One of the leading utilities in the world, with a presence that spans 26 countries across the globe, Enel X is reimagining the future of the energy sector every step of its way. Francesco Venturini, CEO of Enel X, profiles the innovative utility that wants to shape the future now.
By Areti Ntaradimou
How would you describe the smart and consumer-centric utility of the future?
The smart and consumer-centric utility of the future is one that enables its customers, be they household or commercial and industrial (C&I) customers, to play a more central role in their energy consumption practices through added-value services and in-depth energy utilisation data.
Enel X’s offering to clients is designed with a unified digitalised platform in mind, especially as networks are converging their global operations onto a platform-driven model. The impact of shifting towards this type of platform-based model significantly improves the quality of our grids, reduces emissions and allows our customers to save. Through the digitalisation of our entire business, Enel X is enabling new services that are customised and integrated with its offering. These services are defined at the global level and then rolled out locally, targeting specific markets of presence. Our business runs on platforms enabling integrated services centred on customers.
For B2C customers, we focus on apps like JuicePass and Enel X Pay, a photovoltaic system for balconies called Enel X Sun Plug&Play. For businesses, our Demand Response portfolio is our priority, managing over 12% of the global DR market.
Which are the main focus points for Enel X for the next decade and why?
We will focus on leveraging electrification and digitalisation to support customers’ decarbonisation and more efficient use of energy as well as extracting new value through the offering of new products and services.
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In order to reach our objectives, we have identified four strategic pillars: platformisation, which involves the enhancement of platforms as the main enablers to manage global and standardised offerings, business models and processes; digitalisation, which sees a strong digital push on all our offered services, as a distinctive element to create value and enable analytics; bundling with commodity, which calls for the integration of Enel X’s offering with the commodity, to make our offer even more compelling, increasing client fidelity and satisfaction as well as accelerating growth; and ecosystem, which means the creation of a digital platform-based ecosystem around customers, to become the clients’ partner embracing the entire Enel X ecosystem (e.g. home, mobility, financial services, etc).
Recently, Enel X took on the challenge of building a network of charging points using the JuiceBox technology and sending crews into the most remote locations of Latin America. How is that project going and what are the future projects you have in mind?
For the 100% Electric Pan-American Charging Corridor project, 220 JuiceBox charging points were installed to support electric mobility throughout the region, on the occasion of the Apple TV documentary Long Way Up, and are now active in 11 countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, and Peru. Out of these, 196 charging points are integrated and visible through JuicePass, Enel X’s app that allows users to manage all the EV charging services available at public and private charging points. The 100% Electric Pan-American Charging Corridor is in line with Enel Group’s commitment towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with a focus on ensuring access to affordable and clean energy; promoting inclusive economic growth; fostering resilient infrastructure; and inspiring sustainable industrialisation and innovation, as well as smart cities and climate action.
We have made available around 186,000 public and private smart EV charging points around the globe, also through interoperability agreements. We are committed to participating in the energy transition through the decarbonisation of power generation and the electrification of energy consumption. We are planning to increase the number of public and private charging points made available to around 780,000 in 2023 and more than four million in 2030.
Our charging network is designed to take into account charging use case and territorial footprint: flat cities sprawled on large areas require a different approach compared to large, crowded cities with sideways/non private parking spaces. Thanks to our Virtual Power Plant (VPP) platform, we are also working on designing the future of the electrical grid, where every Battery Energy Vehicle and electrical asset can be asked to contribute to its stability by connecting to the Enel X Flex, the VPP platform that will allow customers with flexibility needs to earn money and be active players in the network. This while contributing to decarbonisation by favouring the increased penetration of renewables in the energy generation mix.
Smart communities and the rise of the prosumers is a focus topic for the EU Commission for this year and the years to come. Is this also the case for Enel X and is it in line with the smart city / smart homes projects you develop?
We see smart cities as connected cities, in which high-tech information management platforms enable IoT to interconnect devices and sensors, automate responses, improve services and equip the urban ecosystem with new functions. The heart of Enel X’s research lies in identifying digital value for society and translating it into well-being for people. Through digital platforms such as City Analytics, Digital Centralized Control Rooms, and Video analysis services, we aim to enable municipalities with powerful real-time tools to properly control and manage urban areas. In the same way, technology application on the home ecosystem is a key enabler to allow prosumers to actively participate in the environmental challenge, through more efficient energy production and management.
Today, our residential DR solutions in Italy and the US utilise behind-the-meter PV and storage assets to help balance the grid while creating value for our customers. We also use our EV charging stations in California to offer flexibility to the independent system operator. We believe that, following positive changes in regulatory and market frameworks, the size and number of similar opportunities will increase significantly in the near future.
Enel X has proposed the subscription-based pricing for example, what are the next steps?
We are increasingly enhancing its residential offering focusing on subscription-based home services, which enable a long-term client relationship while at the same time ensuring a more predictable recurrent revenue stream. Towards this aim, we have recently enlarged our residential offering (already based on Maintenance & Repair and micro-insurance services), launching several Commodity bundles designed to enlarge the existing customer base and increase the retention rate. Through such bundles, customers receive a long-term discount on energy bills and are then naturally encouraged to remain loyal to the Enel Group in order to fully benefit from the offering conditions.
In order to continuously broaden our subscription-based offer, we are implementing this model also in relation to the smart home ecosystem, giving customers the possibility to activate smart-home services bundled with other home services (e.g. Maintenance & Repair) as monthly fees.
In order for all this to happen, we need flexible but robust and customer-centric regulations. If you were to ask the EU Commission for one thing, what would that be?
It would be to continue the good work related to the Clean Energy for All Europeans package. It clearly set out a number of sensible principles, in particular, that customers should have the right to offer demand-side flexibility in all markets and should not have to work with their supplier to do so.
Now the Commission must ensure these principles are applied to everyday life. To support this, there are more details that need to be filled in regarding the design of markets, products, and aggregator frameworks, to ensure that customers can provide flexibility wherever it will provide the most benefits. Requiring markets to be “technology neutral” isn’t enough: they need to be designed to get the most value from all relevant technologies.
Few member states have truly grasped this, but a Network Code on demand-side flexibility would be a good place to fill in these details, defining the guidelines to facilitate the synchronization and integration of the technical, operational, and market rules that manage electricity. Furthermore, the Commission needs to ensure that member states actually do the work as the level of enthusiasm for demand-side participation and market reform varies greatly.