Enel mulls phase-out of 11GW of Italian thermal capacity

Author: Riccardo Patrian

2014/10/16

Italian utility Enel is considering phasing out 23 “obsolete” thermal power plants in Italy in the near future, accounting for 11GW or 43% of the company’s existing thermal generation capacity. The announcement was made by Enel CEO Francesco Starace during an audit before a parliamentary committee on Wednesday.

The decommissioning procedure for nine plants has already started, Starace added, listing units with a combined capacity of 2.2GW.

Enel’s CEO pointed to challenging market conditions as the reason for the possible phase-out. Thermal plants have seen profitability squeezed by low demand in the country and rising renewable energy output, which has priority access to the grid. Enel itself owns approximately 15GW of installed renewable generation in Italy.

Addressing the industry committee at the senate, Italy’s highest parliament house, Starace pointed out that demand levels were not going to resume at the rate Enel previously expected. As a consequence, Italy’s main player on the power generation market identified 23 thermal plants that could be decommissioned. Some of them have not been activated for years, Starace highlighted.

The nine units for which decommissioning procedures have already started are the 746MW gas-fired Trino, 352MW gas-fired Giugliano, 205MW fuel-oil and gas-fired Bari, 180MW gas-fired Alessandria, 180MW gas-fired Carpi, 176MW gas-fired Pietrafitta, 140MW coal and fuel-oil Porto Marghera, 104MW gas-fired Camerata Picena and 88MW gas-fired Campomarino plants.

Porto Tolle conversion

The statement came four weeks after the company announced the decision to ditch its plans to convert the 2.6GW fuel-oil Porto Tolle plant, mothballed in 2009, into Italy’s first coal-fired plant with carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology ( see EDEM 26 September 2014 ). Enel is now considering converting the Porto Tolle plant into a smaller biomass unit, Starace said, describing the case as “emblematic”.

“We’ve tried to convert [Porto Tolle power plant] into a coal-fired plant without success. We don’t have reasons to do so any more: if the plant made up 10% of Italy’s national production in 1999, its output was nil in 2010. Our proposal is now to convert it into a biomass plant,” Starace said. Riccardo Patrian