In our bid to de-carbonise the energy sector, one hundred and forty-plus years after the innovation of harnessed electricity, sustainability is now an overarching factor in the energy arena. There’s a need to explore new opportunities for most energy suppliers who hope to remain relevant in the future of the energy market.
The Italian energy sphere is mostly constrained by its lack of large geography. Still, it makes up for this with the concurrent expansion of its renewables integration into its generation mix used to create infrastructure to support sustainable energy. It has a net carbon neutrality target it wishes to meet by 2050.
The capacity of Italy’s renewables sector is estimated to reach at least 60GW by 2030, rising from its current 36GW at a 4.5% compound annual growth, exclusive of hydropower. This ability to circumvent obvious constraints has attracted different actors with growing interest in the energy sustainability field. Investments are seeing huge rises; for example, in June 2020, the 7 Seas Med floating wind project valued at €750m began.
Although Italy is making great strides towards sustainability within its energy sector, there is still a lot to be achieved. The International Energy Agency reports that more than 45% of the energy supply in Italy still comes from oil and coal, while importations cover up for further energy demands.
Suppliers have seen this opportunity and are making the best of these potentials by filling the supply gap.
Understanding the Role of Sustainable Energy Suppliers In Italy.
The supply chain of the Italian electricity system makes provision for four elements in the energy market; production, transmission, distribution and sales. Energy companies can work in any of these areas or all these areas, allowing customers to choose their preferred supplier.
Electricity production or generation happens at big power plants which have to be connected to the national transmission network. In Italy, the Gestore dei Servizi Energetici (GSE) is responsible for regulating renewable energy production.
Terna handles the transmission of electricity in Italy. According to Terna, they “occupy the fundamental segment of transmission with a role of Transmission System Operator (TSO) and Independent System Operator (ISO) in a monopoly regime and on the basis of a government concession”.
Various suppliers act as middlemen, buying energy in the wholesale market and selling it to customers. At the same time, there are other suppliers who produce their own forms of energy, such as EnviTec Biogas AG. The market is very competitive.
What pushes these energy suppliers to become ‘sustainable’ is the type of energy in the demand and supply cycle. Let’s explain, suppliers can’t control the exact amount of power customers use, but they can heavily influence the type of power bought by customers.
So, a sustainable energy supplier is so-called because they concentrate on purchasing or producing and selling sustainable energy like biogas, hydropower, solar photovoltaics, etc. This happens when the suppliers match the type and amount of electricity bought by customers to the exact type and amount they buy from the wholesale market or produce themselves.
Now, suppose the electricity the suppliers buy/produce is 100% sustainable. In that case, the electricity the customers will buy and use will also be 100% sustainable, thus influencing the metamorphosis of the energy market within Italy.
The major player in the Italian electricity generation market used to be Enel, which held 28% of the market share in 2011. There was a mandatory sale law for competition regulation which allowed Enel’s share to decline from 49% to the current percentage between 2003 and 2011. This also allowed smaller operators to enter the market and increase their shares exponentially. These competitors are Edison, Eni, E. ON and others.
Distribution is carried out by a handful of operators via concessions from the government, with Enel still having a majority hold of 86% through its distributary network operator DNO.
The Italian electricity market has a high consumption rate requiring dependence on energy imports and higher prices. To solve this, Italy has come up with a regulatory framework in its National Energy Strategy. It includes the liberalisation of supply, distribution, trading of electricity and unbundling of transmission activities.
Within Europe, Italy is one of the primary markets for investors because it provides an ideal climate for technological development as far as the energy sector is concerned. Saipem recently signed a renewable energy deal with Agnes and Qint’X to co-develop a floating solar PV technology with an offshore wind capacity of 450MW in the Italian Adriatic Sea.
The Italian Power Play
In Europe, Italy is one country with a very intriguing habit of setting and beating its own targets on renewable energy. It has entered into several technological collaborations to push further energy advances, such as that with the UAE aptly named InnovitalyUAE. Also, partnerships with Areva to invest in nuclear energy, which is considered clean energy, and its private investments with the solar-power multinational Sonnedix to promote renewable energy sector expansion.
This distinct European country wants to significantly reduce its carbon footprint by 80 – 95% relative to its 1995 levels by 2050, hoping to use more sustainable energy within its borders. This gives these sustainable energy suppliers the upper hand in dictating the Italian energy market prices altogether.
Additionally, Italy depends on a lot of net energy import with high energy prices, which bodes well for energy suppliers. In 2012, 82% of the national energy demand was met by net imports while national production from gas, oil and renewables stood at a mere 4.3%, 3.5% and 11.1%, respectively.
However, Italy is one of the countries with the lowest energy intensity levels, meaning final energy use has been declining in recent years with improvements in electricity generation. They also have promising technological advancements evident in one of the world’s most efficient combined-cycle gas turbines parks.
Sustainable energy suppliers are at the top of the food chain in the Italian energy sector because Italy now relies immensely on sustainable energy to meet its set targets. This pushes customers, consumers and prosumers alike to focus on sustainability in energy production and use. The incentives also offered are a good motivator to continuously tow this line.
In Europe, some countries stand out for renewable energy conversation, and Italy is one of the top players. For 2018 and 2020, respectively, Italy beat its renewable energy targets. The total energy produced by hydroelectric, solar, wind, bioenergy and geothermal power in Italy for 2018 reached 17.8% of final gross consumption, going past the 17% target set for 2020.
There was a 7.7% of consumption in the transport sector for individual sectors, 33.9% in electricity production and 19.2% in heat consumption from renewable energy sources within Italy in 2018. Overall, with that amount of electricity consumption, Italy greatly exceeded the National Action Plan’s target on renewable energy sources, also known as the PAN, for the years 2018 (24.6%) and 2020 (26.4%).
Italy is ranked among the top ten in Europe as part of the list of countries leading electricity production from renewable energy sources. The national impact on the European Union’s total is about 10.7%. The ambitious target for 2030 set by Italy’s National Energy and Climate Plan accounts for 30% consumption with renewable energy sources. So this makes it necessary for Italy to promote and install its renewable energy plans in the future.
Italy’s Renewable Energy Journey, How Far They’ve Come.
The fastest-growing source of renewable energy in Italy is photovoltaic solar energy (PV). Data from 2018, the last full year of available data, shows that photovoltaic systems and installations produced over 22 TWh of energy.
Material from the IEA’s papers on the Global PV Markets also details the impact PV has on the Italian energy sector; accordingly, photovoltaic energy produced by Italy in 2020 was 7.5% of total electricity generation.
With its $6million renewable energy incentives program and a 20.8GW total PV installed capacity as of 2019, more power plants are encouraged to enrol for the specifically packaged incentives. Italy’s strategy for 2021 – 2030 is spelt out in its Integrated National Plan for Energy and Climate (PNIEC). It addresses decarbonisation, energy efficiency, self-consumption and distributed generation, energy security and consumption electrification. This strategy aims to bring the part of renewable energy of the final gross consumption rate to 30% by 2030.
Policies Promoting The Growth Of Renewable Energy In Italy
After beating its own 17% set target for renewables shares six years ahead of schedule, Italy has set about creating policies and guidelines to streamline the renewable energy sector for maximum profit all around. It is working under the EU Energy Roadmap 2050 of decreasing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80 per cent from 1990 levels using its National Energy Strategy 10-year road map.
The National Energy Strategy seeks to increase competitiveness, sustainability and security in the Italian national energy sector through schemes and incentives specifically tailored to the Italian market. The schemes or policies responsible for renewable energy – electricity in Italy are controlled by Gestore dei Servizi Energetic (GSE – the Manager of Electricity Services).
Some of the policies are:
- Electricity generated from renewable energy sources is promoted through VAT- and real estate tax deductions.
- Electricity generated from renewable energy sources fed into the grid can be sold on the free market or to the GSE on a guaranteed minimum price colloquially termed “ritiro dedicato.”
- Net-metering, also known as “scambio sul posto”, provides a convenient compensation to prosumers for the electricity fed into the grid.
- Priority access must be given to renewable energy plants by grid operators.
- Priority dispatch of electricity from renewable sources is also an obligation.
- Grid operators can expand the grid if necessary and requested by plant operators.
As for renewable energy in the heating sector, there are a few policies available as well:
- District heating and cooling networks are managed at local levels
- Development of the installations needed for renewable energy sources in heating (RES-H) is supported by price-based mechanisms
- There is a tax regulation mechanism in place to promote using renewable energy sources for heating
Other general policies that concern renewable energy sources in Italy include:
- Certificates of installed energy plants are obligatory
- All new or refurbished buildings must integrate RES, with an extra 10% to the obligation level for public buildings
Ongoing Renewable Energy Projects In Italy.
There are many completed renewable energy projects within Italy, while others are still in the planning stages. However, available data for 2020 is all but non-existent because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but with 2021 giving us a new lease on life, some projects should soon begin to see daylight, such as that of Eni.
One of Europe’s largest oil company that has decided to diversify into renewables has received authorisation for a few renewable energy projects in Italy. The State Hydrocarbons Authority, also known as Ente Nazionale Idrocarburi or ENI for short, is building a 4.5 MW photovoltaic plant in Trecate to power their production site.
A subsidiary of ENI, called ENI New Energy, acquired three wind projects with a total capacity of 35 MW in the Puglia region of Italy. These will be the first wind projects undertaken by ENI in Italy, and it’s expected to produce approximately 81 GWh annually, avoiding around 33,400 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year. Construction is to begin in the third quarter of 2021.
When it comes to electricity generation, the National Plan for Energy and Climate (PNIEC) expects power generated by renewables to increase by 65% by 2030 compared to its current total.
Renewables are also scheduled to cover more than 55% of national electricity consumption, estimated at 337 TWh in 2030.
The plan is to concentrate on two renewables, wind energy and photovoltaic energy, with both renewables reaching more than twice the amount of installed power in 2030 than what is currently attainable. This means the increase in total installed power from renewables would go up to 75%.
Italy is not taking any pauses in its race to become the only contender for renewable energy innovations in Europe. It has beat its set targets twice in a row and continues to set higher standards for its sustainability. Hive Power is optimistic about the tremendous progress that can be made in Italy’s renewable energy journey with the inclusion of AI-powered smart grid technologies to promote more innovative solutions.