Acea Palermo CEO: “Water? A strategic resource, no industrialization plan can ignore it”

“Even artificial intelligence needs water to avoid overheating,” says the CEO

”Even artificial intelligence needs water to avoid overheating’‘. He states it the CEO of Acea, Fabrizio Palermo, interviewed by Repubblica. The CEO of the water services company, making his debut at the World Economic Forum in Davos, draws attention to a fundamental resource: water. In Davos we talk about wars, AI, climate. But about water? ”Not enough in Italy and Europe, but on a global level there is a lot of discussion about it and we have started here in Davos too. Water is strategic, a development enabler that impacts agriculture, industry, energy, but also on artificial intelligence servers. Any industrialization or reindustrialization plan cannot ignore it. And some recent events make us reflect on how much its management needs to change”. Are you referring to the effects of climate change? ”The recent drought on the Panama Canal has affected global transport. But I am also referring to Italy, to floods, to hydrogeological instability. We have long taken water for granted, we are the open tap generation, we didn’t have this problem in our DNA, but now it’s coming to the fore. Also because we have aqueducts built a hundred years ago and the latest regulation is 30 years old”.

The aqueducts are a sieve, with a dispersion of over 40%. The Pnrr has allocated 4 billion, but in mid-2023 the Court of Auditors reported delays in the projects. Are resources being spent? ”Yes, many are projects by companies capable of carrying them forward. But the Pnrr has a limited duration and intercepts only part of the problem, because large infrastructures are also needed whose construction requires more time and money
the. Our construction site for doubling the Peschiera aqueduct, which brings water to Rome, costs one and a half billion
”. Are we paying too little for water to finance investments? ”It’s not so much a question of price, but of management. Because the resource must be protected: intercept the greatest possible quantity of rainwater with efficient storage systems, suitable for increasingly concentrated rainfall, we must free dams full of debris, build a system of basins to support agriculture, invest in new technologies filling the aqueducts with sensors, which allow predictive maintenance and in the future to shift flows according to needs. And then there is the issue of reuseThat in Italy it is very low”. How low? ”Only 4%. The water that comes out of the purifiers, although drinkable, is reintroduced into the rivers, when it could be reintroduced into the network for agricultural purposes”.

The government has appointed a water commissioner, will it help? ”He is studying an investment plan. But there is also a problem of standards: the territorial areas are too fragmented, they should be made at least rational to integrate the aqueducts. The second problem is the quantity of operators: there are 2500”. Acea is a leader, will you be aggregators? ”The objective is to federate. We believe there is a lot of room to grow with the skills to do so both in Italy and abroad. We have strengthened our international structure and are looking at possible markets”. Will you participate in the government’s Mattei Plan for cooperation with Africa? ”The water theme is already present. We are ready to lend a hand”. You are favorites in the tender for the Rome waste-to-energy plant, given that your project is the basis of it. Are you expecting more participants? ”I think so. But I am convinced that ours is a good project and a good grouping, with Hitachi being the main technology supplier, Suez and Vianini. It will be the most modern plant in Europe.”