The Italian power company Enel may be considering a $3.3 billion acquisition of Enel Green Power (EGP), a renewable energy spinoff founded in 2008. If Enel decides to integrate the entire company, it could make clean energy a more important part of Italy's largest utility.
But Enel is remaining quiet on the move. “It is something under evaluation and too early to go into details,” said Roberta Vivenzio, head of global media relations at Enel.
What might happen to the company's storage business if the acquisition closes? That's unclear.
“EGP is working on a number of storage projects and partnerships, but storage remains a small part of the business compared to the generation side of the business, and this is unlikely to change as a consequence,” said Logan Goldie-Scot, head of energy storage analysis at Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
Europe's storage market has thus far been largely limited to pilot projects. But commercial deployments are becoming more commonplace, said Goldie-Scot. "This is an expanding opportunity in the region, and I imagine Enel, in its various forms, will take advantage of this.”
Enel is one of Europe’s most active utilities in terms of energy storage deployments, and a greater focus on renewables would likely accelerate such activities.
According to data from the U.S. Department of Energy’s global energy storage database, Enel currently has around 4 megawatt-hours of storage operating across eight projects in Italy. It has roughly 2 megawatt-hours' worth of projects under construction.
In addition, Enel’s Spanish subsidiary Endesa has built a number of battery storage plants in the Canary Islands, as well as being involved in the island of El Hierro’s Gorona del Viento pumped hydro project.
Endesa was the only Spanish utility to consider the impact of storage in comments on a controversial solar self-consumption law approved last month. And it was alone among Spain’s utilities in supporting electric-vehicle initiatives.
In August, EGP claimed to have installed the first energy storage project attached to a renewable energy facility in Italy -- a 1-megawatt, 2-megawatt-hour battery system connected to a 10-megawatt solar plant in Catania.
The company is looking at other ways of using storage to integrate renewables onto the grid through a project called ActiveRES. In May, EGP announced a partnership with Tesla. This diversity of business activity shows how important storage could become if Enel decides to make renewables a core part of its business.
If the plans go ahead, Enel would not be the first major European utility to refocus on renewables. Last year, the German power giant E.ON announced a split designed to separate its slow-moving traditional generation business from more lucrative renewable operations.
RWE, another major German electric company, has been considering a similar maneuver.
Enel’s proposal differs from E.ON’s strategy in that it involves a merger rather than a breakup. But the end result would likely provide a similarly positive focus on renewable energy development.