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“Objective energy transition: Terna sets out its development plan for the network of tomorrow”

Stories of Terna: Simona Baldissoni, grid development senior specialist.

The publication of Terna’s new Development Plan, which sets out the medium and long-term plan for the development of the Italian transmission grid, has sparked much interest in the last few days. The plan is structured into four strategic directions: grid rationalisation, increasing resilience, asset acquisition and the integration of renewable sources. The strategic objective is to design the network of tomorrow, focusing on accelerating the energy transition. This might seem a linear process, simply updating the development plans each year, but in fact the context is constantly changing; priorities shift and challenges evolve, sometimes with entirely new characteristics.

In recent years the scenario has been characterised by the directives of the National Energy and Climate Plan (NECP) and the UN Agenda 2030, as well as the effects of climate change resulting in a higher frequency of extreme and unpredictable weather events. “This is why we are constantly researching,” explains Simona Baldissoni, grid development senior specialist in the Grid Planning department. A Civil Engineering graduate, Simona has worked in the electricity sector for twenty years, sixteen of which have been with Terna, and for the last three years has worked in the department that defines “the soul of the TSO, the “Terna” aspect”. This department is responsible for the planning, development, investments, security and resilience of the Italian national grid. In fact, it is a decisive technical sector for system decarbonisation.

Simona Baldissoni in her office in Rome, at Terna's head offices (photo: Terna)

The Development Plan published each year represents a promise by the transmission service operator: it sets out the targets and the actions it intends to implement, in the understanding that the Plan will have an impact on the economic growth of the entire country. “This year, as well as taking on the responsibility for enabling the phase-out of coal, we have also recognised the importance of boosting economic recovery in the wake of Covid-19. The sharp increase in investments responds to this dual objective: sustainability and, parallel to that, economic growth,” emphasises Baldissoni.

(photo: Terna)

The plan is mainly directed at Italy, Baldissoni notes, focusing on the integration between the north and south of the county, the resilience of the system as a whole and the innovation of existing and future grid assets. Yet because of the country's geographic position, Terna must also serve as an important link between the African coast and Europe. Representing the main energy hub of the Mediterranean and the junction of several European connections, in the new Development Plan Terna also describes the cross-border interconnections that represent huge opportunities in terms of production, employment and the environment.

“The exciting aspect is that we always work with the sense of doing something important, something valuable, for our country.”

The challenges faced by Terna reflect those faced by its personnel. The constant encounters with new scenarios that characterise Terna's history and culture are also recognisable to Simona: “My greatest challenge was making a change after so many years and embarking in a new direction. The secret is never to settle, to always look ahead and to set yourself increasingly ambitious targets. It’s a little like celebrating the Confucian adage “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life”. The exciting aspect, notes Baldissoni, is that we always work with the sense of doing something important, something valuable for the country. In other words, you can work for just one company and yet never get bored. “One of the things I appreciate more now it that you're never isolated or just left to yourself. Whether you're at the top or the bottom, we all work in the same way. I could say it's a people-focused approach but that would be reductive. It's the trust and will to create a calm and collaborative environment.”