Renewables, Italy record: in 2023 it will reach 44%. But Europe is running faster

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Italy will set a record for renewables in 2023. The total net production of electricity, as reconstructed by Sole 24 based on public Terna data, occurred for 43.8% thanks to green sources, namely hydroelectric, wind, solar, biomass and geothermal. An encouraging figure, especially since it arrived immediately after the Russian gas crisis, but which should not lead to excessive enthusiasm. For three reasons. First of all because it was favored by the decline in productionestimated below 260 GW, at the lowest level since 1999. Secondly, the comparison with the European partners weighs heavily: net of the foreign balance, Germany and Spainalso favored by the collapse in electricity demand, have exceeded the 50% threshold of renewables, while Great Britain reached 47%; France is at 27%, but by reclassifying low carbon sources with nuclear it would take the lead with 93%. Third point: extending the comparison to the last decade, the Italy-Europe comparison is even more emblematic: in 2014 our country produced 37 GW between wind and photovoltaic and in 2023 it will reach 54 GW; in the same period France surpassed us (going from 24 to 68 GW) and Great Britain outclassed us (from 36 to 109 GW), Spain is over 100 GW, Germany dominates with almost 200 GW.

Wind and solar at the top

Renewables close to 44% of net production (the share of demand will be significantly lower), second Nicola Monti, CEO of Edisonmeans «going in the right direction, even if we are far from cruising speed. We need a more systemic vision which includes accumulations, networks, innovation and relaunch of hydroelectric investments”. Another key element: last year of all green generation, wind and photovoltaic accounted for 20.7% and 27.2%: together they therefore beat thehydroelectric (33.9%), long a true pillar of the Italian renewable portfolio. In 2023, in fact, it produced around 40 GW, but the 27 GW in 2022 (due to the drought) had reduced renewable generation to 35.6% of the total. In 2014, however, it was always the super performance of the dams (58 GW) that brought the overall figure to 43.3%. A number which, although determined by exceptional factors, is unfortunately close to the record of 43.8% with which 2023 ended. So ten years wasted? «The installations of renewables have traveled slowly due to this an end to incentives, bureaucracy and poor responsiveness of policy makers – points out Alessandro Marangoni, CEO of the Althesys think tank – The 5 GW of new plants in the last 12 months have contributed to the latest coup». Davide Tabarelli, president of Nomisma Energiacalls for caution: «The record of 2023 is linked to trend of structural reduction of our industries and energy efficiency: it will be very difficult to hit the target of 60% renewables by 2030.”

The leap in Germany and the UK

The evolution of installed capacity from 2014 to today speaks clearly: between wind and photovoltaic Italy has moved forward 1.5 GW per year (when 10 would be needed), France and Great Britain at 2.8, Spain at 3.6 and Germany even at 7.5. Turning the clock back to 2010, it is clear that Germany has eliminated nuclear power (which accounted for 22% of generation) and almost halved coal (to 26%), bringing renewables from 18% to 52.6%. Italy, on the other hand, has gone from 27% to 43% on green, but remains the most dependent in Europe on gas and hydroelectric which, thanks to the climate change, is subject to greater volatility. «In 2023 for Germany and Great Britain, wind power, particularly off shore, has made the difference – Tabarelli points out – Berlin has done a lot on renewables: between subsidies, permitting, electricity prices and confirmation of the territory the context has been very favourable.” The winds from the North Sea also pushed the British offshore: London hit the renewables record in 2023 with 47%. In just a few years, Great Britain has exited coal (which in 2014 was worth 30%), replacing it with green sources, with nuclear and gas together just under 50%. Same reasoning, with different numbers, for Spain.

The nuclear node

A final reflection on nuclear power which, net of the safety issue, remains a low carbon source. Reclassifying the European energy mix, France dominates with 93% of electricity produced with low emissions, followed by Spain (70%), Great Britain with 61%, Germany with 54% and Italy with 43.8%. «In the next 10 years this gap is destined to reduce because several countries will have to close some old generation plants, while renewables will grow: the real issue for Italy remains the dependence on thermoelectric power», he concludes Umberto Quadrino, president of Tages Holding.

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