Sustainability: The Ecological Transition in Italy

On 26 February 2021, the Italian Council of Ministers decreed the creation of the Ministry of Ecological Transition (MiTE). This is the first time that Italy fully embraced the notion of environmentalism as a top-level and inter-ministerial priority.

The new MiTE will replace the Ministry of Environment by assuming all energy policy responsibilities from both the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Economic Development. Although, on its surface, the change seems to be a pure political reorganization without much substance, the establishment of MiTE has a more significant meaning and hopefully also long-term impacts. Many people believe this signals Italy’s commitment to recovery from the COVID-19 crisis based on a green energy transition. Portugal and France have similar ministries. It is time for Italy to start the ecological transition.

What Is Ecological Transition? 

Ecological transition is a technical term in ecology that refers to the path toward a sustainable economy that focuses on energy and resources efficiency, clean technology and recycling, biodiversity restoration, and pollution reduction.

Various human activities are putting our planet under threat; climate change is the most tangible consequence. Over the past years, we have witnessed a dramatic increase in respiratory diseases and the rise of “new” viruses. Coronavirus, a virus of animal origin resulting in a devasting global pandemic, is the most striking example. Sustainability development is no longer an option but an obligation that we need to fulfill for the survival of humanity. The creation of MiTE is Italy’s public manifestation of adopting the European Green Deal. It is a roadmap for the EU to become climate-neutral by 2050. Decarbonization is one of the primary goals, which essentially requires actions in two areas: renewable energy sources and energy efficiency.

While the world reached a consensus on fighting against climate change through promoting renewable energy, rising controversies should not be ignored. China and the Western nations are hoarding rare metals, creating environmental, health, safety, and social issues in Africa and Latin America. The French Journalist Guillaume Pitron refers to the situation as “the Rare Metals War.” Another concern is the disposal of special, end-of-life waste. In a recent study, US researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory warn that about 80 million tons of solar panel waste could end up in landfills around the world by 2025. Clearly, the world cannot solely rely on renewable energy sources to solve climate change issues, especially when they may worsen the situation paradoxically.

Why Energy Efficiency Matters

We must closely examine the other option – energy efficiency, and understand how it may help alleviate the burden on the environment. The world seems to have an endless hunger for energy from both developed and developing countries. Since many developing countries hold the view that they are entitled to the same level of economic and industrial development that developed countries have, their energy demand will continue to expand. Energy efficiency enables us to keep the same level of living standard while reducing the overall energy consumption.

It is no coincidence that energy efficiency is a strategic priority for the European Union. “Energy efficiency first” is the fundamental principle applied to policymaking, planning, and investment in the energy sector, around which the EU’s energy system should be designed. In addition to policymakers, the EU also encourages companies and individuals to invest in efficiency in all decisions about energy system development in homes, offices, industry, or mobility. In 2020, the EU launched the Just Transition Mechanism to support the transition toward a climate-neutral economy.

The program provides targeted funds and technical assistance to help mobilize at least €150 billion over 2021-2027 in the most affected regions (coal- or carbon-intensive) to alleviate the socioeconomic impact of the transition.

Energy efficiency is the practical solution for environmental and economic sustainability and will generate various benefits from the public interest and private business operational perspective. The International Energy Agency (IEA) Sustainable Development Scenario indicates energy efficiency will contribute to more than 40 percent of the greenhouse emissions reduction in the coming 20 years. “Multiple Benefits of Energy Efficiency” is a three-year project involving fifteen European partners, including top universities and research and trade associations. The study aims to expand the perspective of energy efficiency beyond the traditional measures of reduced energy demand and lower greenhouse gas emissions by identifying and measuring its impacts across many different spheres for different stakeholders.

The idea of energy efficiency management is “Columbus’ egg” (an Italian expression that refers to a brilliant idea or discovery that seems simple or easy after the fact) but requires a tremendous amount of effort, changes, and commitments. Many organizations still don’t fully understand the term energy efficiency and its impacts on environmental suitability. One reason that companies have not fully committed to in energy efficiency projects is because many have the misconception that proposed programs will not materially impact its core business. Another reason that companies have not invested much is that energy prices have been relatively low, especially over the past 12 months due to the global pandemic, which reduced some of the interests in energy efficiency investments.

Energy efficiency management is the new vision for society and the industrial sectors. Relevant projects have become more attractive, especially in the time of crisis, provided companies can effectively quantify and communicate all the benefits associated with the projects. Increasing efficiency not only means reducing the overall energy consumption, but also means producing top-quality products with less waste, fewer resources, and potentially renewable energy. All these benefits will strengthen the brand image and market position of a company, increasing the overall competitiveness in the market.

NUS Consulting Group has the subject matter and local market expertise in helping clients to improve energy efficiency and achieve sustainability goals. We provide a wide range of services and energy efficiency projects support, including energy audits, energy inefficiency, and waste review, on-site generation feasibility studies (e.g., photovoltaic and cogeneration), best high-performance technological solutions evaluation (e.g., high-efficiency boilers and LED lighting), energy monitoring and analysis systems adoption, and energy management standard compliance (ISO 50001). NUS also advises companies on sustainability strategy development. Please contact us for more information.


Franco Valentini

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