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The energy of the circular economy

  • GRI

The circular economy offers huge potential, capable of generating competitiveness, bringing together innovation and sustainability. However, to implement this model, the traditional approach to the market, to customers and natural resources must change, promoting initiatives that target a responsible use of natural resources, harmonizing ecological, economic and environmental aspects in a context that is not linear, but circular. Enel has made the circular economy a driver of its strategy, setting out a global vision and developing concrete actions for its Business Lines in various countries. Below are some examples:

  •  the Futur-e project, the world’s first example of large-scale requalification of industrial zones in a circular economy approach, concerns 23 thermal power stations that are no longer active and a former mining zone. To identify the best ideas for each area, an approach based on sharing with local communities, engaging with stakeholders and institutions and sourcing investors has been singled out. At the end of 2018, procedures began to identify redevelopment solutions for 19 sites. Processes have been completed for nine of these sites, with relative redevelopment solutions identified and activities started. For further details see;
  • Enel X, in its role as an accelerator of supplier/customer circularity and in the context of circular cities, launched two macro-areas of activities – one targeting a continual improvement in the circularity of its portfolio of products and services, and the second targeting the measurement of the energy circularity of its industrial customers and cities (see the chapter “Operational improvement for a better service”);
  • Enel’s Global Procurement Function has evolved towards a circular approach, adopting innovative methods to monitor and gain complete knowledge of material flows, in terms of components, environmental impact and product recyclability, forging partnerships with suppliers that become fundamental allies;
  • Enel Green Power has combined the Group’s approach to the circular economy with its own activities, focusing on the re-use, recovery and recycling of materials, during work site, plant and office management phases;
  • Global Infrastructure and Networks has developed a number of initiatives in the countries where it operates, including the E-Distribuzione project to recover the plastic of first-generation meters which are to be replaced by the Open Meter. Non-plastic materials are also fully recycled: components of the electronic board, for example, are re-used in the goldsmithing sector, copper is used to manufacture brass, iron is used for building. 

A similar project has been started in Brazil for the sustainable replacement of smart meters. Analysis is also ongoing to optimize the design of components to use on the network, to streamline end-of-life management. 

In 2018, Enel consolidated its positioning in the circular economy in Europe and worldwide, also thanks to strategic partnerships and collaborations.

Together with companies participating in the Alliance for the Circular Economy, an initiative launched together with leading Italian business groups to support creation of circular systems and the closure of industrial cycles, a position paper with proposals for Italy was prepared ( enel-it/media/documenti/position-paper- alleanza-economia-circolare.PDF). Enel is a founding member of the Italian Circular Economy Stakeholder Platform (ICESP) and has co-coordinated a working group for sustainable and circular systems for design, production, networks and consumption. During 2018, Enel was involved in international panels on the circular economy (including WBCSD - Factor10; Ellen MacArthur Foundation CE100) and a study on “100 Italian Circular Economy Stories” was produced together with Symbola.

Circular cities


The cities of tomorrow must adopt a circular vision and a circular model for all contexts, from buildings to infrastructures, mobility, energy systems and the waste cycle. During 2018, Enel produced the position paper “Cities of Tomorrow. Circular Cities”. The document looks at some examples of Enel’s circular projects to promote the sharing of goods practices and enable dialogue on the circular transition of the city ecosystem.

Measuring circularity: CirculAbility model

To adopt circular economy principles to the best extent possible and assess the results, a measuring system is necessary, with a set of parameters that can quantify the “circularity” of products and projects, based on the benefits generated in terms of a reduction in raw materials used. Enel has developed a model to measure circularity, that takes account of the five pillars of the circular economy1 and defines a single circularity index, calculated starting from two components:

  • flow circularity, which takes account of all material and energy components in the input phase (if renewable, from recycling, reuse, etc.) and output phase (recycling, re-use, landfill);
  • use circularity, which takes account of the use of materials, through an extension of the useful life and considering the adoption of sharing and “product as a service” principles.

1 The five pillars of the circular economy: sustainable input, extending the useful life of products, sharing platforms, product as a service, end of life.