Assessing risk and opportunities in a high-renewables scenario: local planning and new energy landscapes

Michèle Pezzagno, Marco Rosini


With the significant exception of hydroelectric power plants and traditional biomass burning, renewable energy (RE) have so far represented a limited share of global primary energy. However, renewable power generation technologies, with specific reference to wind and solar plants, have consistently followed a steep price-experience learning curve: new solar photovoltaic power plants cost today 80 per cent less than those built ten years ago and since 2013 the world is annually adding more capacity for renewable power than coal, natural gas, and oil combined. The impressive and largely unforeseen reduction of total RE generation costs, together with emerging options for energy storage, is empowering new distributed power generation models and some analysts suggest that electricity produced from large-scale solar plants will be soon cheaper than power produced from any conventional technology, in many European countries.
The perspective of a power generation system strongly based on renewable sources represents a thrilling opportunity for climate change mitigation, but also raise concerns about potential risks. In this context, a first analysis of the Italian scenario is proposed, and the relevance of a possible transition to a power generation system based on renewables in terms of soil consumption and potential competition with agriculture is discussed.
Renewable power plants have generally low environmental impacts, particularly in terms of pollutants emissions, but due to the need of harvesting diluted forms of energy (solar radiation and wind) have a different spatial scale with respect to traditional thermal power plants. The adoption of a distributed power generation model based on renewable sources can produce positive social, environmental and economic effects, but implies relevant transformations at landscape level and hence needs to be properly managed.
Local authorities and communities should be aware of the transition scale and importance, being involved and empowered in designing future energy landscapes.
Fostering the adoption of renewable energy, the Italian legislation has introduced the concept of ‘not suitable areas’ for RE plants, but the approach adopted so far in the authorization process appears insufficient for achieving high quality results at local scale. In this perspective, pro-active planning tools should be adopted to orient the deployment of renewable power plants at district level, filling the gap between building efficiency policies and large-scale energy plans, toward the definition of collectively shared renewable energy landscapes.


landscape; renewable energy; local planning

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CSE Journal - City Safety Energy is a semiannual journal (Two ISSUES per Year) published by Le Penseur in Brienza (PZ) - Italy | ISSN print edition 2283-8767 | ISSN online edition 2284-3418 - Journal registerd at the Court of Potenza (Italy) n. 219/2014