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Applying the electricity triangle to Italy: a case study

Applying the electricity triangle to Italy: a case study


An article written by Enel Foundation in collaboration with the Politecnico di Torino and Massachusetts Institute of Technology was just published on Applied Energy. “An electricity triangle for energy transition: Application to Italy” focuses on the importance of electrification in the country and develops methods to assess and quantifying its benefits.

It’s been long acknowledged that the current energy model and consumption/production rates are not sustainable, and that there is an urgent need for a transition towards a new system paradigm. The research aims to properly address the so called “electricity triangle, that concisely represents the concept of an energy transition revolving around electricity as the main vector, characterized by three elements:

•     Power generation from renewables, avoiding fossil fuel-fired power plants;

•     The substantial growth of the electrification of energy end-uses;

•      Transmission and distribution of energy through smart power grids, which become the          key energy infrastructures largely overcoming the role played by other alternatives like          gas and oil pipelines and marine routes, railways, and roads.

Such triangle has many implications that require a holistic assessment, analyzing all aspects, from the technological and economic to the societal and environmental. The study puts forward an assessment method that uses inputs from sectorial studies of future scenarios, like the consumptions of different energy commodities, and the average efficiency of related technologies. Compared with other assessment methods, the proposed one, in addition to providing the percentage of electricity over the total final consumption, is able to calculate the specific contribution of electrification to the energy transition scenarios, measured in terms of economic, societal and environmental parameters.

The method was applied to the case of Italy, based on sectorial studies on electricity generation from renewables and electrification in building, industry and transport sectors. The results were projected in the short-, medium- and long term, i.e. for the years 2022, 2030 and 2050 with respect to 2015, the most recent year in which all the needed data were publicly available.

The results indicate that Italy in 2050 has the potential to exceed 85% penetration of renewables in its electricity supply, while 41%, 53% and 42% of the energy consumptions respectively in transport, residential, and industry sectors will be electrified. Ultimately, this would lead to a 68% reduction in CO2 emissions compared to current levels.

Discover more on the research and read the full paper here.

The research was built on a previous study carried out by Enel Foundation, the Energy Center of Politecnico di Torino and MIT: Electrify Italy. The paper was written by our very own Carlo Papa and Giuseppe Montesano, together with Francesco Profumo, Ettore Bompard, Stefano Corgnati, Pierluigi Leone, Tao Huang and Stefano Mauro from Politecnico di Torino, and A. Botterud and M. Jafari from MIT.