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Energy Italy

Energy in numbers - Italy

More than 80% of the electricity production in Italy is thermoelectric. The rest is covered with renewable resources (hydropower, wind, photovoltaic and landfill gas). The weight of renewable resources has grown in the latest years. In 2005 hydropower contributed about 10% to the gross domestic energy consumption in Italy (10).

Vulnerabilities Italy

Between 2001 and 2005, the hydropower gross generation has already decreased by about 23%. The generation reduction trend is particularly evident for plants with gross efficient power above 10 MW, whose average capacity factor has been reduced from 36% in 1992 to 22% in 2005 as a consequence of the meteorological trend. According to some of the scenarios considered in the Fourth IPCC Evaluation Report, the gross hydropower potential in Europe would experience an average 6% decline by the 2070s, with a reduction up to 20-50% in the Mediterranean area (11).

All studies on this subject agree on the fact that energy consumption for heating will decrease whilst energy consumption for cooling will increase as compared to the 1961-1990 reference period levels. Demand for domestic cooling in the summer season will affect significantly electricity consumption with increases up to 50% in Italy and Spain by 2080 (12).

Consumption increase for air-conditioning is the cause of the increase in maximum summer energy consumption that in 2006 with 55,619 MW has been for the first time higher than the maximum winter energy consumption (13). At the present sale rate, the amount of operative air conditioners could grow up to 14 million units by 2011. Under business-as-usual conditions, even considering a growing attention for energy-saving products, consumption would raise to 16,400 million kWh/year, equivalent to a CO2 emission of about 9,85 Mt/year (14).

Wind power in Italy

Wind share of total electricity consumption in Italy was 3.4% by the end of 2010. Overall in the EU, in a normal wind year, installed wind capacity at the end of 2010 meets 5.3% of the EU’s electricity needs (16).

Vulnerabilities Europe


The current key renewable energy sources in Europe are hydropower (19.8% of electricity generated) and wind. By the 2070s, hydropower potential for the whole of Europe is expected to decline by 6%, translated into a 20 to 50% decrease around the Mediterranean, a 15 to 30% increase in northern and eastern Europe and a stable hydropower pattern for western and central Europe (1,3,4). In areas with increased precipitation and runoff, dam safety may become a problem due to more frequent and intensive flooding events (5).

It has become apparent during recent heat waves and drought periods that electricity generation in thermal power plants may be affected by increases in water temperature and water scarcity. In the case of higher water temperatures the discharge of warm cooling water into the river may be restricted if limit values for temperature are exceeded. Electricity production has already had to be reduced in various locations in Europe during very warm summers (e.g. 2003, 2005 and 2006) (5,8).

Extreme heat waves can pose a serious threat to uninterrupted electricity supplies, mainly because cooling air may be too warm and cooling water may be both scarce and too warm (9).

Climate change will impact thermoelectric power production in Europe through a combination of increased water temperatures and reduced river flow, especially during summer. In particular, thermoelectric power plants in southern and south-eastern Europe will be affected by climate change. Using a physically based hydrological and water temperature modelling framework in combination with an electricity production model, a summer average decrease in capacity of power plants of 6.3–19% in Europe was shown for 2031–2060 compared with 1971-2000, depending on cooling system type and climate scenario (SRES B1 and A2) (18).

Overall, a decrease in low flows (10th percentile of daily distribution) for Europe (except Scandinavia) is projected with an average decrease of 13-15% for 2031–2060 and 16-23% for 2071-2100,compared with 1971-2000. Increases in mean summer (21 June - 20 September) water temperatures are projected of 0.8-1.0°C for 2031–2060 and 1.4-2.3°C for 2071-2100, compared with 1971-2000. Projected water temperature increases are highest in the south-western and south-eastern parts of Europe (18).

By the 22nd century, land area devoted to biofuels may increase by a factor of two to three in all parts of Europe (2).


It may become more challenging to meet energy demands during peak times due to more frequent heat waves and drought conditions (1). Strong distributional patterns are expected across Europe — with rising cooling (electricity) demand in summer in southern Europe, compared with reduced heating (energy) demand in winter in northern Europe (7).

Climate change impacts on electricity markets in Western Europe

The expected climate changes in the 21st century are likely to have a small impact on electricity prices and production for the energy markets of Western Europe. This has been estimated by modelling three climatic effects (17):

  • changes in demand for electricity due to changes in the need for heating and cooling,
  • changes in supply of hydropower due to changes in precipitation and temperature, and
  • changes in thermal power supply due to warmer cooling water and therefore lower plant efficiency.

According to the model results each of these three partial effects changes the average electricity producer price by less than 2%, while the net effect is an increase in the average producer price of only 1%. Similarly, the partial effects on total electricity production are small, and the net effect is a decrease of 4%.

The greatest effects of climate change are found for those Nordic countries with a large market share for reservoir hydro. In these countries total annual production increases by 8%, reflecting an expected increase in inflow of water. A substantial part of the increase in Nordic production is exported; climate change doubles net exports of electricity from the Nordic countries, while the optimal reservoir capacity is radically reduced (17).

Adaptation strategies

The decreasing hydroelectric production can be particularly critical for the electric system. The hydroelectric production not only contributes to satisfy the base load of the system but it also contributes to manage peak-load periods by using water previously pumped into an elevated storage reservoir during off-peak periods when excess generating capacity is available to do so. Given the likely adverse effects of climate change on the reliability of the hydroelectric production, it is necessary to start to adopt all the available energy storage solutions (pump-storage installations, hydrogen production) (10).

Even the thermoelectric production will be affected by water scarcity because of its cooling needs. It is therefore necessary to avoid the construction of big thermoelectric plants that usually use a large amount of cooling water, and invest instead in small tri-generation plants with lower cooling needs and particularly on highly efficient micro generators (10).

It is also important to promote the diffusion of highly efficient technologies such as heat pumps, combined photovoltaic/thermal powered conditioners. In the medium-long term, the replacement of fossil fuels with renewable energy sources can be considered as an efficient adaptation measure (6): solar and geothermal energy. Biomass energy exploitation could be negatively affected by water scarcity, desertification and net agricultural land loss; it would therefore be wise to avoid the construction of oversized infrastructures and national grids and developing instead a local production system. As for wind energy, the possible relation between climate change and wind patterns change and its implications for Italy still needs to be studied (10).


The references below are cited in full in a separate map 'References'. Please click here if you are looking for the full references for Italy.

  1. Lehner et al. (2005), in: Alcamo et al. (2007)
  2. Metzger et al. (2004), in: Alcamo et al. (2007)
  3. Kirkinen et al. (2005), in: Anderson (ed.) (2007)
  4. Veijalainen and Vehviläinen (2006); Andréasson et al. (2006), in: Anderson (ed.) (2007)
  5. Anderson (ed.) (2007)
  6. Rothstein et al. (2006), in: Anderson (ed.) (2007)
  7. Alcamo et al., 2007
  8. EEA, JRC and WHO (2008)
  9. Behrens et al. (2010)
  10. Ministry for the Environment, Land and Sea of Italy (2007)
  11. Lehner et al. (2005)
  12. Livermore (2005), in: Ministry for the Environment, Land and Sea of Italy (2007)
  13. Silvestrini (2006), in: Ministry for the Environment, Land and Sea of Italy (2007)
  14. Ghielmi (2006), in: Ministry for the Environment, Land and Sea of Italy (2007)
  15. Hanson(2006), in: Ministry for the Environment, Land and Sea of Italy (2007)
  16. European Wind Energy Association (2011)
  17. Golombek et al. (2012)
  18. Van Vliet et al. (2012)