Enel CEO Francesco Starace was speaking regarding carbon capture and its potential, after the Italian oil giant published its strategic plan for 2022-24 on Wednesday, November 24. The CEO expressed his doubts about the technology, suggesting it is not a climate solution.
“The fact is, it doesn’t work, it hasn’t worked for us so far…And there is a rule of thumb here: If a technology doesn’t really pick up in five years — and here we’re talking about more than five, we’re talking about 15, at least — you better drop it,” said Mr. Starace.
“We have tried and tried — and when I say ‘we’, I mean the electricity industry…You can imagine, we tried hard in the past 10 years — maybe more, 15 years — because if we had a reliable and economically interesting solution, why would we go and shut down all these coal plants [when] we could decarbonize the system?”, he added.
What Starace offers as a real solution is “basically, stop emitting carbon.” The oil company plans to make direct investments of 170 billion euros ($190.7 billion) by 2030 in renewable energy assets. The ones already owned by Enel amount to 70 billion euros ($78.8 billion). The renewable capacity planned to be installed by 2030 by the company is forecasted to reach 129 gigawatts.
Enel also brought forward its net-zero commitment which relates to both direct and indirect emissions – to 2040, instead of previously 2050. It wants to exit coal generation by 2027, with its exit from gas generation taking place by 2040.
“We’re saying we’re going to be zero carbon, which means we’re not going to emit carbon and we will, therefore [not] … need to plant trees to offset that carbon,” acknowledged Mr. Starace.
Carbon capture is often seen by environmental groups, researchers, and climate change advocates as prolonging the life of fossil fuels and distracting the world from making bolder climate change goals. They claim a pivot to renewable energy is urgently needed and is the most feasible solution to reducing emissions.
On the other side, proponents of the carbon capture technology believe they can play an important and diverse role in meeting global energy and climate goals. Mr. Starace also expressed that other industries could try harder than them and succeed in scaling the solution as a viable method to decarbonization.