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Italy’s multinational energy firm Enel is using ‘innovability’ – innovation + sustainability – to power solutions for the environment and to foster equality

The COVID-19 pandemic is a crisis that has caused a major rethink among governments, businesses and societies. At Enel, the Italian multinational energy company, anticipating and adapting to change is fundamental to its philosophy. While few could have forecast the events of 2020, Enel has demonstrated resilience during these challenging times because it was already deep into a process of reflection, reimagining and reinvention.

The result of that process is ReShape, a new initiative for the “new normal.” Under ReShape, Enel is collaborating with solutions experts, startups and small and medium-sized enterprises to find innovative ways to solve global energy needs and related global problems. The world is changing in myriad ways. Enel is determined to play a leading role in its energy transition.

Enel has plenty of experience with change. Founded in 1962 as a public utility, it transformed itself into a private company when Italy liberalized its energy markets in 1992. Today, Enel is engaged in energy generation and distribution in 21 counties on six continents and is the second-largest power company in the world by revenue.

But Enel’s evolution is more significant than its expansion. In 2008, the company founded Enel Green Power, committing to renewables before many thought they would be viable. Since then, Enel has poured investment into digitalization, e-mobility, advancing the circular economy and decarbonisation.

Innovation and sustainability are the keys to meet the challenges of a rapidly changing world. Enel combines the two into an approach it calls ‘innovability’ that fuels its Open Power strategy.  Open Power means openness to new technologies, new ways of managing energy, new uses for energy, and new partnership to deliver power to new groups of people. 

During the COVID-19 crisis, Open Power is paying off. Enel Green Power has been employing robotics, artificial intelligence and advanced automated solutions at its power plants. This has increased the number of tasks that can be performed remotely, and that reduces the risks of workers being exposed to the virus, while also improving overall safety at the facilities. 

Similarly, Enel has reimagined its relationships with its industrial and residential customers. It has digitized the entire customer journey, streamlining every step from contract signing to service delivery. Support is becoming more virtual, remote and efficient. The company employs technologies designed to reduce physical visits to customer premises, and simplify installations and use of its products. Customers can manage their energy performance and use with almost any type of smartphone or internet-connected device. This is not only potentially saving lives, it’s also saving customers’ money.

Enel was the first among the major world utilities to have 100 percent of its data and applications in the cloud. Being cloud-based allows them to operate more quickly, remotely and securely, which is critical at times like these. As the pioneer of cloud-based operations among energy firms, Enel is using its experience to focus on other innovations in other areas.

Developing connectivity and digitalization to overcome social inequalities is one of the most important of those areas. Energy access is vital for our communities, and digital connectivity should not become another obstacle to access. This is especially true during a pandemic, which has exposed and widened social inequalities throughout the world.

That’s why Enel is creating solutions to meet the digital connectivity needs of rural communities and marginalized areas within cities. The goal is to provide improved global access to information, energy, and other vital services such as education and health applications.

That not only helps communities.  It helps business too, especially small businesses. Local business activity has been severely disrupted or forced to shut down during the crisis. To continue to work as a united ecosystem, Enel seeks to promote social and economic sustainability through solutions that can enable local marketplaces and economies to stay up and running despite the obstacles.

ReShape’s goal is to use innovability to build a brighter future. With an eye on that future, Enel has been working with about 300 startups to implement innovability practices at a global level. Thanks to Enel’s international network of ten Innovation Hubs and 21 labs, the company is able to scout for the best solutions from startups and SMEs. In addition, Enel is connected to a community of more than 400,000 active solutions experts through its crowdsourcing platform openinnovability.com.

Not long ago, few would have imagined an Italian utility would be at the forefront of the global energy transition. But by reimagining what kind of company it could be, and reinventing itself in line with that vision, Enel is building a brighter future for everyone. It’s the ReShape of things to come.