In the current energy crisis, what are the main challenges facing local authorities and stakeholders?
The crisis hits hardest in countries dependent on Russian fossil fuels. In 2021, Italy imported nearly 40% of its gas from Russia alone. Bills are out of control, hampering economic growth, prosperity and stability. Liguria feels this acutely. We have very low renewable energy production, and our economy consists primarily of unorganised SMEs that are particularly vulnerable. A cost of living crisis means that local authorities face rising demand for services, but the cost to provide them is also escalating. In everyday terms, municipalities have difficulty providing public lighting, understanding rising energy tariffs, and accessing national incentives.
Citizens, businesses and local authorities need solutions to soaring energy prices. How is IRE Liguria supporting them?
We are busily setting up renewable energy communities (RECs) which can alleviate energy poverty with their distribution of affordable, efficient energy to vulnerable households. Concurrently, we work with municipalities to develop and implement their SECAPs, and assist the regional government with efficiency measures targeting buildings and industry.
Furthermore, we manage “Consorzio Energia Liguria”, a consortium of >130 public entities. We help them to analyse tariffs, navigate soaring prices, and avail of national support, since local actors often lack the capacity to undergo complex funding procedures.
How are you planning to build long-term resilience to energy insecurity and price volatility?
We are in an emergency now, but the energy crisis may continue for years to come. We will keep promoting RECs and working with public entities to support their green transition. On top of that, we aim to extend our support beyond public authorities to also include local SMEs and their associations as much as possible. Our experience tells us that these private entities are having a hard time building resilience to energy insecurity and price volatility; they need the guidance of energy agencies as much as public authorities.
What is the biggest lesson IRE Liguria has learned in recent months?
What would you share with other agencies in Europe? The main lesson: energy is too important and must stay a priority. Energy is crucial to the wellbeing of citizens and the EU economy. It has always been a scarce resource and the low prices of bygone decades were unlikely to last forever, regardless of pandemic or war (though they accelerated the process). As energy agencies, we can play a crucial role, supporting our territories in the energy transition and convincing them that energy efficiency investments and the promotion of renewable energy sources are the only way forward.
Maria Fabianelli is FEDARENE Vice-President for Energy Efficiency and Investments. She is also Energy Director of IRE Liguria (IRE).
This interview is part of our publication “Sustainable Regions in Action 2023”. Find out more by clicking here to discover best practices from FEDARENE members as well as an overview of our activities.