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Green energy: the targets for 2030

The European Commission is at the forefront of tackling climate change. A new directive requires member states to draw up specific integrated national energy and climate plans for 2030. The intention is to eliminate the climate-changing emissions of the Old Continent within 30 years, driving sustainable development on a global level. Italy, with its Plan, undertakes to contribute substantially

by Matteo Monni
January - February 2020 | Back

It seems appropriate that this issue of Mondo Machina, the first of a new year and decade, takes stock of the much-discussed topic of sustainable development. For a long time, 2020 represented the reference date for achieving important goals essential for the protection of our Planet. Or, to be clearer, to prevent the environmental impacts of anthropogenic activities from worsening the quality of life - if not the survival - of Man himself.

It is no coincidence that in the scientific field, the current geological era is called the Anthropocene. This is precisely because of the proven correlation between the development of our species and a significant part of the dangerous territorial and climatic changes taking place. Given the situation, to avoid the worst, we need to act quickly, and definitely not on a geological timescale!

In terms of renewable energy sources (RES) and energy efficiency, in Europe the number 20 has a magical aura for the three objectives associated with it. By 2020, we had committed to reaching the fateful target of 20% reduction in climate-changing emissions, energy savings, and the use of RES.

At a national level, we can be partially satisfied, given that we actually exceeded two years in advance the target of the percentage of renewables on gross final consumption of energy (17% for Italy). According to the consolidated data, already in 2018, in our country the RES contribution exceeded 18%. In this path, which is not exactly linear, bioenergy stands out over all other sources, achieving alone approximately 11 Mtoe (millions of tonnes of oil equivalent), 50% of all green energy. This primacy will continue in the years to come on a global scale (see box).

The measures to contain greenhouse gas emission levels and to limit energy consumption were less satisfactory. In truth, these have fallen in recent years, but more due to the economic crisis than to policies to combat the environmental crisis.

In any case, although these objectives may have seemed ambitious at the time, they will have to be expanded further in the future, both because they have been partially disregarded and because they were overestimated. For this reason, with Directive 2001/2018 of 11 December 2018, the European Union has set new targets for reducing GHG (Greenhouse Gases) by 2030 and for the RES contribution to energy consumption. In this respect, GHG will drop by 40% compared to 1990 levels, making the commitments made with the 2015 Paris Agreement binding. Meanwhile, the RES will rise to 32%, at the European level, with a possible upward revision at the end of 2023. Finally, the specific target for the RES in the transport sector is raised (from 10% for 2020) to 14% (with a possible reduction if there is a lower use of biofuels from agricultural products), also setting a minimum target for advanced biofuels (from 0.22% in 2022 to 3.5% in 2030). Biofuels produced from food crops will be able to cover a maximum of 7% of consumption, with a progressive reduction from 2024 to zero in 2030 for those with high ILUC. As of 2021, a maximum “ceiling” of 1.7% is set for biofuels produced from waste oils.

Furthermore, a specific act (EU Regulation 1999/2018 of 11 December 2018) establishes that by 31 December 2019 and, from 1st January 2029, every ten years the member states will have to prepare a National Energy and Climate Plan (NECP) specifying the trajectories, strategies and tools to achieve the European objectives of energy and climate policy.

In compliance with the Brussels instructions, the Italian Ministry of Economic Development has already sent (8 January) to the European Commission a proposal for a National Plan, structured according to five areas: decarbonisation, energy efficiency, energy security, internal energy market, research, innovation and competitiveness. The targets that we have set for ourselves with this tool are consistent and, in a nutshell, aim to ensure:

a percentage of energy production from RES in Gross Final Consumption of energy equal to 30%, in line with the objectives set for our Country by the EU, with the forecast in 2030 of a gross final energy consumption of 111 Mtoe, of which about 33 Mtoe from renewable sources;

a share of energy from RES in Gross Final Consumption of energy in transport of 21.6% (with 6 million electric vehicles) compared to 14% required by the EU;

a reduction in primary energy consumption compared to the PRIMES 2007 scenario of 43% against an EU target of 32.5%

the reduction of GHG compared to 2005 for all non-ETS sectors (civil, non-energy industry, agriculture, land transport) by 33%, 3% higher than the target envisaged by Brussels. We can therefore say that, at a national and European level, we are gearing up to counter the causes and limit the effects of climate change.

With this in mind, a first positive sign comes from the European Investment Bank (EIB), which recently launched a new policy to encourage useful investments for the environment. The institute’s board has decided that within two years it will freeze funding for the “fossil” sector, directing it to “renewables”. To this end, by 2030, it will deploy resources capable of supporting investments of 1 trillion (one thousand billion) euros. The European Commission voted in favour of the EIB’s “energy loans”, confirming the interest of the new President Ursula Von der Leyen in launching the “Green Deal for Europe” among the first actions of her mandate. Europe is gearing up to establish a strategic priority to become the first continent in the world that is neutral from the point of view of climate impact by 2050. At the same time, the EU will pursue international negotiations to ensure that other major economies in the world are also fighting to mitigate climate change.

This is no easy feat, judging by the disappointing results of the COP 25 in Madrid, where on a global scale, politics are still struggling to take a clear position in line with the agreements of the COP 21 in Paris. At this point, we hope that the governments all over the world will accept the requests of many young people who are mobilizing and of businesses ready to gamble on renewables and the circular economy. We shall see.

Biomass and bioenergy: development perspective

The International Energy Agency speaks verbatim of bioenergy as a giant in the field of renewables, for its multiple applications, which - in addition to the production of electricity - concern thermal energy and biofuels for transport.

According to the IEA projections, it would seem that globally we will see a significant increase in RES (around 250 Mtoe), which will affect overall energy consumptions for 12% by 2023 (to reach 18% in 2040). In this increase, bioenergy will play a role of primary importance by providing a contribution of 76 Mtep, i.e. 30% of all renewables. In order to ensure that this trend is actually followed, explicit reference is made to a modern expression of bioenergy which - drawing on the experiences gained - only promotes fully sustainable models for the exploitation of biomasses. These must be characterized by mature and efficient technologies and supply chains that are well integrated at the local level. By placing biomass - a renewable, but not infinite resource - at the centre of attention, bioenergy will be truly modern when it finds the right balance with other production areas that draw on the same raw material. We are talking about sectors of great importance which, in addition to the food sector, affect the wide sphere of the bioeconomy, such as green chemistry, green building, nutraceuticals, cosmetics and so on.

With such an approach, the giant of modern bioenergy will take on an even more impressive scale and will not be able to escape a strategic vision of development, which - going beyond the sphere of energy - will land in the wider context of the circular economy. Having taken note of the scale of the phenomenon, it will no longer be possible to speak of a hidden giant, but of a sleeping giant that will be roused by clarifying the rules, so that it may do so in accordance with the best practices available.



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