IEA commends Italy on progress in energy policy but cautions that further long-term challenges remain

“Significant recent changes in Italy’s energy legislation provide the country with new opportunities to build on past successes”, said Nobuo Tanaka, Executive Director of the International Energy Agency (IEA) today in Rome at the launch of Energy Policies of IEA Countries – Italy 2009 Review. He highlighted that over the past five years, the Italian government had gone a long way towards addressing some of Italy’s considerable energy challenges, thus strengthening the country’s energy security. “The National Energy Strategy that will be developed as part of the implementation of the new law can provide Italy with a means by which a clear integrated long-term vision for the energy sector can emerge.”

The IEA publication commends Italy for its continued progress in energy policy. It acknowledges that the country has succeeded in diversifying gas supply routes, at least in terms of pipeline gas, added significant amounts of electricity generating capacity, and is in the process of further diversifying fuels for electricity generation. All of these actions should lead to more secure energy supplies.

Major Challenges Remain

Energy Policies of IEA Countries – Italy 2009 Review points out that the country’s energy sector needs an integrated long-term vision that will translate into effective developments. It remains vulnerable in several respects, such as a high dependency on electricity imports and long delays in infrastructure development. In the recent past, it was also lacking a consistent and well-balanced strategy to address these weaknesses, despite promising developments in many sectors. In mid-2009, the legislature enacted a comprehensive new law that will facilitate the emergence of a robust long-term energy policy. Mr. Tanaka emphasised that “the government must respond to this opportunity and elaborate, with all stakeholders, a comprehensive strategy for the development of the sector over the longer term.”

”Italy will face a major challenge in complying with the European Union’s new climate and energy package, particularly in relation to renewable energy and emissions targets,” Mr. Tanaka said. The country must step up efforts to comply with its new responsibilities, specifically by developing and putting in place a comprehensive climate change strategy for the years until 2020.

Italy plans a return to nuclear power in recognition of the need to diversify its energy portfolio. This move, which became law in July 2009, will enable the country to reduce its heavy dependence on imports of fossil fuels and electricity, and to lower emission levels, at least in the long term.

Mr. Tanaka observed that “a common theme that emerges in the IEA review is the difficulties faced by energy infrastructure providers in taking projects from the initial planning phase to completion”. While numerous initiatives have been taken at central and regional government levels in recent years, fundamental problems remain as evidenced by the delays in the construction of new LNG facilities and renewable energy installations. Mr. Tanaka raised a concern that “under present circumstances, it is likely that the recently adopted nuclear energy proposals may face similar obstacles.” Nonetheless, the new law provides a legislative basis to address concerns in relation to plant siting, waste disposal, risk management and plant decommissioning.