Renewable sources and efficient waste management can increase Italy’s energy autonomy | The European House - Ambrosetti

02 September 2022

Renewable sources and efficient waste management can increase Italy’s energy autonomy

The post-pandemic phase has made the ecological and energy transition a priority, especially in view of the decarbonisation of the economy. In this context, the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, which broke out in February 2022, has generated strong implications for the international energy framework and especially for exports of raw materials.

The new scenarios have highlighted the importance of energy autonomy, that is to ensure the supply of raw materials, increasing the national energy production and the energy efficiency of consumption.

According to the study carried out in collaboration with the A2A Group and presented on September 2, 2022 at the 48th Cernobbio Forum, Italy is one of the countries with the lowest energy autonomy in Europe, producing on its territory only 22.5% of the energy consumed in the country, compared with a European average of 39.5%. Italy is at the 23rd place in the EU, before Malta (2.7%), Luxembourg (5.0%), Cyprus (7.2%), and Belgium (22.4%).

While Italy is currently ranked at the bottom in Europe for energy autonomy, it is among the most virtuous countries in terms of improvement of the indicator. Between 2000 and 2019, the indicator grew by 9 percentage points, more than 2 times than France (3,7 percentage points) and more than 4 times than Spain (1,8 percentage points). This trend is attributable to the development of renewable energy sources, whose high availability on the territory places Italy at the 2nd place in the EU, after France.

At the same time, however, the installation of renewable energy plants has slowed down in recent years. By investing on them, the country could generate an increase of 105.1 GW of solar power (almost 5 times the capacity installed today), 21.1 GW of wind power (almost 2 times the capacity installed today) and 3.3 GW of hydroelectric power (over 20% of the capacity installed today).

Waste material is the fourth local raw material in Italy, besides water, sun, and wind. The efficient management of waste is a major issue today, considering Italy’s low energy autonomy combined with a high rate of delivery of waste to landfills, which in 2020 reached 20%, still higher than the European target of 10%, to be reached by 2035.

According to the model developed by The European House - Ambrosetti, about 8 million tons of waste may be sent to energy recovery through the “zero waste to landfill” approach, thus enabling an electricity production of over 7 TWh (+55% compared to 2020). The development of biomethane in the country may activate about 6.3 billion m3 (equal to 8% of national gas consumption and 22% of gas imported from Russia in 2021).

In general, by creating development opportunities related to water, wind, sun and waste management, the Italian energy autonomy might be tripled (up to 58.4%), producing 35.9% more energy than today, about 4 times the increase recorded in the last 20 years. 

Download the Report “Verso l’autonomia energetica italiana: acqua, vento, sole, rifiuti le nostre materie prime. Il fondamentale contributo delle regioni per il raggiungimento dei nostri obiettivi” (in Italian)