Italian utility giant Enel SpA is promising net-zero operations by 2050, setting out to eliminate natural gas from its power generation portfolio—and swearing off any effort to offset gas consumption by investing in carbon capture technology.
“We have a net-zero target for 2050. That’s clearly a future where there is no gas,” Enel Green Power CEO Salvatore Bernabei told S&P Global Market Intelligence late last month. “We don’t believe in technology that offsets CO2.”
Enel “is both one of the largest renewable energy generators in the world and one of Europe’s biggest carbon emitters,” S&P writes, in a post republished by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis. “It generated direct emissions of about 70 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent in 2019” and has a dozen coal plants still in operation, most of them in Spain and Italy.
“That is less than Germany’s RWE AG, which has more coal plants in operation, but far exceeds the 13 million tonnes generated by Spain’s Iberdrola SA, a more similarly structured utility and one of Enel’s closest rivals,” the market intelligence firm notes.
Enel is planning to shut down all its remaining coal generation by 2027, but is still building gas plants—and plans four or five coal-to-gas conversions in Italy, S&P says. It already owns about 15,000 MW of combined-cycle gas capacity in Europe and South America, while installing 3,106 MW of renewables, mostly wind, in 2020 alone.
But it doesn’t see any of the gas facilities as part of its 2050 target, and has no plans to use CCS to keep them in operation. “Bernabei said the technology has failed to take off, despite receiving funding from the EU and national governments,” adding that “there is no reason to expect that situation will change” with a technology that is “not guaranteed to eliminate 100% of emissions,” S&P writes.
“These are very big and complex projects. And at the end, they will not solve the problem,” Bernabei said. “We already tried CCS in the past and it didn’t lead to success. So why do it again?”