Today, accelerating the process of producing electric energy from renewable sources is of vital importance, not only for making electric mobility and the ecological transition more sustainable, as also required by the EU’s “Fit for 55”* scheme, but most of all, for achieving a certain degree of energy independence from those non-European countries that currently have a monopoly of the market. Electric vehicles, moreover, will always have lower indirect emissions if the charging infrastructure is increasingly powered by renewable and stable energy sources which are not affected by weather conditions.
The exploitation of hydraulic energy, that is, mechanical energy produced by water currents, is an ancient mechanism which appears to have been developed, also in Italy, starting from the 9th century: in Alpine and Apennine territories, there was always one or more water mills for a wide range of needs, from the production of flour, from sawmills to olive-presses, as far as arriving at the more recent industrial use for blast furnaces and hammers. It will, therefore, be very important to return to exploiting hydraulic energy, also in the already widespread small micro-hydroelectric plants.
During the last two centuries up to the 1960s, our country growth, also thanks to the easy and unexpensive economic procurement of non-renewable sources. The extraction, transport and combustion of natural gas, together with petroleum and its derivatives have, however, led to many problems: the first problem is the polluting of the air, especially in cities, together with a high level of greenhouse gas emissions, especially of CO2, responsible for extensive environmental damage, such as climate change, drought, food crises and economic dependence on large gas and petroleum producers located in unstable and insecure geographic areas.
The importance of being able to conserve energy
In the last few months, there has been a further worsening in the geopolitical situation linked to the war in Ukraine, causing a worrying energy crisis. For this reason, water reservoirs are becoming an increasingly precious resource linked to the availability of drinking water for civil use, agricultural irrigation and for the production, today indispensable, of electricity which continues to be in short supply due international social-political instability relating to supplier countries of fossil fuels (used in thermoelectric power plants). The sum of all these critical situations forces the West to search for alternative sources, preferably of a natural and renewable nature.
TERNA SpA*, in its latest bulletin, dated 23/05/2022, offers many interesting points of interest: renewables satisfied, on average, 37% of the electricity demand in April 2022, exceeding 50% over the Easter holiday period (between 16 and 18 April) and recorded a maximum peak of 60.3% on Easter Day, that is, 17 April 2022. In April 2022, moreover, 86% of the Italian electricity demand was met by national production and the remaining 14% by energy imported from abroad.
In Italy, so-called new renewable energy sources, that is, wind energy and photovoltaic energy, are growing strongly (+53.5% and +17,6% respectively). In April 2022, wind energy benefitted from more windy conditions, while photovoltaic production grew both as a result of more sunshine and of the growth of installed power in new plants. As a result, wind and photovoltaic energy generated a quarter, around 25%, of national energy production, a record value for April.
Problems relating to hydroelectric energy
In contrast, geothermic and hydroelectric sources are falling (-0.4% and -41% respectively). Hydroelectric production, in fact, is suffering the effects of the drought and the low rainfall that have been persisting now for several months.
In Italy, measures need to be taken regarding the situation of hydroelectricity, the most stable and flexible renewable source (especially at night and during peaks in energy demand). In fact, once the water has passed through the turbines of the power plants and electricity has been produced, it’s possible to release the perfectly clean and drinkable water into the civil distribution network or to use it in agriculture to irrigate the fields.
The tanks of hydroelectric stations are veritable batteries that store electricity which can be conserved for a long time with low environmental impact and without undergoing processes of deterioration. For these reasons, the conservation and correct use of water reserves need to be developed, especially in consideration of the current geopolitical situation which is causing an increase in the prices of energy watts and a difficult procurement of water in many parts of the world.
Energy autonomy, therefore, is taking on increasing importance, also with respect to higher stability in prices. Fossil fuels have already been subject to heavy speculation and being able to conserve more water useable for hydroelectric stations in suitable tanks, replacing gas, petroleum and coal, means having a very effective means of combatting the speculative tactics of the more unscrupulous markets that operate to the detriment of the general community.
For Reinova, the electrification of mobility, of micro-mobility and of work machinery, besides being a natural technical evolution to reduce emissions and to make machines more silent, offers extremely important strategic aspects for using electricity which is self-produced at national level.
*Fit for 55 – is a package of new regulations that involve raising the target of renewable energy production from the current 32% to 40% by 2030. It’s an update of the Renewable Energy Directive. The proposals contained in the Package are structured and affect different sectors: means of transport, renewable energy sources and energy efficiency. It’s possible to predict a strong push for mobility electrification by 2035, in line with this new package of EU regulations.*TERNA S.p.A – owner of the Italian national electricity transmission grid, is one of the main European energy transmission network operators. TERNA manages the Italian high voltage transmission network, one of the most modern and technological in Europe. It is also responsible for the transition and transformation of the electricity market towards sustainability, eco-compatible and renewable sources and guarantees a stable, safe and efficient energy supply to Italian families and businesses. TERNA, in fact, manages 74,855 Km of high voltage electricity lines and 26 interconnections with abroad for an efficient and effective strategic exchange of energy with neighbouring European countries.