The "Dashboard" to guide the Energy Transition

Interview with Giacomo Rispoli, ENI

"We are fully within the energy transition and I would say that we are already in phase two: the friction from the first detachment has passed, today we are at the deployment of technologies." Giacomo Rispoli Executive Vice President and Director of Eni Portfolio Management & Supply and Licensing spoke at the Sarteano Summer School (SI) promoted by NextChem and Maire Tecnimont together with AIDIC, the Italian Association of Chemical Engineering. During a pause in the work, we asked him for some thoughts on the subject of energy transition, the heart of the NextChem mission.

"It is now clear to everyone that a reduction in CO2 cannot be ignored", he tells us; "this attention is slowly moving through the supply chain, but sustainable processes must also have an economic driver: if there is profitability for the entrepreneur, they work, otherwise they do not." The return on investment in the short term as an obstacle to a higher and longer-term view, therefore? Partly yes, but not only.

"The innovations being studied today will replace the use of oil tomorrow, this is certain," says Rispoli. "However, it is not a simple challenge: on our planet, a billion people still do not have access to electricity; in some areas of the world, the use of materials such as plastics still creates the minimum well-being that we experienced decades ago; in others, it is necessary to respond to a growing demand for mobility, which means quality of life, development. Globally there is still a huge gap."

"The transition will last another 20-30 years, during which fossil raw materials will still play a key role in allowing a part of the population to improve their level of development and well-being by reducing the gap with the most advanced societies, without the increased costs of the circular economy, which is even more expensive with respect to the linear economy." But what then is the role that the already advanced economies must have to avoid a two-speed transition?

"To facilitate the process of reducing inequality by minimizing the risks to the environment and the planet, countries with advanced economies must share technologies to allow less developed countries to skip intermediate steps and go to the final ones, without slowing down their path of social and economic development. Countries with an advanced economy have a strategic role in defining a path to create culture and know-how, and besides, the largest part of the planet's population needs this culture and know-how to accelerate evolutionary steps. The combination of key indicators that will guide us in this global transition from the linear economy to the circular economy is the production of CO2 per capita and the quality of life index."

Assuming that there may be a global direction of this great revolution that is called the energy transition and that this can take place guided by a 'dashboard' of indicators, how to carry out this great production project and research transfer?  "All the research carried out in the past in the linear economy is fundamental today to develop the circular economy," said Rispoli, "without the results obtained so far, we would not be able to face the challenge of sustainability, of having to totally rethink production and the economy. Still too often however, research is considered reactive; instead, it must be seen as proactive, it must be supported by a medium/long-term vision. We need to look far ahead, we need to make regular investments over time." Something that requires stability, vision, support.

"Not all companies have the same approach to innovation; from this point of view, Eni is an example: in the case of our bio-refineries the research allowed us to invent them and create a new business. The refining industry is second in Europe for number of graduates: this know-how should be dedicated to green technologies. Companies like ENI, with great internal know-how, must be able to invest in reconversion. It is easier to reconvert (see the example of Eni bio-refineries) than to start from scratch" says Rispoli, who concludes: "Investing in research is easier for large companies that have large organizations and capital, that is why large companies are an important asset for a country: it means having the solidity of being able to look far ahead."