Enel Grids is a global leader in the power distribution sector, with 74 million customers across the world. We are committed to contributing to an innovative and sustainable energy distribution, by adopting a proactive approach aimed at creating shared value between the Company and the ecosystem.
To provide electric energy, electric distribution lines are spread throughout the territory all the way to households, creating a dense network made up of multiple assets.
The most widespread assets are:
- Primary Substations: to transform the power voltage from high voltage to medium voltage;
- Secondary Substations: to transform the power voltage from medium voltage to low voltage;
- Transformers: to perform the power voltage transformation in the substations;
- Underground cables: to transfer electricity through underground lines;
- Overhead conductors: to transfer electricity through overhead lines;
- Distribution poles: to support and link overhead conductors which transport electricity;
- Street boxes: to operate the low voltage electricity grid by Enel's expert workforce.
Each of these assets in turn involves different components, such as electronic and digital devices.
The main materials of the infrastructures are concrete, steel, conductors (aluminum and copper), wood, thermoplastics, resins, rubber; moreover, some components also have a complex Bill Of Materials (BOM) involving other small parts, such as electronic ones.
This means that the infrastructure development impacts the environment, since the production and installation of each asset involves the whole process from the raw materials to the final product.
Since the grid grows proportionally with urban development, a large expansion of the network over the years is expected; for this reason, several aspects cannot be ignored in terms of environmental impact.
Building primary substations and secondary substations also means the procurement of large quantities of cement, which translates into CO2 emissions.
Deforestation concerns both the production of the wood poles and the forest trimming in order to create a path for overhead lines.
In terms of the street boxes, the glass fiber reinforced plastic CO2 footprint is considerable.
Enel Grids is working to integrate the use of recycled materials in network equipment and is trying to give a second life to the discarded components, resulting in a smaller environmental impact. Moreover, Enel Grids is striving for the Circular by Design approach, to reach the level in which circularity is part of the design process, in order to develop assets with intrinsic sustainability and circularity. In this way, equipment and components will be totally integrated with the environment, creating a sustainable ecosystem, minimizing the use of materials, reintegrating them into the infrastructure or giving them a new second life in another market after the end of life.
Enl Grids strategy aims at the development and the adoption of innovative solutions able to support this transition towards a more sustainable and efficient way of distributing electricity in the long term, to reach our “net-zero” goal.
To support the transition, we are looking for innovative solutions that provide:
- A sustainable and circular way to manage the End Of Life (EOL) and dismantling of the existing assets, reducing the company’s environmental footprint as well as generating a positive impact on local communities’ development, through circular economy approaches:
- The recycling, reuse or regeneration of the waste generated as a result of any Enel Grids construction sites and operations, in an urban/grid mining* looping concept.
- Local economic development and social growth through the generation of new by-products from the waste, in an open loop approach.
- A sustainable way/process to design new assets, following the circular by design approach.
The main drivers of a circular by design approach concern:
- Product structure/architecture: reduce the number of components relative to the main functionality required and adopt a design that facilitates the removal of hazardous materials;
- Components: use durable components and avoid hazardous materials;
- Materials: select recyclable/recycled materials with low energy intensity and minimize the variability of materials used;
- Design for dismantling: the asset must be designed in such a way as to facilitate disassembly and recovery of all materials at the end of its life.
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*Adding and creating value through the reutilization of all discarded materials trying as much as possible to give back to the affected area the residue generated, enhancing its second life. It is called grid mining when the discarded material has its origin in dismantleded grid assets. It is called urban mining when the discarded material has its origin in dismantled assets or products from citizens.
- The information is clear, intuitive and useful;
- The solution is innovative, sustainable, easy to use and attractive;
- Technical feasibility and potential: the proposed technological solution can be realized/used and has a high level of quality and distinctiveness;
- Business Potential: capacity of the technology proposed to generate revenue and/or economic value;
- Economics: accuracy and credibility of the cost-benefit analysis;
- Innovation level: level of innovation of the idea proposed compared to other solutions already in use.
- Presentation of the Proposal and of the Applicant.
This challenge provides contribution to the following sustainable development goals (SDGs) to transform our world:
- SDG 7: Affordable and Clean Energy;
- SDG 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure;
- SDG 11: Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable;
- SDG 13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts;
- SDG 15: Life on land.