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Enel chief dismisses Trump effect on clean energy progress

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The head of Europe’s largest power company, Enel, says any attempts by the Trump administration to dilute commitment to renewable energy will have a minimal effect on the global energy transition.

Enel chief executive Francesco Starace told the Financial Times that his company plans to continue the roll-out of its $6.6bn clean energy investment plan across the Americas and Europe, while committing just $1bn to thermal power generation over the next three years.

Francesco Starace of Enel
“The world is increasingly decarbonising, because it is a good business idea to do it,” Mr Starace said. “There is less risk, less liability, and it’s faster to build renewables rather than other stuff. And renewables are a very competitive way of producing electricity.”

“I don’t think the US changing its policy and trying to bring carbon back will have any impact whatsoever.”

Wind and solar power have often been blamed for driving up electricity prices for consumers, but in Latin America they are having the opposite effect, Mr Starace argues. “Not only are they competitive, but they are actually driving the prices to levels that fossil fuels cannot match. So they are contributing to lowering the cost of energy.”

The levelised cost of electricity — or the lifetime cost of a power generation system — from solar panels dropped 17 per cent last year, while offshore wind was down 28 per cent, according to a recent analysis from the United Nations and Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

On the campaign trail President Donald Trump suggested he wanted to withdraw the US from the Paris climate accord, although the administration is still debating its formal position.

However, Mr Starace argued that while the Trump administration might slow the spread of renewable energy, “the longer view is not something that a single presidency can influence”.

Even without the Clean Power Plan, the EIA has projected that US renewable generation capacity will grow by an average of 1.9 per cent per year between now and 2050.

Timothy Stephure, an analyst with IHS Markit told FT that renewable energy made more economic sense in Latin America in particular.

“In the past, everyone thought wind and solar needed to be supported by policy and incentives. Now what we’re seeing is that conventional generation has to be protected from renewables,” he said.

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