Enel avoids setting specific dates for the closure of its coal-fired power stations in Spain, following requests from environmental organizations at AGM.

The Instituto Internacional de Derecho y Medio Ambiente (IIDMA) and Re:Common, environmental organizations from Spain and Italy, have participated in the AGM (Anual General Meeting) of italian energy giant Enel. Enel Group holds 70% of the shares in the Spanish company Endesa. Both organizations questioned the ambiguity of the Enel group’s climate policy during the meeting and called for a plan with specific dates to close down their coal-fired power plants, including those of Endesa in Spain.

Both organizations have told Enel that keeping these facilities open is a major risk to their business strategy. Italy has already committed to phase-out coal by 2025 and Enel must therefore ensure that the plants in Italy close down by that date. It makes no sense to maintain Endesa’s coal-fired power stations in Spain as they represent a major risk for the company. Especially after a recent analysis by CDP (Carbon Disclosure Project) which showed that Endesa’s coal facilities are particularly vulnerable to climate risks.

At the last AGM in 2017, Enel announced they would close the Teruel and Compostilla plants in Spain in 2020. However, the Ministry of Energy, Tourism and Digital Agenda reacted with a draft Royal Decree to hinder the closure of the plants. The draft RD was highly criticized by organizations, companies and even the CNMC, and now it been transformed into a law proposal presented by the PP’s Parliamentary Group (The party in the Government).  In addition, recent statements by Endesa’s CEO leave room for these plants to continue to operate if new capacity payments are adopted. IIDMA and Re:Common have questioned the contradictions between Enel and Endesa and have once again asked for clarity on the future of these plants.

Enel has circumvented the commitment in its replies: it has stated that it will not take a definitive position and that it will always respect the law in force, adding that all closure decisions will be subject to ongoing studies and analysis. According to the Italian company, Spanish Endesa’s current plan does not provide for investments in Teruel or Compostilla.

The Alcudia coal plant, in the Balearic Islands, caused a certain amount of controversy last year, after the Balearic Government announced the closure of its groups I and II by 2020 as part of its Regional Climate Change and Energy Transition Law. Although the closure of Groups I and II does not affect security of supply in the Islands, the Spanish government is reluctant and Endesa has not made any statement on the matter. Therefore, IIDMA and Re:Common have also asked the AGM for confirmation of the closure of these particular groups.  Both organizations have also requested information concerning the future of Groups III and IV. Enel’s answer, again, is unclear: the groups which the operator does not consider necessary for the security of supply of the islands will be closed, but Groups III and IV, according to current rules and conditions, are considered necessary to maintain this stability.

“ENEL’s responses to the closure of Endesa’s coal-fired power plants in Spain are elusive, showing a lack of a clear commitment to the fight against climate change and to improving our health. Despite its decarbonization strategy for the year 2050, if ENEL does not set clear milestones for achieving this decarbonization, everything is empty words without action, and this is an urgent matter” says Ana Barreira, Director of IIDMA.


“The credibility of the commitment to the withdrawal of coal made at the 2017 AGM and, therefore, of the Enel Group’s climate strategy, is at risk if there is no clear indication of how to phase-out. This activity is very harmful to the environment and local communities in Spain. It is a matter of justice and Enel cannot apply a double standard in Italy and Spain because the planet´s climate is the same everywhere” says Antonio Tricarico from  Re:Common.

The company responsible for more emissions in Spain

Endesa is the company that emits the most tons of equivalent CO2 in Spain. The company owns 6 of the 15 coal-fired power plants still operating in Spain, which are responsible for more than 700 premature deathsper year and whose health costs range from 880 to 1,667 million euros (According to 2014 data). Three of Endesa’s plants are included in the list of the 30 most toxic coal plants in Europe elaborated by the platform Europe Beyond Coal: Litoral, As Pontes and Andorra.

Endesa recently presented a document on “Good Practices for CO2 Management”, under the firm commitment to achieve a decarbonized economy. CEO José Bogás said he was convinced of the “need and possibility of a smooth transition to full decarbonisation by 2050”. However, the company´s plan for its coal-fired power plants does not seem to be very consistent with this vision.

Furthermore, another of the issues that these organisations have raised with Enel is the recent communication campaign that Endesa launched “whitewashing” the pollution caused by coal. The campaign claimed that emissions from transport cause more deaths than emissions from coal-fired power stations. In addition to ignoring the effects on climate change, this media campaign was contrary to the Enel group’s decarbonization strategy for 2050. For Enel, this campaign was only intended to compare emissions in Spain from electricity generation with those from the transport sector.


Imported coal


Most of Endesa’s plants burn imported coal, which impacts in the same way as domestic coal. The countries of origin of the coal are: Colombia, Indonesia, Russia and South Africa which are considered by Bettercoal to be high-risk countries for reasons concerning Human Rights, corruption, occupational health and safety conditions, and business risks. IIDMA and Re: Common have asked questions to find out what measures Endesa is taking to avoid these risks, emphasizing respect for Human Rights, as well as about its main suppliers in Colombia. Some of them have been required by the Colombian justice system to elaborate an environmental and community plan aimed at the indigenous population affected by the damage caused by the coal mining activity.

In response to these questions, Enel stated some measures are being taken to limit the supply of coal from this areas, always respecting and taking as a basis the company’s “Code of Ethics”, as well as stating that the coal Enel imports from Colombia does not come from the Cesar region. On the other hand, the company recognizes the Bettercoal reports as a useful tool, although they also avoided responding to whether they will incorporate their  recommendations as their own.

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