Enel plans to 'copy and paste' Italy solar panel factory in U.S.

A logo of Italian multinational energy company Enel is seen in Milan
A logo of Italian multinational energy company Enel is seen at the Milan's headquarter, Italy, February 5, 2020. REUTERS/Flavio Lo Scalzo

MILAN, Jan 25 (Reuters) - Enel plans to build a solar panel factory in the United States as part of its plans to bulk up its renewable energy business in North America, its green power boss said.

Europe's biggest utility is looking to scale up its 3SUN factory in southern Italy to 3 gigawatts in 2024 and develop a new generation of panels to compete with Asia, Enel Green Power CEO Salvatore Bernabei said on Tuesday.

He said Europe might need 30 GW per year of capacity in this regard but added other countries like the United States and India had more ambitious targets.

"Our idea is to think of a possible copy and paste of this factory to other markets, like the United States," he said.

Enel, the world's biggest private renewable energy player, has included the United States in its list of Tier 1 countries where it plans to build some 90% of its additional green capacity.

Bernabei, who is also head of thermal power generation, said the group planned to roll out around 6.5 GW of new green power in North America over the next three years and build out more than 1 GW of battery capacity.

Enel, which plans investments of 170 billion euros ($191.6 billion) to 2030, is looking to ramp up its renewable energy capacity round the world to 154 GW from around 54 GW at present.

It aims to have a wholly green power generation portfolio by 2040 when it plans to be carbon free.

Bernabei said Asia was an area of interest for the utility which was targeting new markets such as Vietnam and South Korea.

"We have big ambitions in India," he said, but ruled out any interest in the giant Chinese market.

Asked about Russia, Bernabei said the group had a presence. "In the long term Russia will need renewables."

Enel, which controls Spanish utility Endesa (ELE.MC), is due to exit coal by 2027 and gas generation by 2040, replacing them with new green capacity and hybrid renewable-storage solutions.

Bernabei confirmed the deadline for exiting coal despite concern the current gas crisis and surging energy prices might force some countries to delay coal plant closures.

"What is happening is just a temporary issue," he said.

Bernabei said Enel had no interest in investing in nuclear power.

($1 = 0.8872 euros)

Reporting by Stephen Jewkes; editing by Agnieszka Flak, Raissa Kasolowsky and Emelia Sithole-Matarise

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