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(en) Italy, Sicilia Libertaria: Cer Special - Shortcomings, delays and good examples: the CERs in Sicily (ca, de, it, pt, tr)[machine translation]

Date Tue, 2 Apr 2024 08:13:52 +0300

The Environmental Energy Plan of the Sicilian Region 2030 sets the objective of increasing energy production from renewable sources to 69% in 2030. According to the ARPA Sicily 2023 yearbook, a small but significant part of this percentage (1,220 megawatts of 2,320 megawatts of solar energy produced by 2030) will come from self-consumption plants and renewable energy communities (CER): groups of citizens, commercial activities, local public administrations and small and medium-sized enterprises that produce, consume and exchange energy from renewable sources produced by plants owned by one or more community entities.

CERs have the potential to revolutionize the relationship between community and energy, but require a long and complex process to become operational. In 2022, the Sicilian Region allocated almost 5 million euros for the preparation of the technical-economic feasibility studies preparatory to the establishment of the CERs to encourage local administrations to undertake this path. Regional funding, calibrated on the number of inhabitants, was mostly assigned to the cities of Palermo (63,398 euros) and Messina (33,196 euros). Followed by Syracuse (27,804 euros), Ragusa (22,730 euros), Caltanissetta (20,867 euros), Agrigento (20,228 euros) and Enna (15,017 euros). Catania did not ask for it. In total 301 Municipalities have obtained the funds but, to date, few have managed to use them.

In the Municipality of Palermo, at the moment, the only CER close to implementation is located in Brancaccio and is promoted by a private company in the sustainable energy sector. In Messina a municipal CER project was started in 2021 in collaboration with Enel X and the Le.L.A.T association. (League for the Fight against Aids and Drug Addiction) in the popular Mangialupi district, on whose roofs photovoltaic panels have been installed. The project should also involve families from the neighborhood but it is not clear at what stage the works are or what has blocked the project so far. Furthermore, the councilor for the Ecological Transition of Messina, Francesco Caminiti, gave notice of other projects in collaboration with the Autonomous Institute of Social Housing, at the moment none of these have been started. In Catania the IACP is promoting a CER in the Nesima public housing complex, thanks to the financing of 29 million euros from the Complementary National Plan. For now, energy efficiency works have started but the CER has not been established. Fondazione con il Sud is developing two CERs in the eastern suburbs of Messina and in Regalbuto (EN) on the footprint of the CER Napoli Est on the outskirts of the Campania capital. In these cases, it is the foundation that makes funds and technical expertise available to build bottom-up energy transition paths.

Many smaller administrations have reported a lack of technical skills and staff to manage the flow of projects and the resulting reporting of community and regional funds. Others have relied on external technicians, who have been waiting for a long time for the implementing decree from the Ministry of the Environment, and now they must be able to respect the deadlines. The Municipalities that had previously equipped themselves with photovoltaic systems, at present, will not be able to make them available to the CERs. Still others have established CERs legally but must install the systems. The ministerial decree, which arrived only in January, provides funds of up to 40% to finance the systems, and only for municipalities under 5,000 inhabitants; therefore the other Municipalities will have to rely on the investment of the community itself, if there is capital available, on technical partners or wait for the tender worth 100 million announced by the Energy Department of the regional Department.

Many municipalities on the island, including Messina and the Madonie towns, had undertaken this path well before the regional tender with the collaboration of Enel X as contact person or, in the case of Blufi, as technical partner. In these cases, the municipal administrations entrust Enel X with the establishment and management of the CER. Although, in fact, large companies in the energy supply chain cannot join the CERs, unlike small and medium-sized enterprises, they can propose themselves as network managers by making their investment on GSE incentives. If on the one hand this operation ensures the progress of the project, on the other it reduces the decision-making capacity of the communities, the true strong point of the CERs. A CER capable of ensuring the balance between energy produced and consumed, aware of its own needs and capable of managing the value generated by the energy sold to the GSE, can reinvest this value in the development of its territory.
On the contrary, the establishment of a CER by third parties outside the community risks taking control of the territory away from the community that lives there.

The experiences of the towns of Ferla and Petralia Sottana demonstrate the transformative capabilities of a community aware of the management of its territory. In Ferla, thanks to the collaboration with the University of Catania, the first active CER on the island was born. Bills have dropped and the Municipality has saved around 30 thousand euros per year, which has been reinvested in community services. In Petralia Sottana the municipal political staff was fortunate to have the technical skills within its staff and was therefore able to use regional funds to create Energie D'alta Quota, a CER in the form of a cooperative with the ambition of participating in PNRR calls. These examples demonstrate that, although funds are necessary, the most important tool is the political will to bring together the necessary technical skills and in-depth knowledge of the community to fully develop the potential of CERs according to the specific needs of each territory.

Chiara Conte

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