A comparison of the countries in the European Union shows that Italy has very high energy imports. The Economist reports that Italy relies on other countries in 86 % of its national energy needs. It has had a historical dependence on fossil fuels and hydrocarbons supply from North Africa, Middle East, and Eastern Europe. It is for this reason that the country has explored and invested in renewable energy initiatives.
Dynamics Shaping the Clean Energy Landscape in Italy
There are a number of events in the recent past that have contributed to the debate on clean energy in Italy. The country which has had a reliable supply of natural gas has had its natural gas fortunes decline in the past decade. In 1987, Italy held a referendum which voted in favor of closing three nuclear plants which were in operation by then. Such phenomena translates to the search for sustainable energy preferences.
Hydroelectric power accounts to roughly 18 % of the country’s total energy needs. Most of the hydroelectric power plants are situated in the North of the country which is endowed with mountains and rivers. From 1938 to 1960, hydroelectric power sustained (to a large extent) the country in terms of energy needs. After 1960, this was no longer feasible. This is because the strategic areas for energy infrastructure had been filled and there was increased demand for energy without the corresponding increase in generation. By the year 2010, Italy was consuming 20 times more energy than in 1938.
The Community Research and Development Service (CORDIS) reveals that its latest geothermal energy barometer put Italy as a leading actor in the geothermal sector in the EU. In fact, it is only Portugal which shows such high levels of geothermal exploration and investment. There are thirty three geothermal plants in Italy which are currently active. Pisa province plays the most dominant role providing over a half of the nation’s total geothermal output. The country boasts a record of having the first commercial geothermal power plant which was established in 1911.
Wind power in Italy has also played a significant role in the energy sector in the country. The country deployed wind turbines that produced higher energy than power from geothermal power plants. The energy accounts for 19 % of the total renewable energy used in the country. Unione Petrolifera predicts that the wind energy sector will be producing three times more energy by the year 2020.
Other measures taken or being explored by the Italian government in regard to renewable energy include the following: more investment in biomass, subsidy to electric cars, high incentives in wind and solar energy, and community sensitization.
Unlike quite a number of countries in Europe, Italy has a high potential in solar energy. In 2013, solar energy accounted for 7 % of the country’s energy needs. Solar companies such as Helios Technology have identified viable business opportunities in the country in the field of solar energy. However, the solar energy will face a setback because the government plans to omit incentives for solar energy when rolling out incentives that will continue to encourage the use of renewable energy.
The rapid increase in the cost of fuels coupled with the rising increase in environmental consciousness translates to a renewed commitment for renewable energy solutions. The Italian government has accepted that the fossil fuels electricity production in the country are in a crisis, with some plants grounded and others operating in full capacity. The country has vowed not to be subject to the harsh reality of the fossil fuels climate. Overall, Italy’s search for renewable energy solutions is driven by the country’s need to achieve fuel independence. If the current efforts are anything to go by, there is all likelihood that the country will realize its vision for energy sustainability through more investment in renewable energy.
Gordon's expertise in the area of industrial energy efficiency and alternative energy. He is an experienced electrical engineer with a Masters degree in Alternative Energy technology. He is the co-founder of several renewable energy media sites including Solar Thermal Magazine.