Italian energy giant to phase out coal, go carbon neutral before 2050

Enel power station photo
CC BY-ND 2.0 Giacomo Carena

I posted yesterday about signs that the global coal boom may be over. What's particularly interesting about this unexpected good news is that it has been achieved, largely, without the kinds of major changes to the status quo of the Big Energy business model that many people believe are inevitable.

But those changes are beginning to happen. And they should result in a rapid acceleration of the low carbon transition.

Following in the footsteps of forward thinking utilities like RWE, Italian energy giant Enel has announced that it will be phasing out coal investments, focusing instead on the kind of innovative, diversified and, eventually, completely carbon neutral business model that many of us have been advocating for decades.

Interestingly, the company issued the statement in partnership with Greenpeace — which has previously been deeply critical of Enel's carbon footprint:

Following the appointment of the new company management, Enel’s industrial strategy is focused on further boosting investment in renewable sources, energy efficiency, smart grids and storage systems. The Group is also committed to gradually phasing out further investment in coal. Although there are still differences when it comes to assessing the Group’s definitive withdrawal from coal generation in Italy and certain methodologies to pursue more ambitious targets in Europe, the medium to long-term vision of an energy system largely based on renewable sources and energy efficiency is now a shared view.

The company is now aiming to achieve total carbon neutrality before its internal deadline of 2050, and we can be hopeful it will achieve its goals given that it has already reduced CO2 emissions by more than 36 percent, and beaten the carbon reductions goals it had set for 2020 five years early. (Interestingly, as the cost of renewables fall, many companies are finding it much easier to reach carbon reduction goals than expected.)

With distributed clean energy, radical energy efficiency, affordable energy storage and increasingly intelligent energy management all becoming increasingly viable, there are now a confluence of factors that will eventually force the entire energy industry to rethink its business model.

Congratulations to Enel and Greenpeace for staying ahead of the game.

Tags: Coal | Corporate Responsibility | Electricity | Renewable Energy | Utilities


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