Let’s start with two data. According to the report “Towards Italian energy autonomy” by The European House-Ambrosetti in collaboration with A2A, Italy is fifth last in Europe for energy autonomy (22.5%, against the EU average of 39.5% in 2019), but is second in terms of availability of renewable resources. Let’s add a third: our country has risen, in six months, by three positions (from 15th to 12th place out of 40) in the EY world ranking on attractiveness in the renewable energy sector. This derives from a happy situation: an immature market, the new draft of the Fer 2 Decree, which supports the efforts to streamline the permit procedure through dedicated incentives for the electricity production of renewable plants.
The European framework
Expanding to the European framework, we are faced with two forces that collide: one comes from below, and intercepts the desire for self-determination of individuals. The other comes from above, because European states have realized that they will not be able to achieve the targets set for 2030 and 2050 in the Clean Energy Package if they do not give space to widespread forces that come from citizens. All this is translating into the emergence of crowdfunding initiatives related to renewable energy. In practice, you buy a share in a photovoltaic, wind, hydroelectric or district heating plant and receive a fixed return ranging from 4% to peaks of 7%, with paid-up capital from 100 euros up to 5 thousand euros.
The campaigns were launched on platforms such as Ener2Crowd and Crowdlender by both SMEs and large utility multinationals such as Enel, Edison, Edp Renewables. In this second case, the goal is to seek collaboration with local communities. “By 2030 we need to build new green capacity for about 7,000 megawatts a year, against an average of about 1,000 between 2019 and 2021,” explains Davide Colucci, Edison’s hydroelectric asset development manager. «Crowdfunding transfers to the induced territory, investments, job opportunities; confrontation is strengthened and needs emerge which an intelligent dialogue can respond to». This year in its third edition, EdisonCrowd has launched crowdfunding for the mini-hydroelectric plant of Quassolo (Turin), recognizing 6% annual fixed interest to residents of the province. Indeed, involvement is enhanced by reserving the campaign as a priority for residents of the municipality, and then opening it up to citizens of the province, region and national territory.
This is confirmed by Eleonora Petrarca, Italy business development manager for Enel Green Power, which she successfully financed four solar parks, the first in 2021. «For Italy, the achievement of the energy transition objectives will pass from the active involvement of local communities and a whole series of stakeholders that revolve around renewable plants and with whom, already in the design phase, we collaborate, as engineers and technical-professional studios. In addition to crowdfunding, we have also promoted another method of involvement, open to anyone who has land and wants to sell or rent it to carry out solar or wind projects. By entering some data on the site www.enelgreenpower.com/it/paesi/europa/italia/affitto-terreno you will be contacted for an evaluation. In 2022 we had over 3,000 proposals». The latest renewable choice project (Enel’s green energy crowdfunding) is the largest photovoltaic plant in northern Italy, built in Trino, in the Vercelli area. Here stood one of the four former Italian nuclear power plants, now it will house a plant with 75 megawatts of photovoltaics and 25 of batteries. The campaign was covered entirely by the citizens of the municipality, who will have a fixed return of 5.5%. Petrarca explains that, in 2023, other crowdfunding projects are planned in the area which aim at the participation of citizens, the active part and shareholders of the plant itself.
If technology, attractiveness of investment and involvement of local communities are all elements already present in the formula for the success of renewable energy in Italy, what is missing? “Making the authorization process more efficient is one of the main aspects to be accelerated,” concludes Petrarca. Today we also wait a year and a half to obtain authorization for a photovoltaic system; five-seven for wind power. When you get there, the technology is often obsolete, you have to ask for variations and start all over again.