The new National Energy Strategy in Italy

by  Patrizia Marani

March 28, 2013

After a wide public debate, the new Italian national energy strategy has been approved in March.

Reducing energy costs, attaining and surpassing all the European environmental targets, greater security of supply and industrial development in the energy sector. These are the objectives set out in the national energy strategy document just approved.

The modernisation of the energy sector is a key element in the government’s Sustainable Growth Agenda. More than 20 years on since the adoption of the last National Energy Plan, the industry had been eagerly awaiting this programme and policy document.

The measures proposed in the strategy, which extends to 2020 and to 2050, are intended to ensure that energy ceases to be a structural disadvantage for our country and a factor that weighs increasingly on household budgets. The lines set out in the strategy will at the same time make it possible to maintain and improve our already high environmental, security and safety standards, thanks to the substantial investment expected in the sector.

Once the proposed strategy has been implemented, it will enable the system to evolve, gradually but significantly, and to surpass the 20-20-20 European targets. The results expected by 2020 (assuming economic growth to be in line with the latest European Commission forecasts) are as follows:

- €180 billion will be invested between now and 2020 in the green and the white economies (renewables and energy efficiency) and in traditional sectors (electricity and gas networks, re-gasification plants, storage, hydrocarbon development). These will be private investments, partly supported by incentives, and are expected to generate positive economic returns for the country.

- Greenhouse gas emissions will fall by about 19%, exceeding the European targets for Italy, set at 21% below the 2005 emission levels.

- Renewable energy sources will account for 19-20% of gross final consumption (compared with about 10% in 2010). This is equivalent to 23% of primary energy consumption, while fossil fuel use will fall from 86% to 76%. Furthermore, it is expected that renewables will become the primary source in the electricity sector, equivalent to, or slightly overtaking, gas, to account for about 36-38% of consumption (compared with 23% in 2010).

- Primary consumption will fall by about 24% by 2020 compared with the reference scenario (an estimated 4% below 2010 levels); this exceeds the European objectives of -20%, thanks mainly to energy efficiency measures

To attain these results, the strategy has been broken down into seven priorities, each with specific supporting measures that have already been set in motion or are currently being defined:

1. Fostering Energy Efficiency, which is expected to exceed the European targets, as the most appropriate means of pursuing all the aforementioned objectives.

2. Promoting a competitive gas market, integrated with and with prices aligned to the European markets, and with the possibility of becoming the main Southern European Hub.

3. Sustainably developing renewables, in order to exceed the European targets (“20-20-20”), while at the same time keeping energy bills down.

4. Developing an electricity market fully integrated with the European market; the market should be efficient (with prices competitive with the rest of Europe) and see the gradual integration of renewable power production.

5. Restructuring the refining industry and the fuel distribution network, to achieve a more sustainable system with European levels of competitiveness and service quality.

6. Sustainably raising national hydrocarbons production, which will bring major economic and employment benefits, while observing the highest international standards in terms of security and environmental protection.

7. Modernising the system of governance of the sector, with the aim of making decision-making processes more effective and more efficient.

The priorities assigned to energy efficiency, renewables and the sustainable use of fossil fuels require research into and the development of state-of-the-art technologies.