R is for renewables

The electricity market is changing rapidly. In only ten years we have moved from a traditional system with centralised generation facilities and mono-directional transmission and distribution flows, to a more complex and integrated system with high volatility and low predictability, characterised by multi-directional flows among a large number of elements, such as distributed generation, prosumers, storage systems and renewables. A single figure reflects the extent of the growth and, therefore, the complexity of system management: in 2008, there were about 37 thousand production plants, today there are more than 800,000.

Renewable energies are those coming from clean and sustainable energy sources, alternatives to traditional fossil sources (coal, gas and oil) and, as such, at the centre of the energy transition. In Italy, renewable sources are concentrated in the South, whereas most energy demand comes from the North. This makes better integration of the grid and the strengthening of the South-North backbone much-needed changes to solve congestion problems in electricity transmission.

In order to absorb growing proportions of production from non-programmable renewable sources, a constant and rapid expansion of the transmission grid is fundamental. In fact, as noted at the global level, the acceleration of investments is an enabling factor for energy transition. The figures are clear: every euro spent on renewables reflects a euro invested in the development of electricity grids. The expected result is a reduction of costs and an improvement in the performance of renewable production sources and storage systems.

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Photovoltaic plants are made up of panels which convert solar energy into electricity, one or more inverter units to convert direct current to alternating current and other minor electrical components.

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Wind farms are production plants based on devices such as wind turbines which convert into electricity the energy of the wind, that is the kinetic energy of a mass of air in movement.


Hydroelectric plants are made up of generators (turbine+alternator) and hydraulic, civil and electromechanical works which together make use of waterways to generate electricity.

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Geothermal plants use the geothermal energy of the subsoil to produce electricity. Bioenergies are all forms of energy produced by biomass, bioliquids and biogas.

It is expected that the proportion of energy from renewable sources for final consumption should reach 20% in 2020 and 30% in 2030. This objective was already reached in Italy in 2012, and has been constantly maintained and improved on since then. During 2017, for example, renewable sources covered around 32% of the total Italian energy demand, mainly thanks to hydroelectric power.

This means that of every 100 kWh consumed overall in the electrical, thermal and transport sectors, almost 18 kWh are green.In June 2018 the European Parliament, Commission and Council updated the objectives for renewables, giving the go-ahead for one of the eight legislative proposals of the Clean Energy Package. By 2030, in the European Union renewable energy must cover 32% of energy consumption, compared to the previous target of 27%, with a clause for upward revision by 2023.