By Fulvio Conti, chief executive of Enel
Italy is today a full-blown market economy. All its major companies have been privatized and the country also enjoys substantial political stability, a workable tax system and registers significant public and private investment to boost infrastructure. Apart from some large groups, such as ENEL, the economy is based on a rich fabric of small- and medium-sized companies (SMEs) ranging from the traditional hotel and restaurant business and tourist industry, up to hi-tech and bioscience. A sector that represents a decisive growth driver for the entire country. Thanks to its exceptional capacity for competitiveness, it accounts for 70% of all exports and comprises close to 70% of added value. It is also a sector capable of tremendous innovation. More than 50% of patent applications made by Italian companies to the EPO (European Patent Office) come from SMEs. Nineteen percent of start-ups are spin-offs of academic institutions and 16% are developed in technology parks. These incubators of new ideas have mushroomed in recent years, fostering the spread of an entrepreneurial approach among scientists and researchers.
But Italy is today also fully a market economy when it comes to large companies. The case of ENEL is emblematic. Twelve years ago it was still a fully publicly-owned company operating only in Italy. Today it is listed on the stock exchange with an ample float (approx. 70%), operates in 40 countries on four continents, has a generating capacity of over 96,000 Mw and sells electricity and gas to over 61 million customers. In 2010, our revenues were 85 billion dollars, with 23 billion dollars in EBITDA. With over 78,000 employees, we run a wide range of hydro-electric, thermo-electric, nuclear, wind, photovoltaic and geothermal plants and installations. In the last five years we have virtually doubled in size and created a global presence.
ENEL is also in the forefront of research into innovation because we are convinced that, in order to build a sustainable future, new technologies are “the” answer. ENEL is also in the forefront of innovative frontiers in the energy field, from the installation of smart meters to its over 30 million customers in Italy and subsequent developments in Spain and other countries, to development of electrical-powered means of transport, smart cities, use of hydrogen, capture and sequester of carbon dioxide and on-going improvement in conventional technologies, such as clean coal and latest-generation nuclear power.
I would like to mention in particular our concentrated solar power plant, Archimedes, the only one in the world to use a mixture of molten salts to store the sun’s heat collected during the day to also produce electrical energy at night. With our controlled Green Power, we are a leader in innovation in the sector of renewable energy sources to make them increasingly efficient and reliable.
A fundamental ingredient of our success is our collaboration with the vast network of SMEs mentioned above. In Italy, we work with 16,000 suppliers, most of which are, in fact, SMEs. We have seen a large number of small companies capable of developing new, advanced technologies emerge. Some of which are present today. To take advantage of this wealth of excellence, I want to stress how important the creation of a web platform is, in which start-up companies can introduce themselves to potential investors in a straight-forward and effective way. As CEO of a company oriented towards innovation and sustainable development, I give my maximum support to “Why Italy matters to the world”, a unique initiative that I am convinced provides important assistance in promoting Italian know-how throughout the world.
Today, the “Made in Italy” brand is well-known and represents a benchmark in many sectors. By uniting forces, and also thanks to this type of initiative, we can give new meaning to this brand, making it synonymous with high-technology and creative innovation.