March 24, 2023
It is a known fact that Italy is rather behind as regards the development of the so-called “renewable sources”. Less known, however, are the causes that underlie this delay, a delay that is leaving our country further and further behind on the road to that energy transition which – like it or not – now seems to be the primary objective for all nations westerners. And precisely with the aim of investigating the reasons and causes of the all-Italian difficulty of moving towards the new “green” world, an in-depth study was created by Legambiente whose title – “Checkmate for renewable sources: all the bureaucracy that blocks the development of renewable» – is already an excellent compendium of its content. In fact, the report precisely identifies – through data, graphs and concrete examples – which is the real obstacle for Italy in the race for renewables: bureaucracy, in fact, declined in all its possible forms. Slowness in issuing authorisations, discretion in the environmental impact assessment procedures, blocks by the superintendences and uneven rules, to which are added the disputes between institutions and the opposition, often of pure principle, of the thousand committees of the «no »: a deadly combination of elements which, according to Legambiente, in many cases has prevented the realization of the projects necessary for the sustainable development of the country. Let’s look in detail at some of the main criticalities identified by the study.
Among the first critical issues that the report highlights in our country is certainly the lack of a single and certain regulatory framework, capable of putting all the players involved in the assessment and authorization processes in order. The explicit reference is to the Interministerial Decree of 10 September 2011, a text which is now almost 12 years old and which, according to Legambiente, “is obsolete compared to what has changed”, especially because it was developed at a stage in which “there had not yet been implemented strategies to exit from fossil fuels” and in which “the construction of plants from renewable sources was only just beginning”. In fact, as it is conceived, the law is rather cumbersome – it provides for as many as three authorization procedures (AU, PAS, communication to the Municipality) – and, above all, it generates a complex fragmentation of competences, not being “considered” by all the entities involved in the process. The result is that the actors each act independently and disconnected from the others, so that, when there are conflicting interests, the same state bodies often end up giving conflicting indications. A good example of this fragmentation is, the study points out, represented by those wind turbines for which a coloring is required that makes them clearly visible, so as to reduce the impact for the birdlife, which however, at the same time, generates a landscape impact evaluated negatively by the various superintendencies.
To hinder the development of projects from renewable sources there are not only national regulations and bureaucracy, but also local laws and attitudes that contribute significantly to blocking the arrival of these technologies in the various territories. To corroborate this thesis, the study cites what it calls “20 exemplary stories of blocks to renewables”, situations in which the actions of local realities (Regions, municipalities and superintendences) have proved to be decisive in the non-development of some projects. Among these there is, for example, the relative off-shore wind plant of Taranto: a wind farm proposed off the coast of the port, consisting of 10 wind turbines, which, after 12 years of complex authorization procedures, has still not seen the light, due to bureaucratic delays due to the negative opinions of the Region first and then of the Superintendency. Then there is also the story of the Mugello wind farm, in Tuscany: here the Municipalities and the Region have expressed a positive opinion, but the Superintendency of Cultural Heritage has opposed it, asking to eliminate three of the eight wind turbines. Local committees, citizens and some associations then added a hand, with the result that the project has been blocked for 2 years. Finally, it is worth mentioning the case of the three regions – Abruzzo, Lazio, Calabria – which, unlike all the others, have placed moratoriums on the development of new installations from renewable sources while waiting to identify the areas suitable for the purpose, in the meantime ordering the suspension not yet authorized installations of wind farms and photovoltaic plants on land, in agricultural areas characterized by quality agro-food production and/or landscape-cultural value.
According to Legambiente, another decisive factor in Italy’s delay on the issue of renewables is that of the thousand “no” committees – which are thriving almost everywhere in our country -, divided by the study into two macro-categories. On the one hand, the so-called NIMBY committees (Not In My Back Yard – not in my garden) and, on the other, the NIMTOs (Not In My Terms of Office – not during my term of office): the former are mostly made up of private citizens who do not want works in the vicinity of their homes; the latter, on the other hand, are animated by local administrators and politicians, who oppose for fear of losing consensus. Often the two categories find themselves sharing the same battles, as in the case of the Rimini off-shore wind plant, where, immediately, an impressive NIMBY and NIMTO action was unleashed at a regional and local level which had as the downsizing of the work from 59 wind turbines to 51 has an immediate effect. Or as in the story of another off-shore wind project, that of the Strait of Sicily, the largest floating plant in Europe, against which they railed only the local committees – with protests reaching as far as the Senate and the EU Commission – but also some mayors of the municipalities of the Trapani area and various fishermen’s associations.