The energy transition is accelerating rapidly. In Italy, according to the proposed update to the National Integrated Energy and Climate Plan (Piano Nazionale Integrato Energia e Clima – PNIEC), released in June 2023 by the Ministry of the Environment and Energy Security, the overall target for energy use coverage with renewable energy by 2030 has risen to 40.5%.

To adequately accommodate this new energy generated by a growing number of citizens through a decentralised model, however, an enabling factor is required, a link that enables electrons to travel according to strict safety and reliability criteria. This key guiding principle is the development of electricity grids, one of the pillars of Enel’s new 2024-2026 Strategic Plan.

Electricity grids for the energy transition

Electricity grid innovation is a vital part of the decarbonisation process. According to the International Energy Agency, to meet ambitious targets like those set by Italy and the EU, we need to double our investments in electricity grids globally, from 300 billion dollars now to 600 billion by 2030. In terms of energy security and environmental protection, this would make it possible to create, by 2040, 80 million kilometres of new power lines and upgrades to existing lines.

Enel’s 2024-2026 Strategic Plan

Presented on 22 November 2023 in Milan, Enel’s Strategic Plan announces total gross investments amounting to approximately 35.8 billion euros. Of this, 18.6 billion euros are set to go to electricity grids, with a focus on improving quality, resilience, and digitalisation, as well as on new licences. These aspects, along with distributed generation, speed up and support the electrification process. This acceleration is necessary, given that in Italy alone, 4 GW of new renewables (3.5 GW of which on Enel networks) were installed in the first 9 months of 2023, exceeding what was installed in the entirety of 2022.

Italy will be at the heart of the Group’s investments in electricity grids, with approximately 49% of the gross total (12.2 billion euros) being invested here. Italy’s grids will also receive a large proportion of the sums relating to the NRRP: of a total of 3.8 billion, 3.5 are earmarked for smart grids and resilient infrastructure, 1.8 of which will go to the south of the country. On the subject of smart grids, always aiming to increase hosting capacity and the digitalisation of distribution networks, Enel has presented further proposals in the context of REPowerEU, the additional chapter of the NRRP presented by the Government.

Smart grids, digitalisation, and digital twins

The growing level of infrastructure digitalisation, combined with major technological progress in real-time calculation and communication capabilities, is at the heart of the transformation of electricity grid operation models globally. Implementing smart grids means making the distribution of electricity more efficient, boosting the development of energy generation from renewable sources. This has spurred Enel Group to set itself an ambitious target: to ensure that 80% of its customers worldwide are equipped with smart meters by 2025.

This commitment is complemented by the Group’s efforts toward constant technological research. In particular, the focus is on edge computing, a type of quantum software that digitalises and virtualises the physical components of the secondary substations that convert electricity from high to mid-voltage. Working on a digital twin greatly reduces installation, training, operational, and grid maintenance costs, as well as increasing reliability.

Distributed intelligence

Following digitalisation aimed at measuring consumption through smart metres, remote monitoring, and widespread automation, the era of distributed intelligence has begun. Through competitions open to contributions from the worlds of industrial and academic design and engineering, Enel has launched several projects. One of these is New Energies, whose aim is to equip primary substations with solar panels and a floor that is permeable to rainwater and allows the restoration of native vegetation. Enel Boxes, meanwhile, are secondary substations with an innovative design, decentralised computing capability, and more sustainable transformers. Finally, Enel Grids and Hitachi Energy have developed transformers that use natural ester as an insulator instead of the customary mineral oil, which reduces CO2 emissions and offers improved fire resistance.


This article is also available in Italian / Questo articolo è disponibile anche in italiano


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