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Sustainability and Co-Innovation: Shared Passions of Enel and Cisco CDA

By Cynthia Temesi

Sustainability and Co-Innovation: Shared Passions of Enel and Cisco CDA

By Cynthia Temesi

Published 06-09-23

Submitted by Cisco Systems, Inc.

Mountain landscape with wind turbines

This blog was co-authored by Sophia Filipe, Country Digitization Program Manager, within the Cisco Country Digital Acceleration (CDA) program. This is the second in a series of blogs on CDA Sustainability Projects that go behind the scenes of the sustainability projects we are engaged in, and the impact we are having through Cisco’s CDA program.

Enel Group, a global Italian power utility, have constantly embraced new technologies to make energy more reliable, more affordable, and more sustainable, from the introduction of the first smart meter to becoming the world’s largest producer of renewable energy. Through a Cisco CDA investment, Cisco has partnered with Enel to co-innovate on digital solutions and support energy decarbonization, digitization and decentralization.

Innovation and sustainability are of great importance to both companies, and Enel and Cisco are eager to collaborate on digitizing critical infrastructure and support progress towards global net zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions ambitions.

We sat down with members of Cisco’s Enel team, Giovanni Colombo, systems architect, and Federica Ingrao, account manager, to hear their perspective on sustainability and the outcomes this unique partnership can drive.

It is critical to address climate change now. Why is it important to Enel and to you?

Federica: My personal commitment to sustainability goes back to growing up in Sicily, Italy. The ecology and history of Sicily is strongly connected to sustainability. Its culture and economy have a deep connection to nature. For me, it is important to work for a company that values the environment. Sustainability is an integral part of Cisco´s purpose to Power an Inclusive Future for All, and this makes me feel that I’m contributing to these efforts as well.

Giovanni: I think every day about our ability to support a healthy planet for all. That is why we are striving to align Cisco and customer’s goals. With the co-innovation program we have in place with Enel, we are supporting this alignment. Enel is one of the world’s biggest power utilities in energy generation, distribution and supply, and number one in the world for installed capacity of renewable energy. Working together, we can contribute to protect natural resources, accelerate the renewable energy transition, and help reverse the impact of climate change.

How is Cisco co-innovating with Enel, and why does this matter?

Giovanni: While Cisco and Enel have worked together for many years, we expanded the relationship in 2017 by signing a co-innovation agreement.  Under that agreement, Cisco became Enel’s Global Technology Partner to develop innovative solutions for electricity grids, to promote and spread Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) technologies, to enhance cybersecurity processes, and to scout for co-innovation solutions based on Open Innovation. Our companies are now working together to define, design, test and deploy digital architectures.

We have three pillars that guide our co-innovation:

  • First is digitizing and improving the operational efficiency of the grid. Cisco technology can enable the grid to have capabilities like real-time remote monitoring of consumption levels and grid function, and automated self-healing. These capabilities allow Enel to restore grid faults remotely and automatically reduce wasteful interruption, and support Enel’s overall emissions reduction in Operation and Maintenance (OM) activities — all of which can have positive impact for local communities.
  • Second is a unified convergent IT/OT network designed with circularity in mind. Cisco and Enel designed Enel’s network to save power, space, and maintenance to reduce carbon emissions. The design includes digitized electrical infrastructure, interconnecting tens of thousands of substations and introducing an IoT distributed sensor system for real-time maintenance of the grid’s primary substations. This advanced network approach at Enel’s large scale significantly contributes to better use of limited natural resources.
  • The third pillar is the ability to increase Enel’s renewable energy hosting capacity. Through projects co-designed with Cisco, Enel strives to deliver gigawatts of renewable energy hosting capacity. When we say renewable energy, we mean distributed solar, wind, hydro and geothermal energy sources that need to be connected to the grid, supporting operational security and allowing voltage and power flow control in a smart grid architecture.

How can this partnership help Cisco Enel progress towards joint and individual sustainability goals?

Federica: One way we see Cisco supporting Enel is through sharing information, best practices and helping them achieve sustainability goals.

Giovanni: Another interesting point of the co-innovation agreement is skills exchange. We had several meetings and trainings where we gained vertical knowledge of the electrical grid from Enel, and we in turn shared our knowledge about the IT network for digital smartgrids. The co-education pillar has been one of the most successful outcomes.

Moving forward, how do Cisco Enel plan to leverage innovation for greater sustainability impact?

Federica: For the Cisco Enel team, innovation is a key part of supporting sustainability. If we look at companies such as Enel, they can support economic profit and sustainability in the countries in which they operate. Innovation and sustainability go hand-in-hand.

Giovanni: Enel launched, and now partially owns, a new company called Gridspertise. Gridspertise partners with Distribution System Operators (DSOs) around the world to upgrade their distribution systems by adding intelligence and preparing them for the future. Their mission is to deliver a new era of sustainable and reliable smart grids through innovative, flexible and customer-driven digital solutions that are circular by design. With support from its trusted partnership with Cisco, Gridspertise is making strides in advancing sustainability and novel solutions to the external power utility market

Grid operators like Enel need to move energy to turn the lights on for the world, and an ‘always on’ Industrial IoT network helps support that mission. We are eager to see Cisco and Enel’s co-innovation efforts grow and continue advancing digitization of the utilities market and sustainability.

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