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Climate Change Mitigation

Within Italian energy policy, the most effective tool to reduce GHG emissions from electricity supply has been support for cogeneration, Combined Heat and Power (CHP), which makes it possible to increase the conversion efficiency of energy from primary sources. Since 1997, net electricity generation through thermal cogeneration has followed a trend parallel to total electricity generation from thermal power plants, (Figure 6): between 1997 and 2008 the average annual increase was approximately 5 424 GWh/year for electricity produced through combined heat and power generation, while the overall average increase in total electricity generation from thermal power plants was 5 487 GWh/year. The figures for the production of electricity without heat recovery remained almost constant during the period considered. These figures show that, since 1997, the need for new electricity from thermal power plants has been completely met through cogeneration. This trend was also influenced by the increasing use of natural gas for electricity generation in thermal power plants. This is due not only to the low CO2 emissions factor of natural gas, compared to other primary sources, but also to the greater efficiency of combined cycles fuelled by natural gas. For instance, during the period 1996-2008, the average specific consumption of natural gas for net electricity generation decreased by 20.1 %.


EU Directive 2006/32/EC sets objectives for Member States regarding the efficiency of energy end-uses and energy services: the general national target for energy savings is 9 % within the ninth year of the application of the directive – 2016. Under the provisions of Article 4, Member States must enact effective measures to meet this target. The Action Plan for Energy Efficiency, presented by Italy in July 2007 identifies a series of measures that will make possible energy savings of 9.6 % in 2016, compared to average energy consumption of 2001-2005. In this framework a key role is played by the system of white certificates, stipulated under Article 6 of Directive 2006/32/EC.


The Italian White Certificates or Energy Efficiency Titles (EET) scheme was originally introduced in July 2001 by means of two Ministerial Decrees[1] as an innovative approach to combine a command and control policy with a market-oriented instrument, and started in 2005. According to those decrees, Italian Distribution System Operators (DSO) of gas and electricity with more than 100 000 customers were obliged to achieve energy savings not lower than the target defined within the scheme.

The initial targets were modified by two new Decrees approved in April 2006[2] and, later, by the Decree of the Ministry for the Economic Development of 21 December 2007[3].

This last decree extends the scope of the law to DSOs with 50 000 customers and allows companies with an Energy Manager on their staff to operate in the energy efficiency programme, and also Energy Saving Companies (ESCOs) and/or companies controlled by DSOs to operate in the scheme.

In addition, it introduces new targets for 2008 and 2009 and extends the commitment period from 2009 to 2012, according to Table 1:


Table 1: National target for primary energy savings

Target for the Italian White Certificate System



Electricity distributors

Gas distributors



























Since the start of the scheme, the following savings have been achieved:

ü     2005-2006 (target 2005): 286 837 toe;

ü     2006-2007 (target 2006): 611 529 toe;

ü     2007-2008 (target 2007): 903 627 toe;

ü     2008-2009 (target 2008): about 1 818 000 toe

for a total amount of 3 620 000 toe; this means that the 2005, 2006 and 2007 targets have been exceeded – the figures for 2008 are still preliminary. As concerns the type of fuel which has been saved, savings can be split as follows:

ü     77% as electricity;

ü     19% as natural gas;

ü     4% as liquid and solid fuels.


Since the early 1990s, several different schemes have been introduced to promote renewable energy sources. A feed-in tariff system was adopted in 1992 – CIP 6 – but its high costs and unsatisfactory results suggested its suspension, provided for by the decree 24 January 1997.  Under this decree, only plants already operating or at least under construction at the time of its entry into force could still qualify for the CIP 6 incentives. A new incentive scheme, based on a market-oriented mechanism, was later introduced through legislative decree 79/99. This introduced an obligation on electricity generators and importers to feed the grid with a minimum share of electricity produced from renewable sources. The obligation started in 2002. The initial share was set at 2 % of total electricity produced or imported, exceeding 100 GWh, but an increase of this quota over time was already planned in the decree. Providers are allowed to fulfil their obligation by different means:

-     they can generate the required share of renewable electricity by setting up new renewable capacity;

-     they can import the required share of renewable electricity from countries where a similar mechanism is in force;

-     they can purchase the relative quota, represented by Green Certificates, on the market.


Photovoltaic electricity generation benefits from a dedicated scheme. The decree of 28 July 2005, later amended by the decree of 6 February 2006, introduced a feed-in tariff system for electricity produced by photovoltaic conversion of solar energy.


The installed capacity of renewable energy sources increased by approximately 1 000 MW in 2007 and 1 500 MW in 2008, with an increase of 4.7 % between 2006 and 2007 and 7.0 % between 2007 and 2008. In 2008 the electricity produced from renewable sources was approximately 59.7 TWh, while total electricity production was 318.2 TWh, meaning that electricity from renewable sources accounts for 18.8 % of total electricity production. The overall production trend is influenced by fluctuations in the share of hydroelectric energy as a result of meteorological conditions, as well as the growing contribution of  wind power, geothermal energy, biomasses and waste. For 1997-2008 there have been noticeable increases in the production of electricity from wind power, from 117.8 to 4 861.3 GWh during for 1997-2008, and energy from biomasses/waste, from 820.3 to 7 522.5 GWh, as well as from geothermal energy, from 3 905.2 to 5 520.3 GWh. The contribution of photovoltaic energy has increased significantly in the last two years from 39.0 GWh in 2007 to 193.0 GWh in 2008, but its share remains negligible. Despite recent increases, gross electricity generation from renewable sources remains well below the objective of approximately 75 TWh by 2010, established by Directive 2001/77/EC, if imports of electricity produced from renewable sources are not taken into account. The same considerations apply to the share of renewables in primary energy consumption; according to Directive 2009/28/CE, the consumption of energy produced from renewable energy sources should, in 2020, reach 17 % of the gross inland consumption in Italy – the most recent value is 6.9 % in 2007.


Fuel consumption in the transport sector has increased steadily since 1990, by around 22.4 % between 1990 and 2008. The percentage of fuels with low environmental impact, natural gas, LPG, bio-diesel, out of total fuels shows irregular results, going from 5.6 % in 1990 to 6.9 % in 2008. The recent increase in the consumption of natural gas and bio-diesel has been partially offset by a drop in LPG sales starting from 1997.


Based on the available data, it is clear that the limited progress made in the transport sector through the implementation of technological measures involving engine efficiency are being offset, to a greater extent in Italy than in the other European countries,  by growth in the demand for transport, especially by road, meaning that the environmental impact of the transport sector continues to grow.


As concerns other GHG emissions, implementation of national and EU waste legislation has influenced trends in methane (CH4) and CO2 emissions from this sector, and is expected to continue to have significant impact. The disposal of municipal solid waste (MSW) in landfill sites is still the main disposal practice, but the percentage of municipal solid waste disposed of in landfill sites dropped from 91 % in 1990 to 49 % in 2008 as both waste incineration and, particularly, composting and mechanical and biological treatment have increased.

In particular, net CH4 emissions from landfill sites have decreased dramatically from 219.1 Mt in 1990 to 74.1 Mt in 2008 due to the collection of landfill gas in all managed disposal sites and its subsequent combustion for flaring or energy purposes.


In contrast to the increase in GHG emissions resulting from various production activities and deforestation, a significant amount of CO2 has been removed from the atmosphere by the Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) sector. In Italy, this sector, which includes emissions and removals from different land uses such as forest land, cropland, grassland, settlements and wetlands, and land-use changes, accounted for 64.76 Mt CO2-eq. in 1990 and 87.30 Mt CO2-eq. in 2008. However, only the fraction removed from managed forests is accountable under the Kyoto Protocol, according to Article 3.3, afforestation, reforestation and deforestation, and Article 3.4, forest management[4].



Antonio Caputo, Alessandra Galosi, Domenico Gaudioso, Renato Marra Campanale (ISPRA), Aldo Femia (ISTAT)





AEEG, 2008. “Third Annual Report on the Mechanism of Energy Efficiency Titles”, prepared by the Authority for Electricity and Gas, Customer and Quality Service Directorate, DSM Unit, 2 December 2008. Known in Italy as “Terzo Rapporto Annuale sul Meccanismo dei Titoli di Efficienza Energetica”

ENEA, Rapporto Energia e Ambiente 2008: Analisi e Scenari, July 2009

Femia A. (Istat), Marra Campanale R. (ISPRA), Production-related air emissions in Italy 1992-2006, a decomposition analysis, in “Environmental Efficiency, Innovation and Economic Performance”, edited by Anna Montini, Massimiliano Mazzanti, forthcoming.

ISPRA, Italian Greenhouse Gas Inventory 1990-2008 - National Inventory Report 2010 - Annual Report for submission under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the European Union’s Greenhouse Gas Monitoring Mechanism, edited by Daniela Romano et al.


[1] Ministerial decrees of 24 April 2001 and 20 July 2004 ‘Identification of quantitative national targets for end-use energy efficiency’ and Identification of quantitative national targets for energy savings and development of renewable sources for electricity and gas

[2] Ministerial decree of 20 July 2004 ‘New identification of national targets of energy savings and development of energy renewable as art. 16, comma 4, of Decree Legislative 23 May 2000 n. 164’ and Ministerial decree of 20 July 2004 ‘Identification of National quantity target to improve energy efficiency in the end use as art. 9, comma 1, of Decree Legislative 16 March 1999 n. 79’, G.U. n. 205 of 1st September 2004

[3] Decree of Economic Development Ministry of 21st December 2007 ‘Review and update of Decrees 20 July 2004 about the improvement of energy efficiency in final end use, energy savings and development of renewable sources’, G.U. n. 300 of 28th December 2007.

[4] Italy has elected only forest management as additional activity under art. 3.4 of the Kyoto Protocol; the other eligible activities are cropland management, grazing land management and re-vegetation)



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[Commonality topics] climate change

[COMMONALITY] What are the policy responses?
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