The Green Electrification of Sardinia: a global benchmark
Renewables, energy efficiency, savings and environmental sustainability are the cornerstones of “The Green Electrification of Sardinia.” This cutting-edge project was presented on January 27 at the online event organized with the Roma Tre University Manlio Rossi-Doria Center for Economic and Social Research and supported by the Alleanza Sardegna Rinnovabile (Sardinia Renewables Alliance), which includes WWF, the Kyoto Club, Greenpeace and Legambiente (an Italian environmentalist association).
The project aims to effect a drastic change in Sardinia’s energy model by the year 2030, providing environmental, social and economic benefits for the whole region and the entire community. The electrification scheme aims to gradually eliminate production from fossil fuels and increase the proportion of energy produced from photovoltaic and wind power (currently 7% and 15% respectively).
This shift will be accompanied by the spread of technologies for the electrification of final consumption: from heat pumps to energy efficiency systems and induction hubs, not to mention public and private mobility.
A glocal vision
The plan is closely linked to the UN’s 2030 Agenda geared towards the achievement of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). SDG7 in particular (“Affordable and Clean Energy”) aims to ensure universal access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy systems, in line with the climate change commitments outlined in the 2015 Paris Agreement. As part of the High-level Dialogue on Energy, the United Nations has created a platform to bring together the main commitments to the achievement of SDG7 made by nations, companies, NGOs and other actors in order to take full advantage of them, correlating them into a common, shared vision.
From this perspective, the approach being pursued in Sardinia has definitely won over the experts. “The project for the Green Electrification of Sardinia,” said Valeria Termini, a lecturer in Political Economy at the Roma Tre University and a member of the High-level Dialogue on Energy, “has been included in the UN’s Multi-Stakeholders Energy Compact as a growth model to promote access to clean energy, the essence of SDG7.” The project has been recognized as a benchmark for the spread of electrification at global level. “It is an opportunity for Sardinia and Italy to contribute to the worldwide target of decarbonization with a tangible example that uses natural energy sources that are locally available,” added Termini,” in addition to providing a reference model for the independent development of more vulnerable countries, where a shocking 759 million people still live without electricity.”
The electrification process
Sardinia offers a unique context for electrification, given the marginal penetration of gas and the local importance of services, commerce, tourism, agriculture and local government organizations, which are responsible for 60% of the island’s added value. Moreover, due to its demographic characteristics – the island has one of the lowest levels of population density in Italy, (around 68 inhabitants per square kilometer) – conditions are particularly well-suited to what is known as distributed generation, where many small plants powered by renewable sources are connected to a dense multidirectional network in which the users are simultaneously producers and consumers of energy.
The inhabitants of Sardinia will therefore be able to cook, heat their homes and travel around in a way that is not only sustainable but also economically advantageous. “We can see it clearly in the figures: if household consumption is based on total electrification, it emits 80% less CO2 into the atmosphere and this almost halves a family’s energy costs. The same is true for businesses, although the percentage is slightly lower, with savings of 20%.”
Greater energy efficiency, financial savings and fewer polluting emissions are all extremely pertinent issues that are closely connected to climate change, which is also affecting the island. Indeed, rising temperatures are causing extreme weather events in Sardinia. This point was highlighted by Professor Nigel Tapper of Monash University (Australia), a member of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), the group of scientists that, together with Al Gore, won the Novel Peace Prize for research into global warming. “The Mediterranean area is a hotspot of change and this project led by Enel is a unique opportunity for Sardinia to be an example for the world in how to reduce emissions to tackle climate change. The real value of this project is that for the first time ever on a regional scale it proposes a series of technical solutions for everyone, businesses and individuals alike, to reduce emissions into the atmosphere and, at the same time, improve quality of life with full respect for the local area.”
Aiming for sustainable tourism
The project is therefore beneficial to the environment, as well as to Sardinia’s economy, especially when we consider the importance of tourism. This was emphasized by Nicola Lanzetta, who said: “Just think, for example, of the sea, boats, ports, and imagine how much could be done in terms of electrification so that these activities become less polluting, noisy and expensive. Sardinia can achieve ‘best in class’ status like the Balearics, Hawaii and Tasmania, which have already embarked upon this transition.”
Thanks to our commitment in synergy with public and private actors, this region can become unique in the Mediterranean, representing a reference model to replicate in other geographical areas. In order to achieve this goal, the Rossi-Doria Center will continue to monitor electrification on behalf of the UN, sourcing from the project tangible solutions for the energy transition on a national and international scale.
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