ICIS View: Italy’s centre-right coalition offers vague pledges on renewables, gas, nuclear

David Battista

18-Aug-2022

Additional reporting by Camilla Vitanza

LONDON (ICIS)–Despite energy being centre stage in the current Italian election debate, Italian political parties have not produced a clear strategy for confronting the energy crisis.

The centre-right coalition headed by Giorgia Meloni, Silvio Berlusconi and Matteo Salvini so far has appeared the favourite to win in the snap elections to be held on 25 September, and energy topics feature in 5 of the 15 points of its governing plan.

In addition to a vague pledge to “increase renewable energy production”, the wording of the centre-right’s coalition plan for a “Sustainable energy transition” implies a heightened focus on the cost-effectiveness of renewable projects.

This word choice as well as the emphasis placed on obtaining “energy self-sufficiency” betrays a rather outdated view of renewable projects as expensive and complex, to which centralised and predictable plants are to be preferred.

Furthermore, there is no mention on how exactly renewable capacity additions will be achieved, a particularly glaring omission given Italy’s abysmal track record as, between 2015 and 2020 renewable authorisations averaged around 0.8GW/year.

Industry figures show that between July 2021 and July 2022 under Cingolani’s Ministry for Energy Transition, about 6GW of renewable projects received authorisation. Given the coalition’s concerns for “sustainability” of the energy transition, it seems unlikely they would apply the same pressure on permitting bodies as the previous government did.

This would likely cause the country to miss its 2030 NECP objectives of 70GW additional renewable capacity. However, a specific mention to “revising the NECP in light of changed geopolitical circumstances” that appears among the first points of the plan, might hint at plans by the coalition to re-negotiate the relevance of natural gas infrastructure within the NECP.

As a final note, the plan opens the door to new state-of-the-art nuclear plants in the country, a hotly debated topic in Italy since the 90’s. This hints further at an outdated view of a centralised energy system, which doesn’t take into account the many complexities of constructing new nuclear projects in a country such as Italy.

GAS POLICY

On the gas side, the centre-right coalition manifesto revamps former PM Mario Draghi’s price cap proposal with the intent of backing any European policies to this extent.

Meloni and her political allies seem not to want to distance themselves from the current government policy, listing gas national production as one of their main goals to reduce Italy’s energy dependence. This point might cling on to Cingolani’s PITESAI, the plan to identify new national areas to explore and extract hydrocarbons. Nevertheless, the electoral program doesn’t provide further details on whether the increase in national production would follow the PITESAI guidelines or not.

With the clear ambition of diversifying gas suppliers yet at the same time supporting Ukraine in its fight against Russia, the centre-right coalition appears to pursue the current government policy of a complete phase-out of Russian gas despite incumbent Eni’s long-term agreement until 2035 with Russian producer Gazprom. However, this seems to be in contrast with League’s leader Salvini’s long-standing sympathy for Russia and could represent a source of friction among the coalition once in government. From a different perspective, Salvini’s ties with Russia could represent a glimpse of diplomacy and put the forthcoming cabinet on a different path in terms of foreign affairs and thus energy matters.

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