CEO of Italy's Enel X on the Future of Energy
By Alexis Christoforous
As one of the world’s largest utilities, the Italian energy giant Enel provides energy to half a billion people every day. Enel X is the advanced energy services global business line of Enel.
“The general idea behind Enel X was how do we capitalize on this big customer base in such a way that instead of just selling the commodity, we can also sell other services and products,” CEO Francesco Venturini tells The Voice of Business.
He says the company has two missions: digitalization and electrification.
“Since Enel is so big and has such a big balance sheet, then we started to invest in different things, not just energy, but financial services, just to give you an example,” Venturini said.
Those financial services include things like ultra-broadband and digital payments. “The brand is very strong and our customers were more than willing to buy different things or be serviced in a different way from Enel,” he said.
“Look at what other big digital giants are doing, the Amazons, the Googles, the Apples, they are getting closer and closer to their customers through payments,” said Venturini.
The company has been able to provide those services and products through a combination of in-house tools, as well as through acquisitions.
“When we built Enel X, we really discovered that we owned a credit card company in LATAM, and it was a very successful one, and we leveraged on that business,” he said. “We leveraged on the fact that in Italy we have such a strong know-how, we went out, bought a few small startups and built infrastructure that we needed to get into fintech.”
Venturini explained that another way Enel X engages directly with consumers is through the company’s home ecosystem, which has grown since its inception in 2017 to enhance the “smart home.”
Venturini pointed to the company’s Sun Plug and Play which can be installed on a balcony, metal railing or masonry parapet. He said it boosts the sustainability of household consumption and renewable energy production to help customers save money and energy.
Another way Enel X is promoting a more energy efficient world is by installing its award-winning Juicebox electric-vehicle charging stations throughout Europe and North America.
“We need to have a Juicebox in every single house that has two functions. Number one, it can help to charge your car,” he said. “Number two, which is very important too, it makes you be a good citizen of the network of the future. Because remember the car is a big, huge battery on four wheels. It can be utilized to drive around and at the same time to support the grid.”
As part of its mission to help people and things move around efficiently, Enel X recently teamed up with the British electric vehicle developer Arrival to test a battery-electric bus in Italy. They will carry out the tests at the Vallelunga circuit. If successful, Arrival will become part of Enel X’s portfolio for public transport providers.
Enel X targets to serve more than 20,000 electric buses by 2030 and claims to be the world’s largest supplier of e-bus solutions outside of China. It currently operates over 3,200 electric buses.
Despite all the technological advancements, Venturini acknowledges that if price matters when it comes to living efficiently and sustainably.
“If it's not price-competitive, it doesn't work,” he explained. “So I think that's what we are discovering the fact that we need to accelerate investing more and more into renewables…but with a need to be competitive in price.
He said the next big transformation for the energy industry will be regulation.
“What is true is the regulation usually comes after many things already happen. It's reactive, not proactive,” he said. “There is already a big push towards electrification. What the regulation needs to do is to design the new world, understanding that we need to exploit all the different resources because now we have the technology, where before it was impossible.”
“Energy transition is a great opportunity for everyone,” Venturini added. “I think there are infinite possibilities.”