Never before has energy played such a central role in debates on the future of our planet as in recent years. Although taken for granted in developed countries, access to energy is still insufficient for more than one billion people worldwide. Moreover, the need to reduce emissions has become an absolute must if we are to protect our environment: the climate changes we experience in first person every year – with higher temperatures than the seasonal average – are only a minor sign of this need. Hurricanes, droughts and floods are the highest price, often paid in areas with no responsibility towards global warming.
It is for this reason that it is worth hailing the arrival of COP21, the Climate Conference organized by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change hosted in Paris from the 30th of November to the 11th of December.
The agreement drawn up by 195 member countries – which in itself is a historic achievement – sets out an ambitious goal: to limit global warming to +1.5°C, well below the 2°C previously announced. Another key point of the agreement is the allocation of $100 billion per year by 2020 to help developing countries: a starting point that will be reformulated in 2025. Finally, the member countries have agreed to complete a first global stocktake in 2023 and every five years thereafter in order to verify project progress and compliance with undertakings.
Although in some respects the agreement provides little detail on the actions to be taken, its ratification marks an important milestone for a world that is slowly moving in the right direction.
Many governments are already stepping up their efforts to reduce emissions, with technological progress in the energy field undoubtedly providing the right incentives for immediate change.
The three main technologies for the production of clean energy (solar photovoltaics, wind energy and hydropower) are fast growing and are becoming increasingly widespread. The increased market share of these green sources has led to economies of scale, with a significant reduction in the cost of technology components, thus resulting in even greater dissemination, in particular as regards solar photovoltaics and wind power. Even the private sphere is turning more and more to green energy sources (in particular photovoltaics), which are becoming increasingly popular and widespread. The automotive industry has also noted a constant and growing preference for green solutions on the part of its customers. The increased sale of electric vehicles continues to double year after year, resulting in a veritable boom, with sales figures of 10 million vehicles per year expected by 2020. All this bodes well, although at present we are still far off this target.
Of course, energy companies are the all-important link between government policy and the environmentally conscious behaviour of citizens.
Enel has recently declared its goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050, and indeed, during COP21, the company, in partnership with Nissan, presented a Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) system that will allow e-cars to use, accumulate and feed electricity back into the network. Ernesto Ciorra, Enel’s Innovation and Sustainability Director, leaves no room for misinterpretation: “The purpose of COP21 is to find a solution to reduce greenhouse gases. This can be done, and the answer lies in electric mobility.” A green future, therefore, lies ahead of the multinational, which has already received significant awards for its zero-emission commitment.
Investments in new technologies and their dissemination make utility companies such as Enel the key players in the process of reducing emissions, in close collaboration with the public authorities and governments. The CEO of Enel, Francesco Starace, is confident in a quickly and easy transition to clean energy, “as long as there are sound regulatory frameworks“.