Italy Has Reduced Its Use of Coal but Needs to Do More

Spotlight Activity: Italy Has Reduced Its Use of Coal but Needs to Do More

Coal is one of the most important sources of energy, and its use is controversial: it is the most polluting fossil fuel, but also the cheapest.

Italian production of coal is small. Almost 100% of the Italian coal comes from the Sulcis coal basin, in Sardinia, and it is mainly oven coke that is commonly used to produce iron and steel.

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the production of coal in Italy has decreased since 1990, down to 1806 Kt in 2016.

Almost 90% of the coal consumed in Italy comes by sea from U.S.A., South Africa, Australia, Indonesia, Colombia, Canada, China, Russia, and Venezuela. The following graph shows annual imports of coal by country group:

Italy has significantly reduced the use of coal during the last seven years, going from $3,673,222,000 in 2012 to $1,852,419,000 in 2017. Italy has already announced its phase-out, from coal but the transition is not straightforward.

Currently there are 12 coal plants in Italy that cover 10% of domestic energy consumption. According to Andrea Clavarino, president of the Assocarboni (Coal Trade Association), Italy coal-phase out is not totally positive. As he recently declared to the newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore, Italy is the only European country without nuclear power and with the smallest share of coal in energy production (10% vs 23% EU average).

In 2017, 28.5% of Italy’s energy production came from renewable sources and 45.5% came from natural gas. Because of this energy mix, the cost of energy in Italy is far above the average cost of energy in EU (around 50% more). The reason for the high cost of energy in Italy is because the supply of gas depends on foreign countries and the supply of renewable energy is still too dependent on State incentives. Thus concludes Clavarino, Italy’s coal-phase out will not have a significant impact on global CO2 emissions as Italian coal emissions are almost 0.0004% of global coal emissions. However, it will have a strongly negative impact on the international competitiveness of Italian manufacturers firms, mainly compared to German ones, that have lower energy costs in large part because of its continued reliance on coal (however the German government is committed to phasing out its own coal production).

WWF Italy has a different opinion and proposes a coal-to-clean energy transition, according to which it is possible to increase the use of already existing gas plants (without building new plants) and renewable energies.

Status: Right Direction (needs more work)

According to Italy’s 2050 long-term plan for a climate-neutral economy (part of the Integrated National Energy and Climate Plan), the Italian strategy follows the EU energy roadmap. It has a long-term goal of reducing the GHG emissions by 80-95%, when compared to the 1990 levels, by 2050.

Transition to clean energies is an ambitious program, and Italy must work on it. In the meantime, Italy can use natural gas instead of coal, as natural gas carbon emissions are 50% less than coal emissions per unit of energy produced.

Take Action

Please send the following message to the Ministry for Economic Development and the Undersecretary for Economic Development:

Dear Ministry of Economic Development, Luigi Di Maio, and Undersecretary for Economic Development, Davide Crippa,

Current environmental policies are positive, but it is necessary to accelerate the coal-phase out. Closing all 12 of the coal plants is a must.

The government could provide incentives to enterprises in order to keep the cost of energy low, and at the same time, sustain the coal-to-clean transition.

Send Action Alert Message to:

Ministry for Economic Development, Luigi Di Maio: 

Undersecretary for Economic Development, Davide Crippa: 

Learn More

National Energy Strategy:



Integrated National Energy and Climate Plan (IT):

IEA statistics:


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