Energia Agricola a km 0: the First 100% Renewable Agro-Energy Community in Italy

By Climate Scorecard Italy Country Manager Andrea Bruno

Italy has made strong progress in energy policy development, notably through the publication of the National Energy Strategy in 2013 (IEA, 2021). Such policy is strongly pro-renewables, which spurred exceptional growth in the renewable energy sector. Indeed, Italy reached its 2020 energy strategy target of 17% of renewables in gross energy consumption six years ahead of the deadline (Belisario, 2019). This growth was mainly driven by a period of government subsidies and investments particularly on solar photovoltaics and onshore wind between 2010 and 2013.

Figure 1: Installations per year and 2030 objectives

Source: (Legambiente, 2020)

The graph above describes the number of installations per year from 2011 to 2019 and the ones necessary in order to reach 2030 objectives. In both cases the presence of solar photovoltaic is crucial. This is the driver of Italy’s renewable energy growth and can be considered the best practice as far as both production and distribution of renewable energy are concerned.

Solar photovoltaics’ perceived importance increases further if applied to the concept of energy community, an instrument to incentivize energy efficiency and saving, allowing citizens and firms to connect with each other: consuming, storing, and exchanging energy. In Italy, several projects exist, with 41 districts using 100% renewables according to the 2020 Legambiente Report on renewable communities (Legambiente , 2020).

Such districts are completely energy self-sufficient. In 2019, the Italian government through the “Milleproroghe” decree has partially integrated the EU RED II Directive (2018/2001/EU), defining the energy communities as legal entities based on the open and voluntary participation of members (persons, SMEs, local authorities) whose objective is to provide environmental, economic, and social benefits at a community level thanks to the self-production and consumption of renewable energy.

The decree provided specific incentives for the energy communities in the form of premium tariffs for self-consumed energy. GSE (Gestore dei Servizi Energetici) acknowledges a unitary compensation for each kWh of shared electricity and, additionally, premium tariffs corresponding to 100€/MWh for collective self-consumption and 110€/MWh for renewable energy communities. These incentives last 20 years and are managed by GSE (more information on the functioning and access to the incentives are provided in the technical rules GSE factsheet). In order for the members to qualify as an energy community it is required to produce electricity for their self-consumption with renewable plants’ total capacity up to 200 kW, and share the electricity produced through the existing grid instantaneously, for instance through accumulation systems. GSE does not provide the community with batteries or other technology, but it is possible to request the service of immediate withdrawal of the energy in excess. This is why solar PV with batteries are particularly suitable for exploiting such systems, which are efficient and scalable if merged with smart grids systems based on blockchain technologies. In this regard, a case study from the 100% renewable municipalities was chosen as an example of such technology.

Zero Kilometers Agricultural Energy: The Veneto Agricultural Energy Community

The project “Energia Agricola a km 0”, or as they defined themselves “the first agro-energy community 100% renewable, was born in 2019 in the Veneto region. The table below summarizes the main features, players, and first results of the project.

 

Table 1: project summary

RegionVeneto
RES plantsPhotovoltaic

–       Electric energy produced: 8.510.780 kWh/y

% of renewables’ coverage 100%
FinancingPrivate
Emission reduction6.364 t/CO2 per year
PlayersColdiretti Veneto, ForGreen S.P.A. Società benefit

Source: adapted from (Legambiente, 2020)

The project is shaping a sustainable model of energy transition based on solar PV and blockchain technologies. The platform is based on a blockchain protocol able to automatically record the exchanges, connecting electricity going out from the provider to the one going in of the consumers. As it is shown in Table 1, each year 8.510.780 kWh are produced, generating a 100% necessities coverage from renewables. The project involves 514 farms, owners of renewable energy systems, producing and consuming clean energy, and selling the surplus to third parties, shaping the concept of “prosumers”: a recent concept defining those able to self-produce their energy to satisfy their own necessities and at the same time being active producers, selling the energy in excess to the market. In terms of environmental impacts, the project was capable of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 6.364 t/CO2 per year. Hence, few doubts exist on the effectiveness of the project. Additionally, affordability and convenience are also guaranteed by the coordination of private financing and public incentives. The declining cost of solar PV is well-known and consolidated at this point, making it competitive with traditional fossil fuel sources of energy. Moreover, ForGreen, technical partner of the project, collects the energy surplus from farmers without additional administrative costs, offering it to the Agricultural Energy Community at a discounted price. Undoubtedly, usage costs are even less than those associated with fossil fuels. Self-production allows for reduced electricity bills.

Is it scalable? Perhaps it is not as far as we think at the centralized grid existing today. This kind of technology, considering the current technological development, functions better on a small scale. After all, this is also the objective. This project is scalable meaning that other projects of the same size could be generated in other contexts throughout Italy. The agricultural sector is of fundamental importance and solar power is an abundant resource, especially in Southern Italy. Therefore, similar projects should be developed, exploiting solar PV and blockchain technologies, gradually engendering a decentralized energy system. Likewise, other countries with similar geographical endowments might benefit from such technologies.

Contact

Roberto Cingolani, Ministro della Transizione Ecologica

Email: MATTM@pec.minambiente.it

Email: segreteria.ministro@pec.minambiente.it

Learn More: References

Belisario, 2019. Renewable Energy World. [Online] Available at: https://www.renewableenergyworld.com/wind-power/can-italy-strike-twice/#gref

IEA, 2021. IEA. [Online] Available at: https://www.iea.org/countries/italy

Legambiente , 2020. Comunità Rinnovabili , s.l.: s.n.

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