Enel CEO doubts carbon capture and storage technology

CEO of multinational Italian energy firm inel have cast doubt on the usefulness of carbon capture and storage, suggesting that the technology is not a climate solution.

“We’ve tried and tried — and when I say ‘we,’ I mean the power industry,” Francesco Stares told CNBC’s Karen Tso on Wednesday.

“You can imagine, we worked hard over the last 10 years – maybe more, 15 years – because if we had a reliable and economically interesting solution, why would we shut down all these coal plants? [when] Can we decarbonize the system?”

The European Commission, the executive arm of the European Union, describes carbon capture and storage as a suite of technologies focused on “the capture, transport and storage of CO2 emitted from power plants and industrial facilities”.

The idea is to prevent CO2 from reaching the atmosphere “by storing it in suitable underground geological formations.”

The commission has said that the use of carbon capture and storage is “important” when it comes to helping reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This approach is based on the argument that a large proportion of both industry and electricity generation will still depend on fossil fuels for years to come.

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Enel’s Starace, however, was skeptical about its ability to capture carbon.

“The fact is, it doesn’t work, it hasn’t worked for us until now,” he said. “And here’s a rule of thumb: 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 leave it.”

There are other climate solutions, Starace said. “Basically, stop emitting carbon,” he said.

“I’m not saying it’s not worth trying again, but we’re not going to do that. Maybe other industries can try harder and succeed. For us, it’s not a solution. “

carbon capture technology often held up as a source of hope They feature prominently in the countries’ climate plans as well as the net-zero strategies of some of the world’s largest oil and gas companies, in reducing global greenhouse gas emissions.

Proponents of these technologies believe they can play an important and diverse role in meeting global energy and climate goals.

However, climate researchers, campaigners and environmental advocacy groups have long argued that carbon capture and storage technologies prolong the world’s fossil fuel dependence and divert attention from a much-needed axis toward renewable alternatives.

plan to increase shareholder dividend

Starace was speaking after Enel published a strategic plan for 2022-24 and set its goals for the coming years. Among other things, Enel will make direct investments of 170 billion euros ($190.7 billion) by 2030.

Direct investment in renewable energy assets, which Enel will hold, is set to reach 70 billion euros. Consolidated installed renewable capacity, or capacity directly owned by Enel, is expected to reach 129 gigawatts by 2030.

In addition, Enel, which is headquartered in Rome, said it has extended its net-zero commitment – a target that deals with both direct and indirect emissions – by 2040, up from the earlier 2050.

On the fossil fuel front, the group wants to exit coal production by 2027, with an exit from gas production by 2040.

Enel also said that, between 2021 and 2024, shareholders “expected to receive a fixed dividend per share …

During his interview with CNBC, Starace was asked about Enel’s high dividend forecast and the widespread debate about investing in so-called “sin stocks”—in this example, the big polluters within the energy sector—and right now. also get good returns, especially on the dividend side of things.

“It’s all about risk reward,” he said. “And at the end of the day, I don’t see anything wrong with an increasingly risky business.” [being] If you want to attract investors, you are forced to increase the dividend.”

“What we’re trying to say is a breaking point, a point in which the risk becomes unbearable no matter how much dividend you want to distribute, and that’s coming,” he said.

“So in our case, you need to get out of this risk, get out of the carbon footprint and also make sure that when you put the word ‘net’ in front of zero, it doesn’t become a ‘net’ in some way. The moves around which you decarbonize don’t, in fact, your operations.”

“We’re saying we’re going to be zero carbon, which means we’re not going to emit carbon and so we will [not] … to replace that carbon, trees need to be planted.”

However, Stares acknowledged that trees would be needed over the next centuries to remove the carbon left in the atmosphere due to historical emissions.

—CNBC’s Sam Meredith contributed to this article.


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