as electricity can play a new, crucial role through the so-called electric triangle (generation from renewable sources, transport and distribution, electrification of end uses). Politecnico di Torino, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Enel Foundation have studied together how this can be expressed in the Italian reality, highlighting the energy, environmental and economic benefits in a scenario projected to 2050.”

Ettore Bompard - Director of EST at Energy Center at Politecnico di Torino

The presentation was wrapped up by a round table moderated by Simone Mori, during which Guido Stratta - Head of People and Organization at Enel, Domenico Villacci - Director of EnSiEL, Alessandro Terzulli - Chief Economist at SACE, Daniele Bianchi - Representative of Consumers’ question table of Confindustria, Maximo Miccinilli - Director for Energy and Climate at CERRE and Simona Bonafè - Member of European Parliament, shared their contributions on Electrify Italy and the path that Europe will take towards a more sustainable energy paradigm.

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