The harsh criticisms of solar energy and the Green Economy that appeared in Corriere della Sera on World Environment Day were bewildering. According to a recent publication by the German Advisory Council on Environment, Germany will be able to develop a 100% renewable, fully energy-efficient energy system before 2050. The German study was clear: if a similar strategy was adopted at a European (or at least regional) level, the costs would be considerably lower than our current system, while at the same time providing greater benefits for employment and competitiveness. This is surely the strategy that all the European Governments should adopt.
In Italy, Undoubtedly, the implementation of subside policies has experimented some setbacks in the last years. However such subsides amount to a maximum of 20% on energy bills, while the positive outcomes, in terms of production, have been steady throughout. From January to October 2012, just the Eolic subsidy exceeded the 11% of the gross national production. Such outcome has indeed guaranteed a reduction in the thermoelectric production, as well as the decrease of oil and gas imports and CO2 emissions, with great advantages for the climate and the overall struggle against pollution. This in turn has also led to a costs’ reduction on the energy market.
Aside from costs, it’s also important to keep in mind the impact that these subsidies have on employment. It’s worth remembering that there are approximately 3.5m people working in the Green Economy across Europe, against the 2.8m employed in traditional factories. These subsidy interventions have encouraged employment in the Green sector (at least until the crisis exploded) in countries such as Spain and Italy.
Therefore, why should we consider different types of investments, such those made on infrastructures (like undergrounds) with those of other sectors, on the same level?When speaking about subsidies, it is also worthy remembering a study by Legambiente, which found that in 2011, €9bn in subsidies were allocated to fossil fuels. Direct subsidies to fossil fuel sources (such as car makers, fossil-fuel power stations and energy intensive companies) came to over €4.52bn. Indirect subsidies, to roads, highways and oil rigs, came to €4.59bn. It’s worth remembering that, in an analysis of Italian energy bills in the last 10 years, between €40bn and €50bn has been given away to people working in the oil industry, incinerators and fossil fuels energy manufacturers, such as the well known CIP6.
I believe we should start moving in a different direction. There are steps we should take. We need to start by favoring higher prices for CO2. We also need to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 30%, which would further increase the price of CO2. Outside of the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme, we need to introduce a carbon tax. In the next two years, it will be vital to set clear emissions goals for 2030, in terms of renewable energies and energy efficiency.
It is already clear that won’t be an easy task, given the re-emergence of a strong lobby favoring carbon and other fossils fuels, which now competes for investment from an already lacking public budget. The Italian government’s decision, taken without any public debate, to align on the only mandatory goal of reducing the emission in the post 20/20/20, without considering investing on energy efficiency, makes this scenario even more complex. This is shortsighted: instead of focusing on competitiveness and innovation, it forces the entire country to invest in technologies and production that are unable to resist the market in the long term.
Contrary to what several newspapers say, World Environment Day would have been a good occasion to lead the public debate on not only the causes of the current economic and financial crisis, but also finding a response to it. This response should focus on the promotion of a new green choice, which should redefine new and more efficient standards of competitiveness and development.