European utility giant Enel has committed half of its total investment over the next few years to decarbonization, part of a new strategic plan revealed on Tuesday.
Between 2020 and 2022, the Italian group will invest €11.5 billion ($12.6 billion) in additional renewable capacity, which it expects to equate to another 14.1 gigawatts of assets by the end that period, building on its existing 46-gigawatt renewables fleet, a large chunk of which is hydroelectric capacity.
The planned investment into renewables is broken into three groups. The replacement of fossil fuel generation in Spain, Italy and Chile will account for 5.4 gigawatts. Another 5.1 gigawatts will be developed in Brazil and the U.S. to fulfill power-purchase agreements, many with commercial and industrial customers. And 3.6 gigawatts will be developed in new and emerging markets for the company.
According to Enel, 60 percent of this new capacity is “secured” with the remainder to be drawn from its 20-gigawatt pipeline.
Enel's coal capacity will be reduced 61 percent during the period.
Meanwhile, Enel will invest another €13 billion in grid infrastructure and enabling technology such as digitalization, automation and resilience. The firm’s energy transitions venture, Enel X, will add more than 300 megawatts of energy storage capacity and another 4 gigawatts of demand response resources.
Enel distributes power to 73 million customers and has 71 million of its own retail customers. Its smart meter fleet now totals 45 million units.
Bottom line just fine
Enel declared a major strategic shift in 2015 when it set out to focus on renewable power generation. Since then it has added 3 gigawatts a year to its portfolio on average. Tellingly, it has seen its value soar during the same period.
The company's share price is up 90 percent since 2015, and its shareholder dividend has doubled.
"The plan that we are presenting today underscores the success of the sustainable and integrated business model that we have deployed since 2015, targeting the opportunities in the power sector connected with the global decarbonization and electrification trends," said Enel CEO Francesco Starace in a statement.
"Thanks to this approach, Enel is now a more sustainable, efficient and profitable organization, with a substantially lower risk profile and a greater capability to rapidly adapt to change," Starace said.
In 2018, Enel's Ebitda was €16.4 billion, projected to rise to €20.1 billion in 2022.
Many of Europe’s utilities and network operators are laying the foundations for decarbonized grids at a faster rate than policy dictates. The U.K. is targeting a net-zero-carbon economy by 2050 while electricity system operator National Grid is on track to have all the tools at its disposal to support a zero-carbon network from 2025 onward.
Germany’s RWE became one of the largest renewable energy power producers in Europe following an asset swap with rival E.On. Credit ratings agency Fitch said the move meant it would derive a greater proportion of its income from renewables, which would improve the firm’s credit rating.
Germany itself has one of the longest coal phaseout timelines in Europe, with an end date of 2038.