Italy – Greening the European economy: responses and initiatives by Member States and social partners

  • Observatory: EurWORK
  • Topic:
  • Published on: 17 September 2009

Manuela Galetto

Two distinctive features of Italy’s “green agenda” emerge from this CAR. Firstly, as stressed by the social partners concerned, Italian legislation on renewable energy is incomplete. The 2008 Budget Law mentions various measures, but they have not yet been implemented. Also lacking is a systematic concern with economic and, especially, employment potential. Scant references are made to incentives for training or to enterprise start-ups in this sector. The second feature is the influence of the territorial variable on the quantity and the quality of the ‘green’ initiatives undertaken. In fact, some regions are much more active than others.

Mapping Member State responses, initiatives and tools

. Please describe the main actions and policy strategies of your country in the following areas:

1) In the context of the current global recession, has an economic recovery program or strategy been launched by the national government in the last 12 months? If so, what coverage, attention, actions are envisaged with a view to greening the national economy, with a focus on employment, as a way of emerging from the present downturn? If there is a wide range of issues, please focus on the main issues.

A number of measures “to support industrial sectors in crisis” have been proposed. On 8 April 2009, the Senate definitively approved decree law 1503 on “Conversion into law, with amendments, of decree law no. 5 of 10 February 2009 concerning urgent measures in support of industrial sectors in crisis”, on which the government imposed a vote of confidence.

The aims of the provision are: to address the crisis of the sector with urgent measures to support demand; to have national policies conform with the recommendations of the European Commission and with the measures already adopted or being adopted by the other European countries; to orient consumer choices to environment-friendly products compliant with the Kyoto targets. The provision lays down four central principles: environmental protection and the fight against pollution; greater safety on the roads; boosting research and innovation; total compliance with EU standards.

A survey on the actions undertaken shows that the sector most often mentioned with regards to the economic crisis is the metalworking sector. In fact, the incentives concern the purchase of automobiles and foresee a bonus ranging from €1000 to 3500 if, after a car is scrapped, a low-emission, methane- or hydrogen-powered one is purchased. Even greater incentives are provided for the scrapping of light commercial vehicles, “for instance, the vans used by small business entrepreneurs”. It is estimated that around 15 million cars could be scrapped. Furthermore there are the recommendations by the Ministry of the Environment to the sellers of new domestic appliances to withdraw the old ones at the moment of purchase.

Other, sporadic initiatives have been launched. One of them is the agreement between the Ministry of the Environment and the water bottling company San Benedetto on promoting projects for the analysis and neutralization of the climate impact of bottled water.

It should be stressed, however, that still awaiting discussion and enactment are numerous implementing decrees for the 2008 Budget Law on environmental matters, among them incentives for the bio-energy production chain and definition of the criteria and targets to be allocated among the regions in pursuit of the national 2020 goal.

None of the legislative sources cited makes reference to the objective of increasing employment.

2) Have there been any specific ministries or government departments set up to deal with green issues? If so, what is their mandate and remit?

The ministry responsible for green issues is the Ministry of the Environment, which took part in the G8 environment meeting held last April in Siracusa (the home town of the Italian minister for the environment, Stefania Prestigiacomo).

Also the Ministry of Economic Development comprises an energy department, which consists of three general directorates (for mineral and energy resources, for the safety of energy supply and infrastructures, and for nuclear energy, renewable energy and energy efficiency). The ministry’s website posts calls for tenders for research funding in the field of natural gas, for example, but the most recent announcements date back to 2003.

Furthermore, there is a permanent parliamentary commission which deals with “territory, environment, environmental goods”. Various issues are addressed by this commission. Currently the possible introduction of nuclear energy is being discussed, a debate in which the centre-right parties (in favour) are ranged against the centre-left ones (opposed).

The function of Italian parliamentary commissions is to examine specific issues, with the purpose of formulating bills to be tabled in parliament. The results of the work by this commission, however, will only be visible once the decree laws envisaged by the Budget Law on the environment and energy have been enacted.

One reads in the minutes of the environment commission that other actors are consulted according to the issue, for instance the Renewable Energy Producers’ Association (Associazione Produttori Energie Rinnovabili, APER), and the ENEL.

3) Have any tripartite social dialogue structures and/or procedures been set up to deal with green issues? If so, what is their aim and how do they operate? If there are a wide range of structures and procedures, please focus on the main ones.

There are no tripartite procedures or dialogue structures dedicated to the “green economy”.

To be stressed is that in Italy numerous institutional actors deal with the environment. Besides the already-mentioned ministries, there are various highly active environmental defence movements, such as Greenpeace and Legambiente, which promote actions of awareness raising, study and project proposals concerning environmental protection; there is also the Electricity and Gas Authority (Autorità per l’Energia Elettrica e il Gas, AEEG), the Electricity Services Agency (Gestore Servizi Elettrici, GSE), the Electricity Market Agency (Gestore del Mercato Elettrico, GMA), Terna (Rete Elettrica Nazionale S.p.a., the company responsible for running the high tension electricity network), New Technologies, Energy and Environment Agency (Ente per le Nuove Tecnologie, Energia e Ambiente, ENEA), l’APER (the Renewable Energy Producers’ Association - Associazione Produttori Energia da Fonti Rinnovabili), ANEV (Associazione Nazionale Energia e Vento), to mention the most important ones.

From the administrative point of view, moreover, each region must draw up an energy plan (PEAR, Piano Energetico Ambientale Regionale) which, in the absence of clear energy planning at national level, has become the principal instrument of energy and environment planning in the country. At present, 16 regions out of 20 have PEARs drawn up with the assistance of the ENEA, and some of them have been updated. Other regions instead have no such plan. One thus notes a territorial difference, as is often the case in Italy, as regards energy planning as well.

Turning to the specific issue of the “green economy”, besides defining, approving, and implementing the PEARs, the regional administrations have powers relative to the development of energy services of regional interest, authorization procedures – on agreement with the local authority concerned – and the construction and operation of energy production plants with more than 50 MWts capacity. Also planned is the introduction of energy efficiency standards (“white certificates”) efficiency and the enhancement of renewable sources (“green certificates”) for projects located on regional territory.

These, therefore, are varied initiatives, though not interconnected, influenced by the territorial variable.

Interesting with regard to a tripartite social dialogue at local level, is the case of Electrolux (a leading Swedish multinational which manufactures household appliances at 6 plants in Italy with around 8000 employees), which in February 2008 concluded an agreement which envisaged, amongst other things, the closure of the company’s plant at Scandicci (Florence). The agreement provided, however, that the plant was to be sold to Futura Energia (controlled by an Anglo-American investment fund). The plant would be converted to production in the field of renewable and solar energy. Besides the provision of social shock absorbers, Electrolux undertook to invest in the plant’s conversion, the start-up of its new activity, and the protection and re-training of the workforce (IT0812019I).

4) Have there been any of the following initiatives or actions in your country: Where the answer is yes, please provide a brief account of each one, focusing on the main ones.

  • awareness-raising initiatives

As said, it is easier to find campaigns promoted locally rather than at national level. Ongoing in Piedmont, for example, is a large-scale awareness-raising campaign for the reduction of CO2 emissions. Its aim is to make Piedmont “the first region in Italy” with extremely low CO2 levels.

  • actions targeting specific sectors

The Ministry of the Environment has promoted an initiative regarding the mobility sector and to which € 8.75 million have been allocated. This is the second round of eco-incentives for the purchase of “two-wheeled vehicles”, with and without motors. The vehicles can be selected from a list of 3,150 models purchasable at a discount: 2,887 are bicycles, normal or with power-assisted pedals. Moreover, this year the amount of the incentive has increased (from € 250 to 700 which can cover 30% of the total costs). According to preliminary data, bicycles are greatly preferred to mopeds.

  • actions involving green procurement

Of interest in this regard is an initiative undertaken as part of the Environment G8: ENEL has signed with Tony Burke (Australia's Minister for Agriculture, Fishery and Forestry) a Memorandum of Understanding whereby ENEL will be a founding member of the Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute (GCCSI). Various countries and around 40 large companies in the energy sector have joined the initiative. The institute will promote research and projects for carbon capture and storage (ENEL, an Italian multinational in the sector, has already launched a project pilot in Brindisi to convert one of its plants to clean coal).

ENEL is also a member of the Corporate Leaders Group on climate change (which comprises 13 international and 17 British companies) founded by Prince Charles and the University of Cambridge to promote the reduction of CO2 emissions.

  • financial support and stimulus packages to boost eco-innovation

The end of May is the deadline set by the Ministry of the Environment for the funding of research projects on energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy sources in urban areas. Ten million euro are available for the co-financing, up to a maximum of 50%, of “study and research on the environment and renewable energy resources for use with means of transport and to enhance environmental quality in urban centres”.

More generally, however, it is the regions, or at least some regions, that are most committed to the use of clean energy. Many of them have allocated funds for the installation of solar and photovoltaic panels, as in Piedmont, where one of the largest awareness-raising campaigns on the environment and on CO2 reduction targets has also been launched.

  • support for green start-ups and entrepreneurial schemes

There seem to be no incentives for this purpose, although support is available for environmental certification, above all by small and medium-sized enterprises.

  • training programmes to prepare the workforce for the transition to the green economy

Of particular interest is an agreement between SolarExpo (a trade fair on renewable energy held in Verona and where exhibiting firms have increased tenfold in the space of four years, reaching 1000 firms and 31 countries represented) and Adecco. These private actors have launched training and retraining courses for technicians in the solar panel and wind farming industry. Diego Biolo, head of industrial specializations development for the Adecco Agency in Italy, has stressed that “the courses are financed through interprofessional funds. They will furnish attendees with highly practical skills, for example how to mount a photovoltaic panel for technicians, or Italian law on environmental issues for companies’ legal experts, so that they can then be candidates for jobs in firms, from which hundreds of requests have reached in recent weeks. So someone who until yesterday worked with cabling in the metalworking industry or the assembly of electronic components will become a solar panel installer.

  • investment schemes in emerging products and services that could lead to the creation of green jobs in the future

nothing in particular to mention

  • any other relevant initiatives or actions

nothing in particular to mention

Mapping social partner responses, initiatives and tools

Please summarise the main unilateral and bipartite initiatives in your country in the following areas:

5) Positioning and stance in relation to the green agenda (eg any position papers)

Both the trade unions and the employers' associations have repeatedly urged the government to legislate clearly and rapidly on environmental issues.

APER is the association of the producers of energy from renewable sources. It represents around 440 firms engaged in the production of equipment and technologies for the production of energy from renewable sources. Among other functions, APER keeps its members updated on national and European legislation concerning the sector. As a representative association, in March 2009 it published a position paper in which it urged the government to legislate in clear manner and in line with the European Union's 2020 Climate and Energy Package on authorizations, and to turn obligations into opportunities for the country, stressing that Italy still lags behind other countries despite its great potential in regard to energy (wind, sun, etc.) and production (numerous firms in the sector and a strong demand for renewable energy sources which outstrips the supply, often furnished by foreign operators).

CGIL (General Confederation of Italian Workers) and Legambiente have drawn up a joint document which - after expressing shared concerns about the ongoing economic crisis and reiterating the need for concrete actions to relaunch the economy and employment - puts forward proposals and invites the government and social partners to discuss them at a conference to be held in March and entitled “Against the Crisis: Fighting the Recession, Creating Employment, Defeating the Climatic Challenge”. Among other things, in this case too, the employment potential of the green economy is emphasised.

6) Attitudes and approaches of the social partners in relation to the green agenda

The main employers' associations and trade unons have announced their commitment to energy saving and the necessity/urgency to invest in the green economy.

Emma Marcegaglia, chairwoman of Confindustria, during a lecture given at the LUISS (Libera Università Internazionale degli Studi Sociali), has insisted on two principal ingredients in the anti-crisis recipe: green economy and large-scale reforms. As regards the future, according to Marcegaglia the green economy will be the new industrial frontier. Not by chance, 15% of the stimulus packages to boost the economies of countries, equal to 445 billion dollars, has been allocated to the green economy. The same stance was taken by Marcegaglia at the meeting of the Business G8 (held in Sardinia, on 23 and 24 April, which assembled all the presidents of the employers' associations of the G8 countries), when she emphasised the need “to focus on the green sector in relaunching the economy”.

Also the national-level trade unions are engaged in raising awareness on environmental issues. As said above, CGIL and Legambiente have issued a joint document which urges the government to take action in the green sector, given its potential for growth as regards both the economy and employment.

The CISL (Italian Confederation of Workers' Unions) has published on its official website a description of an energy-saving project at its headquarters in Rome. Sixty to 70 thousand bottles of water were consumed at the CISL headquarters. It was decided to replace them with natural water, which, besides reducing pollution, will allow a saving of around 20 thousand euro a year. Other projects have been drawn up for energy saving (lights and computers switched off by sensors when offices are empty, the installation of a photovoltaic roof to exploit energy which will meet 20%-25% of the building's energy requirements).

Also the UIL (Union of Italian Workers) has joined initiatives for environmental awareness-raising by taking part as a member of the world trade-union movement in the Environment G8 and signing a draft agreement with ANEV which encourages partnerships for the diffusion of wind energy in Sicily, Calabria and Liguria.

Declarations of support for environmental policies have led to interesting initiatives, but the concrete results are difficult to quantify. To be stressed, however, is that the above-mentioned initiatives and declarations are relative to the national level of the representation organizations. At local level, as already said, it is likely that the social parts are more concretely active in energy saving schemes.

7) Any unilateral and joint strategies and actions, including:

  • awareness-raising campaigns for members
  • bilateral dialogue structures, including those at sectoral level
  • capacity-building initiatives
  • training programmes for members

APER, as said, organizes company training and information courses on European and national regulations in the energy-environment sector.

8) The main initiatives for reviving the economy and promoting the green agenda, both general and sector-specific

Apart from unanimous declarations concerning the necessity to activate and promote a green agenda, there are no particular initiatives. There is a general intent to conduct in-depth studies in preparation for the Copenhagen climate summit to be held in the autumn.

9) Any relevant studies and research

Of particular interest are the data set out in the report prepared by Nomisma Energia for the weekly magazine Panorama. The report states that Italian firms operating in the wind, photovoltaic and biomass sector recorded a 44% increase in sales volume on 2007. The report also provides estimates on employment in the sector: direct and indirect jobs in renewable energies amount to 20 thousand (10 thousand in 2005). If mature renewable sources like hydroelectric, geothermic and solar energy are also considered, employment rises to around 60 thousand jobs. Finally, the sectoral associations predict the creation of 100 thousand new jobs in ten years. Performance is also positive as regards the sales volumes of the various branches. The photovoltaic business has doubled, rising from 339 to 700 million euro. The wind farming industry (2 billion 196 million euro) has increased its revenues by more than 43 percentage points. And biomass energy is today worth 2 billion 285 million euro, with a net increase of 564 million euro.

A study commissioned by Greenpeace Italia and the Cultural foundation of ethic responsibility (Fondazione Culturale Responsabilità Etica), written by Professor Stephen Thomas of the University of Greenwich analyses the relationship between ENEL's financial debt and its plans to expand nuclear projects. The report's conclusions stress that ENEL may incur huge debts if it goes ahead with its plans to expand in in the nuclear energy sector. Nonetheless, it seems that, although Enel Green Power (the company's branch operating in the renewable energy sector) is highly profitable, ENEL is considering the sale of some of its shares. On the basis of this survey, Greenpeace Italia has urged ENEL to revise its decisions on nuclear energy, not to sacrifice shares in Enel Green Power and increase investments in renewable sources.

10) Any other relevant responses, initiatives or tools

Answering this broad question would require a systematic survey of each economic sector and each region.

Environmental certification is an instrument which induces firms in various sectors, individually or through their trade associations, to take action on energy saving and restrict the environmental impact of their productive activities.

In the fashion sector, for example, some trade associations are aware that the challenge is to convert the entire fashion production chain, and not just single segments to environmental and ethical themes, as emphasised by the president of the Florentine 100% Italian leather goods consortium. Ambrogio Brenna, Tuscan Councillor for Industry, recalls that Tuscany has 272 SA 8000 certified firms (out of 827 in Italy), of which 23 in the fashion sector (out of 44 in Italy), thanks also to incentives and tax concessions introduced for this purpose.

Views of the national centre

The various initiatives listed in this CAR have the shared characteristics of being unconnected and having an 'individual' origin, in the sense that it is not referable to a single project defined at national level. Indeed, unclear guidelines, or the lack of them, have led to the proliferation of initiatives at regional level.

The employers' associations warn, however, of a risk in this wholesale responsibilization of local administrators. For example, Starace, president of Enel Green Power, says that in Italy geothermic installations are still too few in comparison with the territory's potential. All the country's thermal zones would be suitable, but bureaucratic-administrative complications are sometimes insuperable, and everything is in the hands of the local administrators.

At national level, when eco-incentives are discussed, the reference is almost exclusively to the replacement of old cars with new ones.

Also as regards employment, it emerges from this preliminary survey that the principal actions for training or retraining labour for the green economy are undertaken by private actors (for example, the temporary work agencies or the mentioned project of production re-conversion of the Electrolux plant in Florence). These seem to pay closer attention to the sector and are aware of its employment potential. Also the universities are gearing themselves up: many of them offer training courses, also of short duration, for skilled technicians or consultants on renewable energy.

Adecco has introduced a 'candidate care' service which gives advice to job-seekers, steering them towards green jobs of various kinds, both technical and legal. A network of graduates in environmental sciences furnishes support and advice, publishes papers, and organizes conferences, or signals initiatives on environment and energy issues, with particular regard to the labour market, sought-after professional profiles, etc.

Manuela Galetto, Fondazione Seveso, Italy

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