Italy may well have been Europe's third biggest wind market last year, driven by high guaranteed power purchase prices (Windpower Monthly, March 2009), but to meet its target under the EU renewable energy directive, it has a long way to go. The directive requires Italy to source 17% of its energy from renewable energy sources (RES) by 2020, up from 5.2% in 2005 and 5.5% in 2008.
So far, the only significant plan to boost supply from renewables anywhere near enough to what is needed comes in a position paper published by the previous government in 2007. If implemented as is, however, renewables would only achieve a 13.6% penetration in the energy supply mix, according to its best-case scenario. In terms of electricity, renewables would generate around 104 TWh, meeting 25-27% of total forecast demand (table). Wind power would account for just 9.3% of all renewable energy and 5.4-5.8% of total electricity, the directive adds.
The Italian wind energy association, Associazione Nazionale Energia del Vento (ANEV), believes the paper underestimates wind's potential. The position paper says that, at most, Italy can accommodate 12 GW of installed wind capacity by 2020, now the country's unofficial target. This would require cumulative capacity to more than triple from the 3.7 GW installed at the end of 2008. A recent ANEV study, on the other hand, says capacity can more than quadruple to 16.2 MW, enabling the sector to supply nearly 7% of all electricity in 2020, up from around 2% last year. It would not be enough to ensure the country meets its overall 17% by 2020 RES target, but it will help.
The association points out that its study does not assume any development on land currently protected or designated an environmentally sensitive zone. Moreover, it provides for just 200 MW of offshore wind, 90% less than the position paper, which estimates 2000 MW could be installed in Italian waters. ANEV's Simone Togni says for the position paper's offshore estimate to be fulfilled, the government's planned revision of its proposed offshore support system needs to include significantly better incentives to woo developers. At present, the government wants to offer prices that are only marginally higher than onshore rates, he says. At the same time, a clear authorisation process for offshore wind farms is yet to be developed.
So for now the industry's focus is set to remain firmly on onshore development. But even here changes are afoot. Italy's economic development minister, Claudio Scajola, plans to reduce wind power purchase prices, currently some of the highest in Europe at EUR0.18/kWh (Windpower Monthly, March 2009), with a view to bringing them more in line with other leading wind nations.
In exchange, he has pledged to simplify the wind farm authorisation and grid connection process. "An excess of bureaucracy, the slowness and complexity of authorisation of plants to the electricity grid, translate into greater costs which, in turn, are reflected in (current) incentives," Scajola says. "We intend to end this vicious cycle."
Gianni Silvestrini of Italy's Kyoto Club agrees it is the right thing to do. "Wind's performance, with one gigawatt a year now being installed, has started to be quite positive," he says. "It is necessary to bring down incentives, which are quite high, and simplify the authorisation process (for wind plants)." Even if that happens, Italy may be hard-pressed to meet its binding renewable energy goals. Silvestrini expects Italy will be depending on a few percentage points from renewable energy imported from southeast Europe and northern Africa to fulfil its obligation, including power supplied by several projects planned by Italian wind developers in neighbouring countries.
Heather O'Brian, Windpower Monthly