The Current Situation and Perspectives on the Use of Biomass in the Generation of Electricity:Italy


Biomass share in Italy within the energy mix is lower than in other European countries, but is developing at a fast pace: In 1999, this source accounted for 0.6 % of national electricity production, but grew to 2.6 % in 2009; this represents an increase of 2 % with respect to 1999. Biomass commonly used in Italy for the production of electric and/or thermal energy consists mainly of forest, agricultural, and agro-industrial residues; for these types of biomass, formed by discards and by products of heterogeneous productive activities, it is quite difficult to give a precise quantification; therefore, it is impossible to know the availability on the market of energy (Alfano and Pignatelli 2010).

Over the total renewable resources, biomass share rose from 2.9 to 11.1 %. Over those 10 years, the number of biomass plants grew an average of 10.4 % per year, while the installed capacity registered an average annual increase of 14.8 %. Moreover, the average size of biomass power plants rose from 3.2 to 4.8 MW. Overall, according to official data as of December 31, 2009, the installed capac- ity of Italy’s biomass plants amounted to 2,018 MW, with a 2008 production of 7.6 billion kWh. The installed biomass capacity in 2012 reached 2,860 MW; this represents an increase of 12.8 % with respect to 2011. However, the biomass installed capacity in 2012 represents only 2.3 % of the total installed capacity in the country and 6.74 % of the total renewables capacity installed.

In 2012, the electricity generated by biomass and waste reached 15.075 bil- lion kWh; this represents an increase of 98.4 % with respect to 2008.10 The NREAP (2010) acknowledges a predominant role for biomass, especially in the heating sector by 2020 and also foresees an increasing use of biomass for the production of electricity, contributing to 19 % of the production in 2020 compared to 12 % in 2008. In absolute values, the majority of electricity should be produced with solid biomass, although a large relative increase in the use of bioliquids and biogas is expected (Cocchi 2012).

Biomass power plants operate in every region in Italy, with Lombardy leading the way as regards both the number of facilities (90) and installed capacity (460.5 MW), followed by Emilia Romagna and Campania. Altogether, these three regions account for more than 50 % of installed capacity in Italy. The largest pro- portion of biomass installed capacity concerns municipal solid waste and solid biomass facilities: over 1,225 MW, roughly accounting for 62 % of the total, com- pared to 378 MW from biogas and 385 MW from liquid biomass. Even excluding waste, solid biomass registers a noticeable growth that is nevertheless slower compared to the total of the biomass sector. Indeed, between 1999 and 2009, the installed capacity increased on average 9.1 % per year, against 14.8 % of the entire sector. However, production grew at a fast pace, and rising at an average annual rate of 17 % in 2009, it achieved 2.8 billion kWh, accounting for 37 % of the over- all domestic biomass production. Nevertheless, this data are not as high as the 54.9 % achieved by the EU-15.

The Italian regions of Calabria and Puglia generate more than half of the domestic production of this sector. Among Northern regions, where this industry has spread more evenly, Emilia Romagna ranks first, with 13.1 % of the total.

The Italian budget law of 2008 introduced two distinct regimes for the production of electricity from biomass, biogas, and bioliquids, which are valid until December 2012, whereas from 2013 on, a new regime will be introduced as defined by Decree 28 of March 3, 2011, that is, the transposition law of the renew- able energy directive. The new support scheme for biomass energy that started in 2013 contains the following main principles:

• A new mechanism of FiTs will be introduced for power plants (from biomass, biogas, and bioliquids) up to 5 MWe. The value of FiTs will be modulated on the power range and the source of energy and feedstock used by the plant; for power plants with capacities higher than 5 MWe, the incentive will be assigned to operators by reverse auctions managed by GSE;

• Plants with a capacity between 50 kWe and 5 MWe will have to be included in a national register managed by GSE, which will set a maximum quota of energy that can be incentivized every year depending on the technology used;

• Biomass, biogas, and bioliquid power plants reusing waste heat will benefit of a premium for high-efficiency cogeneration additional to the new FiTs (Cocchi 2012).

Generation of Electricity Using Biomass and Waste

In 2010, the number of bioenergy power plants in Italy reached 669. In terms of units, biogas plants are the most abundant (66 %) followed by biomass plants 20 % and bioliquids (14 %). In terms of installed power capacity, 53 % are bio- mass, followed by bioliquids (26 %) and biogas (22 %). Biomass power plants have an average capacity of 9 MWe, whereas biogas power plants only 1 MWe. Between 2000 and 2010, electricity from bioenergy marked a 30 % increase per year, moving from 1,505 to 9,440 GWh.

In 2010, a total of 67 biomass power plants were active in Italy, compared to 53 in 2009; despite the increasing number of biomass power plants, the overall installed capacity decreased to 444 MWe in 2010 from 473 MWe in 2009. Altogether, these plants generate an annual demand of nearly 4 million tons of solid biomass, mainly represented by wood chips and roundwood sourced from the management of domes- tic forests. An amount in the range of some hundred thousand tons of biomass (palm kernels and shells, olive cake, and wood chips) was also imported at least until 2010. However, the current policy framework and support schemes are in favor of the use of locally sourced biomass; therefore, the import of solid biomass for power genera- tion will probably not increase in the future.

The evolution of the generation of electricity using biomass and waste in Italy during the period 2008–2012 is shown in Fig. 7.10.

According to Fig. 7.10, the generation of electricity in Italy using biomass and waste during the period 2008–2012 increased 97 %. It is expected that the use of this type of energy source in the country for electricity generation, particularly solid biomass (7,900 GWh) and biogas (6,020 GWh), will continue increasing

The Current Situation and Perspectives on the Use of Biomass in the Generation of Electricity-0194

during the coming years with the objective to reach 19 % of the total generation of electricity in 2020 (18,780 GWh) (see Table 7.4 and Fig. 7.11).

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