Italian geothermal sector with urgent call for political support

Italian geothermal sector with urgent call for political support Bagnore 3 plant, Tuscany, Italy (source: Enel Green Power)
Alexander Richter 10 Mar 2021

In urgent call for a meeting with Minister of Ecological Transition in Italy, the Italian Geothermal Union points to the lack of political support for geothermal in the country.

The Italian Geothermal Union has published an open call for a meeting with the Minister of Ecological Transition in Italy. “For many years, the lack or limited effectiveness of incentives and still inadequate legislation have severely slowed down the development of geothermal technologies in Italy”

Scientific data and correct information to relaunch geothermal energy, whose development in Italy is proceeding so slowly that it arouses particular alarm even in a context where all renewable energies – held back by elephantine authorization procedures and Nimby disputes – are advancing at a snail’s pace . This, in summary, is the proposal made today by the Italian Geothermal Union (UGI) to the new Minister of Ecological Transition Roberto Cingolani.

The whole Council of the UGI, headed by the president – and first researcher at the CNR of Pisa – Adele Manzella, in fact sent an open letter to the minister wishing him good work and asking him for “a first in-depth meeting” on geothermal energy.

The request starts from a simple observation: although geothermal energy offers “effective, sustainable and resilient solutions to the problem of energy supply, both thermal and electrical”, in fact “for many years the lack or limited effectiveness of incentives and legislation still inadequate have strongly slowed down the development of geothermal technologies in Italy, displacing the original skills of the Italian industrial chain, jeopardizing the investments already planned and limiting market and employment development ».

But now a fundamental opportunity opens up for the country to try to turn the page. Italy must in fact update its National Integrated Energy and Climate Plan (Pniec) to achieve the climate objectives set by the EU at 2030 (-55% emissions compared to 1990), and above all it is called upon to draw up the National Recovery Plan and resilience (Pnrr) to access the approximately 200 billion euros envisaged by the Next Generation Eu . In both documents, to date the presence of geothermal energy is minimal if not absent: an error that we cannot afford, for several reasons.

A few examples? «Its characteristics of stability and continuity in the supply represent a fundamental element for the planning of the renewable energy mix», recalls the Ugi. Without forgetting that geothermal energy boasts “national technologies and activities to the point of being able to speak of” Italian supply chain “, a term that is difficult to use for other renewable energy technologies”, even more so in a context where the Italian trade deficit in low carbon technologies has grown by 60 % only in the last year .

At the same time, geothermal energy offers effective and sustainable solutions both for the production of electricity and for the heating and cooling of environments, two sectors that in Italy “are still extremely dependent on fossil fuels”. Yet some “dysfunctions” are not only slowing down, but in many ways even “preventing the development of geothermal” in the very country where geothermal technologies were born over two centuries ago.

Unfortunately, these are very well known problems in Tuscany, which can be summarized in two major sectors: the “lack of effective incentives” and the “lack of an adequate regulatory regime”, while it is no coincidence that geothermal energy has been hovering for too long “an attitude of scarce attention or even oppositional on geothermal technologies, which we believe may be attributable to a profound mistrust, fueled by fears that the lack of knowledge of such a complex subject nourishes and strengthens ».

In terms of incentives, as regards the thermal uses of geothermal energy, Ugi records that to date there are no effective ones “to promote district heating and cooling in urban areas”, while the 110% Superbonus for energy efficiency could be yes ” an excellent incentive tool “for geothermal heat pumps (geothermal exchangers) but only if it can be” used, also in the form of a guarantee, over the long term “. But in the electricity sector it is even worse: «The discriminating exclusion of geothermal energy from the support system intended to finance renewable sources and technologies (Fer 1 decree) and the prolonged wait for the Fer 2 decree have frozen support for geothermal technologies. We learn from press reports that, in the context of the Milleproroghe decree, for the two-year period 2020-2022, incentives for pilot geothermal plants are no longer available: if this were confirmed, geothermal technologies, which were already the least encouraged among renewable sources, would be the only renewable technologies to be excluded from incentives in Italy . A unique case in Europe and in the world ».

As regards the regulatory regime, it is sufficient to remember that the decree for the design and construction of geo-exchangers (the so-called “Probe-laying decree”), based on Legislative Decree 28/2011 “had to be approved within three months of entry into force and still follows an uncertain process”, while “the authorization process for projects that use geothermal resources of national and local interest is so complex and tortuous as to totally debase the times formally required by law “.

“These gaps, to which the uncertainty due to the expected deadlines of geothermal concessions for electricity production is added – underlines by Ugi – not only slow down but even prevent the technical and scientific development of both electrical and thermal use of an important renewable resource such as geothermal “. So much so that in the electricity sector “they totally undermine the investments planned for new plants (both flash technology and total reinjection) and for the upgrading of existing ones”.

To give a change to this disheartening state of the art, Ugi therefore turns to Minister Cingolani, a physicist by training devoted to innovation and allergic to ideologies , making himself “available” and able to bring “further information and topics mentioned here, offering a contribution of ideas and experiences to the work in progress for the improvement of the NRP and energy policy”.

Source: Unione Geotermica Italian via GreenReport