Top Ten Highlights of Cleantech in Italy

In the field of renewable energy, the priorities in Italy have included securing a cost-effective energy supply, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and guaranteeing energy sector competitiveness. Though the cleantech sector has been slow to grow, renewable energy in Italy will expand over time with a number of incentives, legislations, and other contributions made to increase the overall impact of cleantech in this European nation.

1) Increased Move to Cleantech. In 2009, the largest photovoltaic solar energy plant was created in Italy. Developed by Enel, an Italian electric utility company, this solar plant was built to generate over seven million kilowatt hours each year, providing enough electricity for more than 2,500 homes in Italy. Not only is it providing electricity to thousands of homes, but it is lowering overall greenhouse gas emissions by roughly 5,000 tons of carbon dioxide per year.

2) Investment. Many outside firms have now been looking into renewable energy business opportunities within Italy. For example, the city of Piemonte, where the commitment to the research and development of alternative sources of energy is strong, provides a number of incentives and grants to outside businesses looking to invest into the city’s cleantech sector. Piemonte, like many other cities, have launched a number of initiatives to attract business that take an active role in the overall renewable energy strategy. Piemonte has allocated roughly three million euro to structural funds to increase their renewable energy resources. Because of the increase in investment to that one city, Piemonte has set their own 2020 goal to achieve twenty percent of greenhouse gas reductions, use of renewable energy, and energy savings.

3) Decrease of Reliance on Foreign Imports. Italy relies on the outside for more than 85 percent of the country’s total electricity needs. It is one of the most dependent countries in Europe. Therefore, the more to cleantech has been able to slowly wean Italy off its dependence on foreign energy sources, by making an investment into in-house renewable energy consumption. In the last few years, to decrease this reliance, Italy has been working up its wind and solar power sectors to increase energy efficiency and savings from these two renewable energy sources. To further decrease the dependence on imports for electricity, Italy, a country that has had a ban on the use of nuclear power, is looking to lower the bureaucracy and red tape to allow for the creation of a nuclear power station.

4) Hitting 2020 Goals. Since cleantech arrived in Italy, it has boosted its desire to meet the country’s 2020 goals. Because Italy’s own clean technologies center is still growing, instead of importing in oil and gas, Italy has been looking to import more clean technologies from outside the country. Italy wants to reach their goal; however, due to their slow start into the foray of cleantech, they must still rely on outside assistance. Italy will be receiving green power through building power interconnections with Tunisia, Albania, Switzerland, and Montenegro to increase renewable power imports.

5) Tocco’s “Renewable Stronghold.” Many cities in Italy, on their own venture, are moving into the world of clean technology. And it is not just for the major cities, but many small villages are taking on clean technologies as a way of saving money within the village. For example, there is the 2,700 person Italian village of Tocco. The four wind turbines the village has put up currently provides them with more than 30 percent of their electricity. The village has generated over $200,000 from the use of wind turbines in the last year, getting rid of local taxes for the year and fees for garbage pickup. There was even cash leftover to increase the budget for street cleaning and retrofit the village school with proper earthquake protection. Because of the success in Tocco, many other locations are starting to provide renewable energy options. Although Tocco is small and the rest of Italy is much larger, it is a boost in the right direction.

6) Increase in Solar Energy. Italy has become a rising star in the solar industry, for example, in 2010, SunPower, a California based company, developed projects that allowed for 85 MW of solar energy throughout the country. Italy is now starting to become the largest market for photovoltaic right behind Germany. Italy is becoming very favorable to project developers and investors, saying that in 2011, Italy could increase its solar projects by 3.9 GW.

7) Improving Energy Efficiency in Households. Italian principles have been put in place to assist in the improvement of household energy efficiency. For example, one law stipulates that new homes may only be built if they provide a renewable system that would produce electricity with a power of a minimum of one KW of electricity per home. All homes must also include water saving techniques in their design. Homes previously built that outfit themselves with renewable energy sources and energy efficiency products will receive tax deductions. Tax deductions will also be provided to individuals that by energy saving appliances.

8) Measures for Complete Energy Efficiency. There have been many measures taken for transportation, industry, households, and all of the above to increase energy efficiency. All household and industries are provided with incentives for producing energy using photovoltaic conversion from solar energy and provided with green certificates for producing energy from various renewable sources. Transportation must follow the EU Directive on biofuel usage and must also join programs from sustainable mobility enhancement.

9) White Certificate Scheme. Italy has been big with the environmental policy known as white certificates. These documents certify that there has been a reduction in energy consumption. This system requires that all distributors, suppliers, and producers of gas, oil, and electricity create measure of energy efficiency, and if not met, they will pay a pre-determined penalty. The certificates are given based on the total amount of energy saved. They can be used to meet their measurements or sold to others who still need to meet their targets.

10) Recycling Incentive. Italy, much like its EU neighbors have picked up a recycling scheme geared toward active recycling. In it, homes are rewarded or fined based on the amount they recycle. Homes that left a lot of garbage would be fined while those who recycle more and leave only a little garbage would receive rebates. A small rebate can do much in changing the attitude of individuals and what they throw away versus what they recycle.

Article by Shawn Lesser, president and founder of Atlanta-based Sustainable World Capital, which is focused on fund-raising for private equity cleantech/sustainable funds, as well as private cleantech companies and M&A. He is also a co- founder of the GCCA Global Cleantech Cluster Association, and can be reached at

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One comment on “Top Ten Highlights of Cleantech in Italy

Interesting insight into my Country’s moves towards sustainability, but with several inaccuracies. Among others:

1) I’m not sure which PV plant by Enel you’re referring to, but surely has little meaning after 2 years. Italy now has Europe’s largest PV plants. To name the most famous, we have one in Montalto di Castro (85 MW) and one in Rovigo with (72 MW), which rank 2nd and 3rd in the world to date. Neither is operated by Enel.

2) Piemonte is a Region, not a city. It’s like saying “California”.

3) 4 to 8 EPR nuclear stations are planned to be installed by 2030 in Italy, although citizens’ opposition is widespread, and our territory is highly seismic, making it very unlikely to finalise such draft plan.

6) Italy’s market swell to 6 GWs in 2010 (a third of the global market!), but a new Decree now threats solar market to a complete standstill for 2011, which will have deep effects on the global PV market.

One important piece of information that I think is missing, finally, is that Italy is by far the most advanced country in the World when it comes to smart grid. Virtually all Italian households have been fitted with smart meters, with an epic change that took place in the past few years. We now have over 30 million smart meters.


Carlo Ombello

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