Italy may be classified as among the industrialised countries, but its energy dependence is very high (about 80 percent). For this reason, biomass as source for energy has regained interest in the last years. At present biomass represent only two percent of Italian energy demand28. In the Italian context the most important forest biomass considered are woody-biomass, essentially firewood and woody residues already used for heat and power generation in small and medium size plants.
The volume of agricultural and forest residue biomass is about 33Mt as dry matter per year. The accessible resource is estimated about 17Mt (odt), but technical and social limits lower it at 7.5-9.5Mt. Thus, biomass utilised represent the 25 percent of the accessible amount of residual biomass produced every year29. Besides the residues, other biomass could be obtained from appropriate cultivation on surplus food-crops lands or lands abandoned for lack of convenient agricultural income.
In Italy the production of RE from biomass is not yet developed on a large scale also for a low availability of accessible lands. Biomass consists of some 2-3Mtoe/yr - mostly based on firewood utilised in domestic heating at small scale - respect 180Mtoe/yr of National needs30. A study performed by the Association of Agricultural Engineering (University of Milan) on behalf of ENEA, realised that power plants for overall 2,400Mwe could be installed in different Italian regions. They could be fed with a mix of accessible biomass such as wood and by-products from forests, herbaceous by-products, and agro-forestry residues, producing about 10-15TWh per year, which represents five percent of National electricity demand.A. INSTITUTIONAL ASPECTS
A.1. POLICIES, STRATEGIES AND PROJECTS
The Italian environmental and energy policy within the decisions of the European "White Paper" (November 1997) and the well known targets set by the "Third Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change" which was held in Kyoto on December 1997, can be outlined by describing briefly its main items.
- RESOLUTION n.137/98 of the Inter-ministerial Committee for the Economic Programming (CIPE), which approves the national greenhouse gas emission reduction targets at 95-112 Mtoe CO2, by the years 2008-2012.
- BIOENERGY NATIONAL PROGRAMME (PNERB) of the Ministry of Agriculture which, within the Resolution above mentioned, points out the main actions to carry out in order to stimulate the production and the utilisation of biomass for energy purposes. Its main aims "Environmental defence and energy dependence reduction in the less expensive way, with positive effects on employment, soil preservation, and agricultural development".
In order to get these goals; two main actions were set up. The first one, Law 423/1998 considers the plan of a National Programme concerning the use of biofuels. The other one referred to as Decree 173/1998 sets up aids to farmers, manufacturers, and traders dealing with agricultural products. The effective decree of this law is in the process of issuance.
Research and development programmes are focused on SRF, their interactions with the use of set-aside and marginal lands, efficiency of harvesting, transportation, and storage of woody materials. According to the PNERB the realistic target is the production of 8-10Mtoe/yr from biomass within 2010-2012.
A.2. - THE ROLE OF TECHNICAL AGENCIES
Governmental organisms involved:
· ENEA - the National Italian Governmental Agency, is responsible for the fields of new technology, energy, and environment. The main tasks of ENEA in these areas are to make researches and to diffuse the results nationally. Its wood-fuel expertise and fields of application are training and diffusion of information, preparation of energy plans, modelling of engineering systems and process monitoring.
Non Governmental organisations involved:
· ITABIA - Italian Biomass Association, is a non-profit organisation with the purpose of promoting the knowledge and the diffusion of technologies relating to the production, harvesting, treatment and conversion of energy crops, as well as of waste material. It also promotes strategies and action plans. It organises national and international conferences, meetings, and specialised workshops, study tours and visits to installations. ITABIA is working in support of Italian Ministers of Agriculture and Environment for the realisation of programmes and projects for reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and RE promotion.
· RENAGRI is an association promoting RE in the agricultural sector. It carries out studies, researches, and demonstrations and disseminates information on the use of non-food biomass. As regards wood-fuel, RENAGRI is mainly concerned with energy crops such as SRC.
· CRAM - the Research Centre for Environment and Materials, is a section of ENEL, the Italian power utility that produces, transports, and distributes electricity in Italy. CRAM carries out studies and projects on electricity production from biomass31.
Since 1992 some laws are in force which allow (Law 9/1991) and favour the production of electricity from RE by private enterprises through the use of incentives (Law 10/1991) or special price (CIP6/92) for selling electricity to the main electric utility, ENEL.
_ FINANCIAL REGULATIONS
An important fiscal instrument, the so-called "Carbon tax" was introduced starting from 1st January 1999 with the aim of reducing the use of energy products with high environmental effects by progressively increasing their excise duties (and consequently their selling prices). The 15 percent of revenues coming from the Carbon tax are directed to stimulate specific investments by supporting energy efficiency, the use of RE, and the reduction of dangerous emissions. For the first year, a yield of approximately 150 MEURO was established. The funds for the years to come will be established according to the evolution of the market. The main target of the law is to achieve a reduction of 12 Mtoe of CO2 within the year 2004.
FINANCIAL INCENTIVES FOR THE PRODUCTION OF ENERGY CROPS:
An investment subsidy exists for up to 55 percent for individuals and 65 percent for associated agricultural enterprises or co-operatives.
FINANCIAL INCENTIVES FOR THE CONVERSION OF ENERGY CROPS:
Grants of up to 50 percent of the cost are available for renewable/based power generation and development facilities.
FINANCIAL INCENTIVES FOR THE UTILISATION OF ENERGY FROM ENERGY CROPS:
ENEL companies are obliged to purchase energy produced from RE. The most important financial incentive in Italy is the CIP6/92, which consists of a fixed price composed of two factors. Avoided cost and subsidy (limited for the first eight years of plant operation). The electricity produced from RE can be sold to third parties except ENEL, but free circulation is allowed within both private and mixed consortiums, limited to self-production requirements32.
In Southern Italy, grants may be in addition to other State incentives provided they do not exceed 75 percent of the overall investment. Starting 1995 was established33 a yearly quota of biodiesel produced in Italy or imported from other EU countries without excise. A Ministry of Finance Decree allots the quota, fixed at globally 125,000t per year, among producers or importers. The "defiscalisation" was blocked up until May 1998 by a Decision of EU Commission on March 1997 because of irregularity of Italian producers about biodiesel tax exemption.
Wood-fuel standards are identified. Draft standards on determination of size and the Italian Termo-technical Committee is considering characteristics and requisites for sale.
In Italy residual biomass is already potentially available. It is necessary to point out that marginal land, which amount to a few million hectares. Overall, could be used as forests. As a matter of fact, there is a need of reforesting and managing low-productivity agricultural lands preserving them from hydro-geological disruption. So, the care and maintenance of lands could produce new raw materials for energy and industrial purposes.
However, there are some constraints because: residues and wastes are dispersed in the territory, surplus agro-land is often marginal, with low-level services which make investments unprofitable, reforestation needs high management costs, rural property is highly fragmented ( two million farms are less than two hectares in size).
28 ITABIA - AFB-nett Agricultural and Forestry Biomass - Phase I, Final Report from the Italian Team, Rome, Sept.1995.
29 ITABIA - "Guide on how to grow SRF to produce energy in an Environmentally sustainable manner" Final Report of the ELG, 1999.
30 ITABIA - Meeting on Biomass Policy, Bruxelles, 18th Jan.'99.
31 ADEME - "Wood-fuel for heating Systems" European catalogue - DGXVII
32 IEA - "The evolving Renewable Energy market" .
33 Decree n.504/1995.