{{ content.logo.text }}

  • {{searchSuggestions.title}}

Water, energy and innovation: a much-needed circular symbiosis

Water, energy and innovation: a much-needed circular symbiosis


“There is no life without water,” states the European Water Charter. This is certainly true: our own bodies are 60% water, while the figure for our brains and hearts is 73%, and that for our lungs is 83%. There is a similar percentage for the Planet we live on: it is 70% water.

Water is life and is one of the oldest natural energy sources used by humans. Since ancient times, the power of moving water has also been harnessed for its capacity for energy generation.

At Enel, our goal is to generate renewable energy by reducing the use of water for energy production as much as possible. From hydroelectric innovation to harnessing the power of waves for sustainable progress, Enel is celebrating International Water Day 2022 by highlighting the symbiosis between this vital element and energy. Our commitment to a number of solutions guarantees the management and access to this resource in an innovative and sustainable way.


A symbiotic relationship that is more than 4 millennia old

The energy that water provides has accompanied human beings in their progress throughout history. For centuries, the water wheel, an invention dating back 4,000 years, which was later used masterfully by the Romans, made it possible for people to harness the motive power of the so-called "blue gold" for countless applications: from establishing irrigation systems for agriculture to grinding wheat or making paper, the power of water has always driven mankind forward.

Water was first used to generate electricity thanks to the progress made in hydraulic turbines. With the advent of the Industrial Revolution in the 18th and 19th centuries and the increase in electricity demand at the beginning of the 20th century, it became the main driver for the development of the electric generator and the improvement of the hydraulic turbine to increase the power and energy produced by these plants.

Today, what we currently call hydroelectric power is the energy produced by water. This is considered the first of all renewable energies, but it isn’t the only one associated with water, as there are many others such as tidal power or marine energy, electrolysis, osmosis and electricity from storms.


Innovation, the main driver of hydroelectric power at Enel

All types of hydroelectric power plants use the force of gravity to provide acceleration for water and release all the potential energy it stores. Nowadays, hydropower is one of the largest renewable energy sources in the world. According to the 2021 report by the International Renewable Energy Agency, it represents more than 50% of total renewable energy sources.

For Enel, hydroelectric power is one of the main sources of renewable energy: it is responsible for 34% of the total energy produced by the Group and approximately 70% of renewables.

Innovation and sustainability are part of Enel's DNA and hydropower is a key element in this chain, taking advantage of the opportunities offered by new technologies to optimize the efficiency, safety and sustainability of all our processes. Today, power plants are equipped with increasingly advanced digital systems for management, monitoring and maintenance.

To this end, Enel has developed several projects, such as WIreless Sensors for hYdro monitoring (WISY), which consists of a network of sensors that can collect and transmit information from a hydroelectic plant in real time. The project also uses drones for monitoring and maintaining the quality assurance of hydroelectric power plants.

Furthermore, there are innovative projects that harness the power of water without focusing on gravity and slopes. The idea is to harness the energy of waves, water currents and tides. This so-called tidal power is often considered to be on the fringes of pure hydroelectric power, but it is still a green and renewable source that has many similarities.

According to our Group's philosophy, innovation must always be geared toward sustainability. For this reason, our hydroelectric plants are also centers that protect the environment and biodiversity, in addition to helping in their regeneration and conservation.


Sustainability, water, Enel and SDGs

In spite of having been considered a renewable (and inexhaustible) resource for a long time, the fact of the matter is that access to clean water is becoming increasingly limited. This is particularly true if we take into account that, for human survival and that of many other species of plants and animals, so-called "fresh water" is required, and this is significantly less abundant (3%) than the salt water in the oceans (97%).

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6, “Clean water and sanitation,” stresses the importance of water and the commitment to ensuring access to fresh water and sanitation services for the entire population. In order to accomplish this goal, the distribution of this resource must be equitable and consciously sustainable. Most countries, institutions, companies and experts who advocate for the environment and the future of our planet agree on this – so does Enel.

In Enel's case, our goal is to generate renewable energy by reducing the use of water for energy production as much as possible. This commitment can be seen in numerous projects, such as WaVE (Water Value Enhancement), which consists of more than more than 40 initiatives. These provide solutions for increasing the internal use of water, reusing discharge water or replacing valuable fresh water with seawater or wastewater from other facilities.

Likewise, through our plants we help to purify polluted rivers so that farmers can use their water to irrigate their fields, as in the case of "El Canadá" in Guatemala. We also promote the convergence between environmental and social sustainability, as in the case of "El Quimbo" in Colombia, with reforestation and housing construction programs for local communities.

This participatory method was the main feature of the agreements signed with communities in Chile, where we have set up economic development projects for the shared and sustainable management of water resources. This is the most balanced solution for ensuring supply for families and energy production.

All in all, water is vital for the Planet. It must always be used, cared for, and respected, not only on International Water Day, but every day of the year. By coming together as a community, we can ensure that this natural resource can flow across global boundaries and become available for everyone.