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A journey into the Enel world among places, people and technologies

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Cosmelli’s Journey and the 5,000 Making the Massive Project of El Quimbo a Reality

Alessandro Cosmelli has traveled to the far corners of the Earth, visiting 10 countries in which Enel operates: Italy, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Spain, Russia, Slovakia, Romania and the United States. His mission has been to provide a snapshot not just of Enel Group’s business, but above all of its recent achievements in research and sustainability, the most ambitious projects and the most poignant stories of our colleagues.

Charged with this task, Cosmelli, an internationally renowned photographer, focused on the technologies as well as on the faces and daily work of the Enel community around the world.

Colombia is among the countries involved in this journey in pictures. For Enel that country means first and foremost the new hydroelectric project of El Quimbo. Cosmelli flew to Neiva, in the Huila region, to capture what is considered by all a symbol of the country’s recovery. And indeed he encountered the hard work and high hopes of more than 5,500 people (including colleagues at the Enel subsidiary Emgesa and employees of two contractor companies) in a fight against time to bring the filling of the dam to completion. In the meantime, the Balseadero bridge has been completed – named after a nearby pueblo – which will be the longest in the country, at 1.7 kilometers. The plant will go online shortly, supplying energy to 5 percent of Colombia’s population.

But our colleagues must also engage with the local population. Cosmelli’s camera also captured four new villages, built or under construction to provide shelter to around 500 people displaced by the dam’s construction. These include Llanos de la Virgen and Santiago y Palacio, where the residents are mostly peasant farmers glad to have the “compensation” of five hectares of land to farm independently with their families, rather than as tenant farmers, and to have new schools, soccer fields, community centers and a large silo for storing their harvest to sell at the markets of nearby towns.

More generally, to compensate these locals Enel has committed approximately 26 million dollars since 2011, allotted thus far to 1,800 farmers who have had to leave their lands. Many of them had been sharecroppers, like Dueño Diego Benites, who, having received a compensation of 22,000 dollars in 2012, went from being a farm laborer along with his wife, to owning a farm with 3 hectares cholupa (local fruit of the Huila region), 1.5 hectares of grapes and 2 hectares of maracuja. With the profits from these harvests he first acquired 100 pigs and as many chickens, then opened a sales point in Gigante, a town in the Huila province. He now has 18 employees and recounts in an interview with our colleague in Internal Communications: “Before I had to work in the sun. Now I have a car and a nice, new house, and I can guarantee my children a secure future. It makes me very proud to be able to provide for them so that they can study where they want”.

Cosmelli also photographed Camillo Andres Ordonez, a colleague at Emgesa working on sustainability and employed in Emgesa’s “economic and employment recovery, monitoring and follow-up” department. As others like him, he covers hundreds of kilometers in his truck, visiting locals to be compensated or who have already receive compensation. He meets with at least 5 per day, and in addition to speaking with them about their work, he monitors how they manage their compensation money. Camilo explains that “not only farmers, but also artisans, merchants and coffee planters have received compensation”.

Our colleagues have also spent no small amount of energy creating a training program (organized with the help of SENA, Colombia’s national apprenticeship service) to teach former sharecroppers how to set up their own farms. Other colleagues are dedicated to engaging with fishermen, who are concerned that they might not be able to continue fishing once the dam is filled. Finally, Emgesa is working to complete three hospitals (with the help of the Colombian government), with personnel specialized in veterinary care, to benefit both the animals inhabiting the shores of the Magdalena and Paes rivers and the strays of the region.

While El Quimbo represents the future, the present lies with the hydroelectric plant of Betania. Covering 7,400 hectares, it has been in operation since 1987 and generates 540 MW with three generators. That is a slightly more than what El Quimbo will produce, since it has one more generator (El Quimbo has only two). Cosmelli photographed our 28 colleagues working at this site, as well as the contractors there.

Of course Cosmelli could not skip Bogotà, first stopping at the Codensa control center, serving 2,700,000 customers through a 19,000 km grid. Through this facility, the 1,300 colleagues that work for the company manage all information in the grid powering Bogotà and the surrounding areas. Cosmelli then documented the high energy workday of colleagues at the A1 service center, mostly women, 13 regular employees and 160 contractors, which in twenty service points around the city dedicate themselves primarily to three types of business: energy, “easy credit”, and value added products (insurance, contracts, etc.).

Cosmelli later also visited Bogotà’s Castellana Substation, where our colleagues, along with people working mostly for Eringel, a Codensa supplier, work mainly on converting high voltage electricity to medium voltage, since the power is mostly destined for the residential market. Once the Cosmelli has completed his journey, the photographs will be publicly displayed in commercial settings.