Italy set new solar and wind records last year but is still off track for 2030, expert says

Italy set new solar and wind records last year but is still off track for 2030, expert says

Solar and wind energy produced a record amount of power in Italy last year, the country’s grid operator Terna said yesterday.

Wind farms generated a record 23.4 Terawatt hours (TWh) of energy last year, while solar panels pipped their previous total to hit 30.6 TWh.

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All renewable sources, including hydro, met almost 37 per cent of the Mediterranean nation’s electricity demand — up from 31 per cent in 2022.

But Italy is still off track to meet its energy transition target of 70 per cent electricity from renewables by 2030.

“These records show that the Italian renewables sector is finally waking from its slumber,” Chris Rosslowe, senior energy and climate data analyst at think tank Ember tells Euronews Green.

“However, the reported increase in renewable generation looks better than it really is due to a recovery in hydropower production after a drought-affected 2022.”

To achieve its 2030 goal, Italy’s national energy and climate plan (NECP) shows that wind and solar production needs to grow by 17 per cent a year — compared to around 13 per cent last year.

How is Italy’s electricity mix changing?

Terna says that installed renewable capacity increased by 5.8 gigawatt (GW) in 2023. That’s 2.7 GW greater than the figure for these new green ‘activations’ the previous year.

But still short of the roughly 9 GW per year growth required until 2030, Rosslowe points out.

While there was an upward tick in renewables across the board, the operator notes that hydroelectric production increased in particular — returning to previous levels after a drought-struck performance in 2022.

As green energy rose, power production from gas and coal plants fell: by 17.4 per cent and 42 per cent respectively.

The decline in Italian fossil fuel production was also helped by a 2.8 per cent drop in electricity consumption compared to 2022 — a continued fallout from the energy crisis, Terna says. It was further eased by electricity imports from abroad.

The large drop in coal-fired production, Terna explains, is “a consequence of suspension in 2023 of initiatives to maximise the use of coal-burning power plants introduced at the peak of the gas crisis.”

What is driving Italian wind and solar forward — and holding it back?

The world is in the midst of an “unstoppable” shift to clean energy, the IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol said last year.

That momentum is evident not only in Italy’s wind and solar growth, but the surrounding technology to help the renewables thrive.

Terna praises the role of interconnections in the 2023 release, “as a tool enabling efficiency and security of the electricity system”.

“Complimentary to the growth in renewables, the development of electricity storage is picking up quickly,” adds Rosslowe. “Plans are being put in place to support the development of new storage capacity in order to safely manage the growth in renewables.”

However underling national and local issues remain. Italy’s renewables rollout is “plagued” by long and complex permitting procedures, according to the IEA.


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