Interview with Alberto Piatti, Eni’s Head of Sustainable Development

Partner of the Biennale of Luanda, Eni is an energy company which concretely supports a just energy transition, with the objective of preserving our planet and promoting an efficient and sustainable access to energy for all.

1. What does the culture of peace mean to you?

Advocating for peace means adopting an inclusive and holistic approach, which includes citizens, governments, institutions, international agencies, and the private sector. A challenge of this magnitude requires an unprecedented collective effort. No actor can achieve such challenging results alone. Working together pragmatically also means driving a transition that reduces inequalities around the world. Eni’s mission is to concretely support a just transition in which energy and sustainability work together for development, which is “the new name for peace”, as Pope Paul VI proclaimed in his social encyclical Populorum Progressio in 1967.

2. What was your motivation in getting involved with the Biennale of Luanda and sponsoring the Forum? And what do you think is the added value of the Alliance of Partners for the promotion of the culture of peace in Africa? How does Eni see the Biennal

When the first edition of the Biennale was launched two years ago, we were proud to be a part of the event as the main goal was to aim for a culture of peace. In my opinion, peace is undoubtedly a consequence of sustainable development, which is at the heart of Eni’s business model.

The Biennale of Luanda, celebrating the role of arts, culture and heritage perfectly represents a strong lever for development in bringing about a real cultural renaissance. Culture makes us resilient and gives us hope in times of crisis, propelling us towards a more sustainable future for all. This is true in all sectors, including ours. The energy transition requires a cultural change in the first place, as well as a social, economic and technological one. Only through a cultural change can we be able to move to a new development model, one that makes us switch from a linear growth to a circular one, capable of transforming wastes into resources, giving new life to what already exists. To achieve this renaissance, it is essential to put the human being at the center. Human well-being is essential to promote peace. Conflict emerges where there are strong contrasts, where there is inequity, where there is no social justice.

On the other hand, sustainable development is the main engine to promote peaceful, just and inclusive societies. In this regard, the private sector can play a key role through alliances with all the stakeholders involved - from international organizations, to institutions, to civil society - to pool efforts towards a paradigm shift. A path where energy and sustainability meet to promote development.

3. What does it mean to Eni to contribute to the peace and security of the African Continent?

Contributing to the peace and security of the African Continent means creating the conditions for peace to prosper and therefore development. This approach translates into a business model orientated to promote sustainable economic growth together with our stakeholders. To do this, Eni implements initiatives in the countries where it operates to promote economic diversification, for example through farming projects, as well as professional training, land protection, access to energy, water and sanitation. These actions are developed with a long-term perspective, facing the needs of the people in line with the National Development Plans and the United Nations 2030 Agenda.

For example in Angola, in the provinces of Huíla and Namibe, we are working to improve access to essential services for populations through an integrated approach since 2017, for a total of 33 communities, in collaboration with the Angolan Ministry of Energy and Water and Ministry of Health and in partnership with Ajuda de Desenvolvimento de Povo para Povo - ADPP Angola. We currently have 70 schools involved in awareness activities on water and sanitation, 33 agricultural training schools active, and installed so far 8 solar energy systems and 12 water systems – all close to schools and medical centres.

It is in this spirit that Eni has been building alliances with leading internationally recognized partners. Through these collaborations, the sharing of know-how, skills, human and economic resources becomes a driving force for the growth of communities and countries, contributing to improving people’s living conditions.  

These programs leverage on the multilateral cooperation with our stakeholders. In this regard, the Alliance of Partners we are entering into thanks to the collaboration sessions carried out in the Biennale of Luanda 2021 will allow us to work together to concretely favour the sustainable development of African countries, enhancing local excellences and resources.

4. Eni has shown its long-standing commitment to ensuring access to energy for all, and to contribute to the development of marine energies. While doing so, what has been the biggest challenge you’ve encountered? What could be improved?

Ensuring universal access to energy in an efficient and sustainable manner is the main challenge for the energy sector in the transition process towards a low carbon future. According to the International Energy Agency’s projections, energy demand will continue to grow strongly in the next years, mainly in emerging markets and developing economies where there is limited access to energy because of increased population, brisk economic growth, urbanisation and the expansion of infrastructures. At the same time, the path to net-zero emissions is narrow, and a massive deployment of all available clean and efficient technology is needed to tackle climate change.

Eni is contributing to this challenge by developing renewable sources, as well as by leveraging the use of gas, which represents a bridging fuel in the transition path, and developing initiatives to improve access to modern cooking systems. Renewable energy initiatives leverage Eni’s Research and Development projects, such as the ones related to marine energy. In this regard, Eni intends to provide its know-how to favour the development of the blue economy by harnessing the yet untapped energy potential from the ocean and favouring the eco-sustainable conversion of existing offshore assets and activities in a circular economy perspective.

We believe the contribution of young people is key to tackle the challenges we are facing and shape the future of energy.

We need fresh ideas to accelerate the transition, thinking out of the box to exploit all the opportunities ahead and build the cultural renaissance that we aim for. Strong of this belief, in 2020, we renewed a partnership agreement with the Politecnico di Torino (Polytechnic University of Turin), with the aim of exploiting the energy of the sea, through academic research and development of new technologies, based on the Institute’s decades of experience. 

5. Tell us more about the Marine Offshore Renewable Energy Lab project.

Thanks to the collaboration with the Politecnico di Torino, we were able to develop a joint research centre and the MOREnergy Lab (Marine Offshore Renewable Energy Laboratory). This laboratory will expand the joint field of action to the study of all marine energy sources, investigating not only wave motion but also offshore wind and solar, ocean and tidal currents and salinity gradient.

The MORE Lab is located in the Politecnico, where it benefits from the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering research infrastructures, and is complemented by two Eni’s facilities: Eni Marine Virtual Lab, located in the supercomputing HPC5 headquarters of Ferrera Erbognone, and Eni open sea test area in Ravenna.

One of the projects born from the alliance between Eni and Politecnico di Torino is ISWEC (Inertial Sea Wave Energy Converter), a floating inertial device capable of converting the energy from incoming waves into electricity by means of a gyroscopic effect. It will produce electricity from both waves, using gyroscope technology, and solar, using solar panels installed on its deck.

Moreover, the MORE Lab benefits from an offshore testing site in the Italian island of Pantelleria, where sea technologies can be tested within an island ecosystem, with the aim of testing the potential energy self-sufficiency of off-grid minor islands , with no land occupation and minimal visual and environmental impact.

A feasibility study for the energy transition of the islands of Sal and Santo Antão, in the Cape Verde archipelago was carried out in collaboration with UNIDO, who provided technical support. The project aims to disseminate the know-how acquired by Eni on the path of decarbonization through the integration of renewable energies in the conventional energy mix of minor off-grid islands. 

Alberto Piatti
Eni’s Head of Sustainable Development