Renewable Energy in Italy: Incentives, Bureaucratic Obstacles and Nimby Syndrome

Renewable Energy in Italy: Incentives, Bureaucratic Obstacles and Nimby Syndrome

Stefano Fanetti (University of Milan, Italy)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61350-344-7.ch004
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Italy is a country where the energy supply depends largely on imported raw materials (such as oil and natural gas). The favorable geographic location could encourage the development of renewable energy sources; nevertheless, the growth of alternative energy sources is slow. What are the reasons? This question will be dealt in this chapter, considering three different aspects of the issue: the economic incentives for renewable energies, the problematic process of authorization of the facilities and the local communities’ opposition to new plants. Besides the analysis of these issues, the aim of this paper is to identify possible solutions, taking into account the relevant legislative and regulatory changes that, at national and Community level, have affected and are affecting the field of renewable energy.
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It's clear that the energy policy options, carried out in national or supranational contexts (as, for example, within the EU), have a decisive impact on the economic and environmental future of each Country, and a profound impact on international relations, too.

This implies the need for courageous but reasoned decisions, which head toward alternative energy sources able to meet the growing energy demand, starting from the (already ascertained) untenableness of energy production based on oil and other hydrocarbons.

The global consumption of energy passed from 1 billion and 45 million toe in 1925 to over 10 billion in 2004 and for 2030 it is expected to overpass 16 billion. As a matter of fact today the mix of oil and natural gas meets 63% of the whole world energy consumption, while renewable sources fulfill barely 8%. If actual energy policies will not undergo a radical change it is a common opinion among experts that oil resources will be depleted within the next thirty to forty years.

In addition to problems of availability of oil source, also linked to the delicate geopolitical situations of the producing countries, the use of hydrocarbons for energy purposes raises important questions relating to environmental protection, in consideration of carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere from the burning process of thermal power stations. The estimated increase in energy demand, unless accompanied by policies to support energy efficiency and promote renewable sources, will cause a corresponding growth of the amount of greenhouse gases released with the consequent acceleration of climate changes already taking place.

Precisely these considerations have led to the fundamental international agreement, the Kyoto Protocol (Pozzo, 2003; Grubb, Vrolijk & Brack, 1999; Freestone & Streck, 2005; Oberthür & Ott, 1999), which sets different requirements for each State to reduce greenhouse gas emissions1, and related Community measures on this matter, including most recently the so-called “Climate-Energy Package” (Jordan, Huitema & van Asselt, 2010; Oberthür & Pallemaerts, 2010; Lin, 2009) with the European race toward the goal 20-20-20 in 2020 (20 per cent of energy from renewable sources, 20 percent more energy efficiency, 20 percent of greenhouse gas emissions less).

With regard to an issue of primary importance such as energy, the Community institutions have tried, in a responsible way, to promote a strategy consistent with the objectives set out at international level. Even if the EC Treaties didn’t provide for an explicit competence on energy, the European Union has developed a highly advanced policy in that matter both through planning documents and secondary legislation (directives and regulations), providing, among other things a directive ad hoc -the 2001/77 EC (recently repealed and replaced by Directive 2009/28 EC)- for the promotion renewable energy (Schäfer, 2005; Pozzo, 2009; Johnston, Nenholf, Fouquet, Ragwitz & Resch, 2008).

Following up these far-sighted policies adopted by the European Union the answer of the Member States has not always been adequate, often confined to a sterile reception of Community laws without an overall systematization of legislative matters and an adaptation of the bureaucratic-administrative body.

Consequently, on the one hand, rules are not easily understood by operators who are compelled to face sources of different origins (European, national and regional) and, on the other, there is a lack of simplified procedures for the installation of plants fueled by renewable energy sources.

So the Italian situation is characterized, in spite of a wide range of economic incentives, by chronic bureaucratic obstacles that generate distrust in sector operators.

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