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Responsible management of water resources

The integrated management of water resources is based on the following guidelines:

  • efficient use of water resources, also through control of losses; 
  • optimization of the treatment of effluents and the protection of the quality of the water of the destination environment;
  • management of releases from hydroelectric power plants through specific programs to guarantee the volumes necessary to preserve the ecological state of rivers (minimum flows);
  • integrated management of water basins to preserve the multiple uses of the local area and the water quality. 

The Enel Group draws off water mainly for industrial purposes, such as cooling, desulfurization, reducing nitrogen oxides, etc. and uses it mainly in thermal production and nuclear energy production.
In 2016 the total quantity of water drawn off was around 150 million m3, a reduction of around 15% compared to 2015 (175 Mm3), mainly due to a change in the scope owing to the gradual closure of around 3 GW of installed thermal power in Italy and the sale of Slovenské elektrárne in July 2016 (around 4 GW). Specific consumption in 2016 was 0.55 l/kWheq, down by around 7% compared to the previous year, in line with the target for the reduction in water consumption up to 2020 of 30% compared to 2010.

In addition, in 2016 only around 8% of the Group’s total production used and/or consumed freshwater in water-stressed areas (“Water-Stressed Area” is an area where the availability of water per head annually is below 1,700 m3). Total water requirements are covered using water drawn from so-called non-scarce sources (seawater), scarce sources (surface and underground fresh water and from aqueducts) or through the use of effluents arising from the Group’s production processes.

In 2016 the draw offs from scarce sources totaled around 135 million m3, down compared to 2015 by around 15%, an effect due to the removal from the scope of the Slovak power plants which mainly use river and rain water. The percentage of use of effluents from production processes rose slightly compared to 2015, to stand at around 4% of total draw offs in 2016.
Other requirements, such as open-cycle cooling, are covered without any real consumption, using sea or fresh water which is drawn and then returned to the original body of water in the same quantity, with its chemical properties unchanged and with minimal changes in terms of temperature (always within the limits set by the laws in the countries where Enel operates).
99% of the water used for open-cycle cooling in Enel power plants is returned. Enel is engaged in reducing water use in production processes, in particular by favoring as far as possible multiple use systems for water. For example, in some coal-powered plants, the drainage water of closed-circuit cooling towers is reused in desulfurization systems, while the installation of crystallizers downstream from desulfurization systems enables the total recycling of effluents.

Objectives to 2020

Enel, compared to the data recorded in 2010, has set itself the target of achieving by 2020 the target of reduced specific water consumption of 30%. The target was established on the basis of the results achieved and the planning from the Industrial Plan for the next three years, which will see the mix move towards renewables and a reduction in generation from fossil fuels through a change in the scope of production plant.

The focal points of Enel’s management of water resources are:

  • measuring performance, such as for example specific consumption, polluting load of effluents, etc.;
  • definition of policies and specific reduction targets (objective to 2020 on specific water consumption, for the achievement of which Enel has made a public commitment).

The assessment of water risk

Enel constantly monitors all the production sites in areas at risk of water shortage in order to manage this resource more efficiently.

In particular the monitoring of sites involves the following levels of analysis:

  • mapping of production sites in potential water scarcity areas, in which the average value of renewable water resources per head is lower than the reference value set by the FAO (mapping is done using the Global Water Tool of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development); 
  • identification of “critical”production sites, i.e. those with a “Water Scarcity Area” with water supply solely from fresh water; 
  • more efficient management of water aimed at maximizing the supply from effluents and sea water; 
  • monitoring of the climate and vegetation data for each site.
Besides compliance with the various regional Safeguarding Plans which impose an obligation to release minimum flows, Enel has in parallel launched in Italy, Spain and Latin America tests regarding the real impact on the ecosystem of such flows and, in some specific cases, studies aimed at analyzing the changes in daily flow caused by the intermittent introduction of turbinated water downstream from power plants.

Water discharges

Effluents include the residues of water for industrial use and rain water collected by the internal areas of thermoelectric power plants, and they are potentially polluted by oil. Enel pays close attention to the quality of its discharges into water, and constantly invests to improve the features of effluent treatment plants.
Potentially polluted water produced at Group sites is sent to specific treatment plants depending on the type of pollution present. The effluents thus treated are partly discharged into surface water and partly reused in the plant itself, thus helping to cover total water needs. In 2016 the recycling of effluents after treatment, across the Group, was around 6 million m3, which enabled coverage of 4.2% of total consumption, around 150 million m3.

Reference SDGs: 
Main actionsTargets
Reduction of SO2 specific emissions-30% by 2020 (vs. 2010) 
Reduction of NOx specific emissions-30% by 2020 (vs. 2010) 
Reduction of particulates -70% by 2020 (vs. 2010)
Reduction of specific water consumption-30% by 2020 (vs. 2010)
Cabling ratio74% by 2019
Reduction of waste produced-20% by 2020 (vs. 2015)
Implementation of biodiversity plan
Continuation of protection of species in the “Red List” of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) in the protected areas near plants
Circular economy

Adoption of a systematic approach to the circular economy in the Group Launch of project to assess circular economy impacts Coherent application of the principles of
the circular economy to Future-e projects, considering the circular economy as a key factor in developing the projects

Sustainability Plan 2017-2019