Italy: energy and emissions

In the referendum on 12th June Italians voted to reject nuclear power, by a majority of 94%, scuppering Berlusconi’s plans for a major expansion of nuclear. They join Germany, Switzerland and others in quitting nuclear power. Currently Italy relies heavily on energy imports, of oil, gas and electricity, and this decision could increase this trend. However the good news is that Italy is moving ahead rapidly with renewables, as the graphs for solar and wind show.
The Italian photovoltaics sector has been booming since 2007, partly due to generous feed in tariffs. The dramatic effect of these can be seen in the middle graph above. Some reports say Italy is currently second only to Germany in terms of installed capacity, and catching up as Germany cuts back on feed in tariffs. In terms of concentrating solar power Italy is a long way behind Spain, but it did open the small but impressive Archimede plant in Sicily last year.
Currently Italy gets most of its renewable electricity from hydro power. This is unlikely to be able to expand very much due to the limited number of possible locations. Italy has good geothermal potential. In 1911 it opened the world’s first geothermal power station at Larderello in Southern Tuscany. Currently it has 843 MW of installed geothermal capacity, ranking it at number five in the world. It recently opened a new 20 MW facility in Tuscany. There appears to be considerable scope for further expansion. Wind power is expanding rapidly, and looks set to continue to do so, as the bottom graph shows.
Italy currently has the highest electricity prices in Europe, which may be bad news for consumers but is good news from a sustainability point of view. It means the payback times on energy efficiency and renewables are quicker than in places with lower electricity prices.
Italian per capita carbon emissions from energy use appear to have peaked in 2003 at over 8 tonnes, and now are slowly beginning to fall. They have a long way to go before the Italian economy could be said to be sustainable, and renewables are still a small percentage of total electricity generation, but let’s celebrate with the Italian people their commitment to renewables and falling Co2 emissions.
Lots more data on Italian energy issues here
Italian Referendum