Fast internet, green energy and sustainable housing at the heart of Italian plans

A crisis like the coronavirus pandemic requires strong action. The EU has released 723.8 billion to help the European economy with the corona recovery fund (Resilience and Recovery Facility; RRF) to get out of the recession caused by corona. Member states present a plan to the European Commission to claim a part of that big bag of money. In the Decarbonizing Europe series, we put those plans under a magnifying glass. This week: Italy.

“The National Recovery and Resilience Plan (PNRR) is enabling investments that would have been impossible, unthinkable until a few days ago,” Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said when presenting it to parliament. Italy is the country that benefits the most from the corona recovery fund. This Member State receives €68.9 billion in grants and €122.6 billion in loans.

Home reform as a spearhead

The largest investment planned by Italy concerns the renovation of private buildings. The Government allocates approximately 14,000 million euros to the fiscal regime to stimulate these renovation plans. In addition, 6,000 million euros will be invested in the energy efficiency of public buildings, so that the rehabilitation of buildings will account for around 10 percent of the plan.

According to a 2020 report by the Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development (ENEA), more than 60% of real estate belongs to energy categories F and G, the least efficient categories. The ENEA report shows that the number of buildings with high energy performance is increasing. But since most of them were built between 1945 and 1976, they don’t meet today’s standards.

“All buildings financed through this measure should improve their overall energy performance by at least two classes,” explains Salvatore Marceddu, an engineer who has worked on several renovations.

The government’s goal is to renovate more than 100,000 buildings by 2026, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 667 Ktons of CO.two It is reduced.

Meanwhile, the scheme has already made headlines in Italy again. According to the NOS, the police have already tracked down several fraudulent construction companies that have claimed hundreds of millions of tax credits for works they had not carried out.

Renewable energy

Regarding the use of renewable energy sources, Eurostat measurements from 2019 showed that 18.8 percent of the energy used in Italy came from renewable sources. Significantly more, by the way, than in the Netherlands, where it was just 8.8 percent.

Only about 9 percent of the total energy used in the transport sector is renewable. To improve this figure, more than 3,500 million euros will be invested in the purchase of electric or hydrogen buses and trains, and in the construction of recharging points.

€2 billion is earmarked for hydrogen in sectors where sustainable energy is difficult to apply. However, that is not easy. First, the Italian government must pass a law that regulates the technical aspects of hydrogen: production, transportation and storage. Second, another reform should concern the promotion of the production and consumption of Htwo

EU Next Generation

The coronavirus crisis is one of the greatest challenges of our time. With NextGenerationEU, with €806.9 billion, the largest recovery plan in history, the European Union wants to help Member States emerge stronger from the crisis. The corona recovery fund forms the core of this plan (723.8 billion euros).

This fund has two objectives: first, to pull the European economy out of the recession caused by the coronavirus pandemic. At the same time, it is intended to promote important investments for the future and measures to implement change.

The original deadline to submit a plan was April 30, 2021, but that deadline has since been moved to June 2022. Currently, 26 of the 27 Member States have submitted a plan. According to the plans, Member States must spend at least 37% of their budget on climate action and 20% on digitalisation.

faster connections

Italy is falling behind when it comes to fast internet connections. According to Eurostat figures, in 2020 only 33.7 percent of households had a high-speed Internet connection. To promote the widespread deployment of high-speed networks, €6.7 billion has been earmarked for 5G and fiber. The investment aims to provide 5G coverage across the country, provide schools and hospitals with 1-gigabit broadband connectivity, and bring ultra-fast connections to even the smallest islands.

Also interesting: Now you only need 2 minutes to install a fiber optic connection

More than 1,500 million euros will be allocated to a fund to launch an innovation and research network. A minimum of 30 projects, meeting EU benchmarks for greenhouse gas emissions, will be funded with the aim of bringing academic knowledge to industry. 300 million euros are earmarked for start-ups. Companies active in the field of fossil fuels cannot participate. For other companies, their emissions must be below European standards. In addition, no company that pollutes the environment in the long term will be included in the financing.

Being green costs money

“The biggest concern is the cost of the green shift. We all want to be more sustainable and have a lower carbon footprint in the environment, but this change has a high cost”, emphasizes Luciano Monti. He is Professor of European Union Politics at the LUISS University in Rome.

“Polluting companies must switch to greener energy. But to do that they have to replace existing power sources. Also, you need to teach your employees to do something else, possibly without firing anyone. The circular economy is great, but we need to help companies invest in it,” added Monti.

Italy received some 25 billion euros in pre-financing last summer. By the end of June, the country must have reached 45 goals and milestones to obtain the second tranche. As the government enters the final year of his reign, meeting these goals is critical to sustaining the transition.

Also read: Italy is fully committed to the ecological transition

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