Vannia Gava, Italy’s Undersecretary of State at the Ministry of Ecological Transition, spoke with New Europe in an exclusive interview in Rome about the energy crisis in Europe, the Italian strategy for an energy mix, the role of renewable energies at the national level and the new approach that the Draghi government has regarding energy sector at the EU level.
New Europe (NE): Madame Undersecretary, Italy is developing an energy strategy that includes both nuclear energy and gas. What is your vision of the future for these two important fronts?
Vannia Gava (VG): We have to change the energy mix and think that every energy source is important. When I was previously speaking about an ecologic transition that can not be done in a minute, I stressed that it is a long process and as part of a so-called energy of transition, we also need 4th generation nuclear energy and gas. This fact was also recognized by the EU. As proof, this course of action will be included in the document on a taxonomy that will be released later this year. We won’t forget the importance of renewable energies.
On January 18, we launched the technical PNRR PNIEC Commission in our ministry. It was created with the task of carrying out environmental assessment procedures for a series of projects under the state’s jurisdiction. At the center of the activity is the energy question, including all of the renewable plants in the National Recovery and Resilience Plan and in the 2030 Energy-Climate Plan.
The Commission will be chaired by the Ministry for Eco-transition and will be composed of 40 experts that have been identified within the permanent staff of state and regional administrations, university institutions, the National Research Council, the National Network System for Environmental Protection, the National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development and the Higher Institute of Health.
This initiative was strongly supported by our ministry and was inserted into the simplifications decree because all of the authorizations and bureaucratic bodies that were a part of the process to approve projects were very slow. As a result, we decided to invest in building up this body. We have to examine more than 200 photovoltaic projects, plus around 40 wind energy parks. The approval process will now become faster with the simplified rules for applicants. As you can see, we have in our plan a global mix of energy. For this reason, we cannot focus only on one specific element.
NE: You stressed that every energy resource is important. At the Italian level, do we need to phase out soya and palm oil?
VG: In our recent transposition of the Red II directive, the phasing out of the soya oil was taken out from the text. We still have palm oil in the document, but it is clear that, at the moment, palm oil is useful. There will be a phasing out over time, but that is not going to be the same as what Brussels wants European because we do not want to damage Italy’s industrial system.
NE: As you said, gas can still be an important element of the Italian energy mix. Do you plan to increase production?
VG: In Italy, we can double the gas production. At the moment we are producing 4.5 million cubic meters, even if we need at the moment 70 million cubic meter, it is clear that every new initiative helps because it is a cheaper gas that I would call “zero kilometer“ energy. A good idea would be to give out the surplus gas that we produce to energy-consuming enterprises by selling it at convenient prices if they would sign, for example, 10-year contracts.
NE: At the EU level, what are the views about nuclear power and gas? France and Germany seem to have different positions in this regard?
VG: With regards to France, we share their views on a path to 4th generation nuclear energy. They wanted to put it in taxonomy, and we agree about that. We don’t want to close our access to innovation, but more importantly, to research and investment in new projects. It is clear that at the European level, there is still a lack of dedicated incentives in the EU’s text for Italian enterprises that have already invested a lot in the sustainability phase and those who invested in gas. The text will have to be improved, but the discussion is open at the EU level and we are sharing our opinions in a more constructive atmosphere. About Germany, the Greens are now major players in the government. That said, the slogans and positions of the campaign trail are different from governing. This is the time when they have to put in place a strategy to protect the environment, but also to help local enterprises and the production cycle of the economy. Germany had, from the beginning, taken a negative view (of nuclear power), but it appears to have changed its mind.
NE: Are you satisfied with Italy’s relations with the European Union and the other members of the bloc?
VG: I’m very happy about our approach towards Europe. It has to fundamentally change. If we look at the previous governments, the executive went to Brussels banging their fists on the table but also to say that we have to work on the environment as a team. We have some challenging objectives and without a doubt, we need to be consistent on that, but the timing has to be right. The approach has to be different and must safeguard Italian interests.