Burning gas to generate electricity is ‘stupid’, says CEO of power giant Anel

Enel CEO Francesco Stares photographed in 2019. In an interview with CNBC on May 24, 2022, Starace said, “You can produce better, cheaper electricity without using gas.”

Giulio Napolitano | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The CEO of Italian power firm Enel has expressed doubts about the continued benefits of using gas for power generation, telling CNBC that it is “stupid” and that cheaper and better alternatives are now available.

Speaking to CNBC’s Steve Sedgwick at the World Economic Forum, Francesco Stares examined the names of both Libya and Russia and discussed for years where Europe was the source of its gas.

According to Eurostat, Russia was the largest supplier of petroleum oil and natural gas to the EU last year. The bloc is now trying to rid itself of Russian hydrocarbons after the country’s invasion of Ukraine.

I think it’s a big wake-up call, “Stares said, adding that” excessive gas “is being used” in a foolish way, because burning gas for power generation today is foolish. “

Instead, Stares said there are more interesting options.

“You can produce better, cheaper electricity without the use of gas … Gas is a valuable molecule and you should leave it … where it is needed,” he added.

These industrial uses include chemical applications, the paper industry and use in the production of ceramics and glass, he said.

“Excess gas for them,” Stares said. “Stop using gas for heating, stop using gas for power generation when the options are good.”

Alternative methods of power generation include wind and solar energy.

According to a recent report by Amber, a think tank focused on moving the planet away from coal called “clean electricity”, with fossil fuels responsible for 37% of EU power generation in 2021.

Breaking the picture above, Amber’s report – published in February – states that fossil gas power produces 18% of the EU’s electricity, the lowest in three years. Renewable was responsible for 37%, while 26% of the block’s nuclear power was generated last year, Ember said.

Across the Atlantic, preliminary figures from the U.S. Energy Administration show that in 2021, 38.3% of the U.S. utility scale used natural gas to generate electricity.

Read more about power from CNBC Pro

According to Stares, changes are taking place in Europe, where the EU has said it wants to be carbon neutral by 2050. “Overall, I think the use of gas in Europe will decrease. Most of it will come from across the board, as I said, using ‘stupid’,” he said.

“So there’s a better way to generate electricity than to burn it,” he said. “It’s not wise to burn it to heat our house, there’s a better way.”

The Enel Group – whose main shareholder is the Italian Ministry of Economy and Finance – has said it will abandon gas production by 2040. It also plans to leave the retail gas market by 2040.

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