On 9 May 2023, the government launched an open consultation on the new National Integrated Energy and Climate Plan (NIPEC), the plan on which Italy’s contribution, as a member of the European Union, under the Paris Climate Agreement is based. Italian Climate Network participated, through its Board of Directors, in the public consultation by submitting its comments on 25 May 2023.
The revision of the PNIEC by 2024 is both a compulsory act according to the five-year planning cycles on climate policies and a due act, given that the PNIEC currently in force dates back ‘to a geological era that is now distant politically and climatically’. The previous plan, in fact, dates to December 2019; it had, therefore, been developed and drafted before the launch of the European Green Deal. It was largely unsatisfactory in many respects and, indeed, not even aligned with the new continental lowest common denominator, the Green Deal. To give an example, while Brussels announced that the European Union would achieve a -55% reduction in climate-altering emissions by 2030 (a target later adjusted upwards to -57% in 2022 following recounts), the ‘new’ Italian plan stuck to the previous (pre-Green Deal) target of a -40% reduction compared to 1990. At least fifteen percentage points of difference, sensible and substantial differences when thought of in tonnes of CO2 emitted.
The public consultation came later than expected, as the government must send a first draft of the new PNIEC to the European Commission by 30 June 2023. Even at the end of March this year, it was still unclear, if and when, this consultation would be launched, or how. We talked about it here. Then, in May, a portal was opened containing a multiple-choice questionnaire consisting of 34 general questions – perhaps not the best way to gather the pulse and ideas of civil society and academia. Italian Climate Network did, however, participate through its Board of Directors, submitting observations and guidelines that we summarise below.
Renewable Sources – Distributed and Large Plants
- With regard to distributed renewable energy sources, ICN has indicated a preference, in terms of decarbonisation strategies in the residential and tertiary sectors, for the promotion and diffusion of distributed generation over the territory and based on renewables, contextual to important energy efficiency policies.
- on “how” to promote the spread of renewable plants on buildings and their integration into existing networks, ICN sees useful and necessary economic facilitations (such as contributions, tax breaks), tariff incentives for collective self-consumption and energy communities, as well as capital incentives for energy communities built in municipalities with more than 5,000 inhabitants.
- with regard instead to the development of renewable-based generation in terms of large plants, ICN believes that the most effective tools to promote the transition are long-term contracts between private operators (PPAs), together with an enhanced promotion of investments in new storage capacities under Legislative Decree 210/2021, as opposed to less regulated solutions.
In general, ICN believes that investment can be made in the large-scale deployment of existing technologies for the production of electricity from renewables, with preference being given to roof-mounted plants on existing buildings and experimental solutions (such as offshore wind), in order to ensure development in terms of research and consequent market cost reductions compared to large onshore plants built with a view to economies of scale that would refer to technologies and technical contexts that currently exist and are not prospective. All of this must be accompanied, however, by a major legislative revision that would lead to a single national text on authorisations, attentive to the active participation of the citizens and communities concerned.
In this sense, the development of the agri-voltaic sector should be supported, however, as an accompaniment to the simultaneous development of other types of systems in the rest of the country. In choosing the mix of technical solutions in which to invest between now and 2030, in addition to photovoltaics, agri-Voltaics and wind power, ICN sees investments in the geothermal sector as strategic, in priority over, for example, new investments and restructuring in the hydroelectric sector.
Building efficiency – public and private
- With regard to the efficiency upgrading of private buildings, ICN believes it is essential to establish obligations for upgrading that are appropriately supported, however, by public incentives, in order to avoid the risk of a two-speed upgrading across the country and an exacerbation of inequalities – if not an even greater disaffection with the cause of ecological transition. In addition to economic barriers, it will be crucial to break down many of the current decision-making and administrative barriers in order to speed up practices and make them as comprehensible and usable as possible for all citizens. It would be useful, in this sense, to resume and strengthen the experience of White Certificates (negotiable securities certifying the achievement of savings in energy end-use through interventions and projects to increase energy efficiency);
- with regard to energy efficiency in the Public Administration, new non-repayable incentives and the strengthening of financial instruments such as the National Fund for Energy Efficiency, as well as widespread awareness and training campaigns for technicians, planners and employees at all levels from national to local, will be fundamental.
- The reduction of emissions in the transport sector passes first of all through a capillary development of local public transport (LPT) also and especially in provincial and peripheral areas, where the private car continues to remain the only mobility option for most Italians. Huge investments in this sector should lead Italy of 2030 to be a country in which public transport (by rail, preferably, or road) will always be a valid and convenient alternative to the private car, with a contextual and significant increase in service quality standards as well as frequency;
- At the same time, the electric car sector will have to be stimulated, also in line with EU objectives, and for this it will be necessary to direct public investment more than currently planned towards the widespread development of the network of recharging stations, as well as individual one-off incentives for the purchase of the vehicle. The unavailability of recharging points makes the transition to electric cars less ‘desirable’, inconvenient, and therefore without a contextual and otherwise natural lowering of car sales prices; at the same time stamp duties, excise duties and other tax measures will have to be remodelled and revised to the advantage, at least in the first phase of transition, of the electric sector.
Energy security and foreign policy
- The country’s energy security, in addition to geopolitics, passes through a rapid and real simplification of authorisation processes for renewable plants, storage, new infrastructure, insisting on the maximum diversification of renewable supply on all three main carriers (electricity, gas, fuels) without derogations – for example on gas, as proposed by many.
- in terms of domestic policy, it will be inevitable that some areas of the country will experience greater development of renewable energy plants and infrastructure to the detriment of others, with related spin-offs (positive or to be offset) on the territories. In this sense, it is advisable to immediately deploy the maximum production potential according to physical and geographical criteria, investing, therefore, in distribution and accumulation networks useful for transporting intermittent energy to the overall consumer base, without necessarily tracing the current infrastructural geographies.
- in terms of foreign policy, ICN holds firm on the need to develop a green foreign policy starting from the Mediterranean basin, through the creation of appropriate agreements and connecting infrastructures for common projects in terms of generation, transport, storage and end use, according to a cooperative and peaceful vision, beyond the conflicts over fossil sources that have always characterised the interactions between actors in the region.
Emissions and forests
Reducing emissions in industry will have to go through energy efficiency: less energy consumption for the same productivity and less emissions, along with investments in new technologies to replace fossil fuels (e.g. hydrogen) to support the transition of hard-to-abate sectors, which also make up a significant part of our national production fabric;
ICN believes it is necessary to invest in the development and management of our national forestry heritage not only for generic environmental and conservation reasons, but in particular to increase, at the same time, the absorption of CO2 by existing natural technologies.
- When asked which sectors are to be considered priorities in the coming years in terms of research and development in the field of energy and consumption, the ICN Board of Directors indicated: energy efficiency, storage systems, and cybersecurity, given the very high degree of automation and computerisation that will necessarily involve the majority of citizens, who are often not sufficiently literate with respect to the complexity that will be proposed to them in their daily lives.
All this responds, synthetically, to the answers filed by the Board of Directors of the Italian Climate Network with respect to the 34 proposed questions and the multiple-choice answer options contained in the questionnaire.
This summary is therefore not meant to be exhaustive of ICN’s position on the issue, which sees as a top priority – net of generic addresses on individual topics – a major relaunch of Italy’s ambition in terms of decarbonisation and electrification, in line with EU objectives (if not beyond) and steadily oriented towards an increasingly greener, more renewable, more widely connected country. A country moving away from coal and environmentally harmful subsidies and increasingly less dependent on foreign fossils in its energy mix in favour of a major electrification of the production system.
We have all the credentials to really get there.