Renewables are likely to benefit from massive investments to kick-start economies battered by coronavirus, predicted the chief executive of green energy giant Enel as he reported minimal disruption so far from the crisis to its massive global wind and solar build-out.
“We think there will be a need for investment to restart after a period of low growth. This could be a perfect opportunity for renewables to pick up speed again,” said Francesco Starace, CEO of the Italian utility that’s also one of the largest global players in renewable energy.
Asked by financial investors about the potential of the crisis to derail the EU’s plans for a €1 trillion ($1.1trn) Green Deal plan to hit net-zero emissions by 2050, Starace said there were no signals from Brussels that would be the case.
“If you look at the fact that perhaps after this crisis is over there will be a need to kick-start the economy, the [Green Deal] is exactly the case.”
Enel is engaged in a huge international push to build 14GW of new renewables by 2022, taking it to 60GW and making it among the largest operators of onshore wind and solar on the planet.
Starace said Enel was not so far seeing significant disruption to its short-term targets.
“There was a period in which suppliers in China were not able to confirm deliveries. That was affecting mostly the solar part of our developments. Workers have come back and now production is getting back to normal,” said Starace, adding that “100-200MW” might leak from a planned December 2020 completion into 2021.
The Enel boss said wind “is a bit more of a complex story, less China, much more Europe and the US.”
“There is no evidence so far of large delays, some slowdown, but nothing critical in Europe.”
But Starace said in the US there is “a question mark” as the impact of the virus develops there.
“Vendors today have not given us any meaningful alarm of delivery of critical machinery for wind farms,” he said.
As well as a global green leader, Enel is also dominant utility in Italy, the country hit hardest by Covid-19 outside China.
I challenge anyone who had corporate war games to imagine anything like Covid-19.
Starace said there and around the world, the company had benefitted hugely from previous moves to digitalisation and remote working, helping its employees to continue run network and plant operations centres safely.
“You can appreciate how being an early mover in digitalisation represents now a key enabler of business continuity [while] protecting operators.”
The Enel boss added: “I challenge anyone who had [corporate resilience] war games to imagine anything like Covid-19. We managed in a pretty strong way.”