Briefings

Summary: The Coal Phase Out Transition – Italy's Leadership Opportunity

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Governments are increasingly recognizing that phasing out the use of coal for electricity generation delivers large, rapid, and cost-effective reductions in CO2 emissions while creating space for investment in clean energy. But Italy is falling behind its peers who are taking action.

Italy has a positive energy market context that would enable it to more rapidly end the use of coal in electricity generation. To date, however, the Italian government has failed to make this commitment. The new National Energy Strategy should include the aim of phasing out coal before 2030 and identify policies to deliver this.

In the light of the Trump Administration pulling back from action on climate change, increased leadership from other countries is essential. During 2017 Italy holds the Presidency of the G7. Italy must show that it is acting on coal to deliver on its international climate leadership responsibilities.

Summary

  • Italy needs to provide a clear pathway to phase out coal use in electricity generation before 2030. It must do this to drive domestic investment in clean energy and deliver on its international leadership responsibilities. If Italy fails to develop a coal phase out strategy it will become increasingly under pressure.
  • Currently, Italy is being left behind by its G7 peers. France, the UK and Canada are its closest comparators: all three countries have announced national commitments to end the use of coal in power generation (by 2023, 2025, and 2030 respectively).
  • In Europe, Finland has made a policy commitment to phasing out coal use before 2030. Portugal, Ireland, Austria, Sweden and Denmark are all approaching the end of coal use by around 2025. Belgium ceased coal power generation in 2016.
  • The rapid retirement of coal power plants will continue in the USA due to market fundamentals. Germany has begun to retire old coal plants and has proposed a national commission to consider policy options. Japan had been supporting the construction of new coal power plants, but even there projects are now being cancelled.
  • The majority of coal power plants in Europe and Italy are old. Many should close by the early 2020s. The politics of coal will become increasingly visible, with both positive and negative impacts. Political parties are starting to anticipate this with proactive policy solutions that can provide a positive pathway for workers and communities. In The Netherlands, the negotiation of the new government coalition will include consideration of a coal phase out timetable.
  • Italy is in the curious position of having helpful energy market dynamics and a headline commitment to action from its major utility Enel, but an almost complete absence of policy action by government.
  • Enel successfully repositioned itself as a clean energy champion ahead of its competitors, thereby escaping the worst economic impacts experienced by other utilities. But Enel is still a significant user of coal and has failed to set out an explicit plan for ending coal use. It needs to accelerate the shift away from coal and into clean energy and smart systems.
  • The Italian government must provide a fair policy framework that incorporates all remaining coal power plants. The new National Energy Strategy and EU National Energy & Climate Plan processes provide the perfect opportunity for Italy to set out a coal phase out plan for the next decade.

Leggere la traduzione in Italiano del Sommario: L’uscita dal carbone nel mondo – l’Italia può essere un paese leader

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