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Barcelona — Italy's largest power generator Enel intends to close three coal units early next year as part of its full exit from coal, including one unit at Italy's largest coal plant, Brindisi, Enel Italia CEO Carlo Tamburi told a parliamentary commission Sept. 9.

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Tamburi told the hearing that the company already has authorization to close the Brindisi 2 unit (660 MW) as early as Jan. 1 and urged that authorizations for its other plants should be processed as early as possible next year so it can participate in the capacity market to substitute the closing capacity.

The company currently also has requested the Economic Development Ministry to close two further units -- one at Fusina (total capacity 1.6 GW) and one at La Spezia (capacity 600 MW) for early next year -- he said.

Enel, along with the country's three other coal plant operators, has committed to close all of its coal-fired capacity by 2025 as part of the country's National Energy and Climate Plan.

Italy currently has nine functioning coal-fired plants, with Enel operating six of those for a combined 6.4 GW, while A2A operates two at Brindisi Nord and Monfalcone, having stopped coal-fired generation at its 70 MW Brescia plant in April 2020, and EP operates the 534 MW Fiume Santo plant on the island of Sardinia.

Three coal-fired plants -- Brindisi Sud, Enel's Sulcis (432 MW) in Sardinia and Fiume Santo -- are deemed essential units by Italian grid operator Terna.

However, Italy's reliance on coal-fired generation has fallen to a record low this year, partly due to the COVID-19 impact on demand, and coal has in the last two months occupied between just 1% and 2% of the supply mix in the Italian market, according to data from market operator GME.

Last year, Enel submitted requests for the transformation of four sites -- La Spezia, Fusina, Torre Nord (Civitavecchia - 2 GW) and Brindisi -- to convert each into a 500 MW open cycle gas plant, although they could also be converted to CCGT with greater capacities, according to Tamburi.

Rival A2A also announced it was planning to covert its two coal units at Brindisi (640 MW) which have been idled since 2012 to accommodate eight endothermic gas powered generators for around 300 MW. The company's 336 MW coal-fired Monfalcone in Northeast Italy is also being lined up for conversion.

The ministry last year successfully awarded 5.8 GW of new capacity via capacity market auctions, which will largely substitute the closing coal capacity, with 1.8 GW due online for 2022 and 4.0 GW for 2023. Besides that, the renewable sector is planned to be boosted by around 30 GW of new additions by 2030.

As part of the assignment of recovery funds, the country's system needs to ensure it has the adequacy and resilience to support the addition of so much renewable capacity, Tamburi told the hearing.

Additionally, there would be a need for the electrification of services via sustainable city planning and electric mobility, he said, noting that Enel has made 10 project proposals to the government in the field.

Italy's remaining coal-fired plants

Owner
Plant Name
Total capacity (MW)
Bidding zone
Notes
Enel
Brindisi Sud
2,420
South
Essential plant
A2A
Brindisi Nord
500
South
Enel
Torrevaldaliga Nord
1,980
Center South
Enel
Bastardo
130
Center North
Enel
Spezia
520
North
Enel
Fusina
871
North
A2A
Monfalcone
315
North
EP
Fiume Santo
534
Sardinia
Essential plant
Enel
Sulcis
432
Sardinia
Essential plant
Total
7,702

Source: EntsoE