Italy is usually depicted as a laggard that shows significant delays in achieving policy targets set at the European level. However, such representation does not hold true, at least as far as renewable energy sources are concerned. According to Directive 2009/28/EC, Italy shall obtain at least 17% of its gross final consumption of energy from renewable sources like sun, wind or biomasses by 2020. When agreed in December 2008, such target seemed to be pretty challenging, because it implied more than a doubling of the share recorded for that year (7.3%).
Nonetheless, according to reports recently released by Eurostat and the Italian Gestore dei Servizi Energetici (GSE), Italy reached a share of 16.7% in 2013, the last year for which data are available. In absolute terms, it means that about 20.7 million tons of oil equivalent (Mtoe) of final gross consumption of energy was satisfied through renewables, with a relevant growth of 1.1 Mtoe on 2012 (+5.7%). Renewables are particularly important in the electricity sector (8.9 Mtoe, equivalent to 31.3% of gross final electricity consumption) and in the heating and cooling sector (10.6 Mtoe, equivalent to 18% of gross final heating and cooling consumption). Only in the transport sector there is still a wide gap with regard to the final target (1.2 Mtoe, equivalent to 5% of gross final consumption for transport).
True, such impressive result is in part due to the on-going economic crisis that has been affecting Italy with almost no interruption since 2008, but the country should be proud to be the only major Member State of the EU to be so close to the target agreed. Indeed, the policies adopted for sustaining the uptake of renewables were effective but they were and still are “quite” expensive. Currently, Italian electricity consumers are estimated to pay something like 12.4 billion euro per year to support renewables (data are taken out of the GSE website. We are currently experiencing the peak of subsidisation and the amount paid yearly will soon begin to slowly decline, but since most of the support schemes run for twenty years, we can say that the total gross cost for consumers will amount to roughly 200 billion euro. This is no peanuts, especially in a time of economic hardship.
Now the Italian government is talking about the issue of a new ministerial decree for the promotion of non photovoltaic electric renewables. Claudio De Vincenti, the current Italian vice minister for Economic Development said last January that such support scheme would last up to 2017 and use the resources freed from the progressive conclusion of the older support policies like CIP6/92 and green certificates.
At the moment of writing the decree has not yet been published and we would invite our policy-makers to think about it still for another few moments. Such policy could help certainly the green industry to survive a period of rapidly declining investments and give more continuity to production and the development of the sector. In particular, it may target technologies with a mainly Italian supply-chain (e.g. mini-wind). It may foster revamping of older plants which use outdated technical solutions. Nevertheless, such choice of cherry-picking should be very carefully considered and may be not a wise decision for the rest of the country. With our prospects of future economic growth anaemic, with ample room for improvements in energy efficiency, with a redundant electricity and refinery sector (we discussed about it here and here), and with similar oversupply in neighbouring countries, we have probably enough and more than enough capacity in our energy system. To incentivise further additions could be just a waste of money and not simply a redistributive decision at the expense of consumers and certain conventional power producers.
In our view, it is rather difficult to find room in the current situation for new policy interventions in the field of renewables with a clear net benefit for the Italian economy.
Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.
 Gross final consumption of energy is defined as the total amount of energy delivered for energy purposes to final consumers as well as the transmission and distribution losses for electricity and heat.
 When not specified the values reported are calculated in accordance to the accounting rules in the Directive. This implies, for instance, that wind and hydropower production are normalized over a 15 years period and that only biofuels meeting the sustainability criteria are considered for reaching the European target.
Please remember that Directive 2009/28/EC sets for every EU Member State a specific target of 10% of energy consumed in transport coming from renewables.
 The long economic crisis that reduced Italian GDP by roughly 9% between 2008 and 2009 explains a large part of the sharp and unexpected fall in gross final consumption of energy, that was equal to 132.6 Mtoe in 2008 and was forecasted at 132.2 in 2013 by the Italian governmental Piano d’Azione Nazionale presented in 2010. The effective value for gross final consumption was eventually 124.1. Were it equal to the forecasted value, then Italy would have nevertheless still obtained a remarkable 15.7% of its gross final consumption from renewables.
 Among the other five major economies of the EU, only Poland and Spain are not so far away from their targets (just 3.7 and 4.6 percentage points respectively). The UK and France are very far (9.9 and 8.8 p.p. respectively) and even Germany is not close at all (5.6 p.p.).
 Readers should take this estimate as an indicator of the order of magnitude of the subsidies received by renewables. Indeed, many factors affect such value: the rate of inflation, the effective price of electricity in wholesale markets, the progressively degraded generation capacity of plants due to wear and tear, etc. Moreover, remember that this is an estimate of the gross cost: it does not include actual benefits that could occur due, for instance, to the reduction of wholesale prices.