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Clean energy an ever growing business, renewables account for 35% of Italian market

by Elena Comelli

Clean energy is a fast-growing market which offers a lot of room to new companies, despite competition from low oil prices. At a global level, renewable energy sources in 2015 reached a new record, with over €290 billion invested globally (up 21% on 2014), more than double the €130 billion invested in fossil fuels.

In Italy, investment last year rose to over €2 billion, compared to €1.5 billion the previous year. Total growth however slowed in recent years, if compared to the over €10 billion invested in 2010 and €24 billion in 2011.

Renewables have a solid presence in the Italian market, contributing 35% to domestic energy needs. Between 2010 and 2015, Italy installed new clean energy plants for an overall capacity of 23 gigawatts, nearly half the total 50 gigawatts available from total renewable energy sources, moving investment for over €50 billion.

Green investment is also growing in terms of energy efficiency, which generated a turnover of over €5 billion in 2014, according to recent data by the Energy & Strategy Group of Polytechnic University, with €3 billion of investment in sustainable residential housing.

A third of green plants in Italy is composed by hydro-electric, a third by solar panels, and the remainder by wind, biomass and geothermal. The number of wind power plants installed in Italy increased strongly in 2015, after stalling the previous year, with €670 million invested, followed by solar power with €560 million, hydropower with €510 million and biomass generation with €310 million.

But the true new business, which has been growing in the past years, is the management and maintenance of all these plants. The Energy & Strategy Group estimates a market worth €450 million from managing Italian solar power plants, and of over €360 million for wind power, let alone the upgrade of the plants, which would need to be updated as technology evolves.

This developing market, in contrast with the general crisis of the energy market, is fueling interest from young entrepreneurs. One of 10 Italian start-ups operates in the energy sector, according to a report by Bernoni Grant Thornton, released on the occasion of the Good Energy Award, dedicated to companies which pay attention to sustainability, at its seventh edition this year.

Of 5,623 startups present in Italy, 598 are listed as “company at high technological value in energy terms,” equal to 10.6% of total. According to calculations by Bernoni Grant Thornton based on the register of Italian companies, the three regions with the largest number of green startups are Lombardy (107, or 8.7% of total 1,225), Emilia Romagna with 82 of 656 (12.5%) and Veneto with 44 of 413 (10.6%).

In percentage numbers, the leading regions are Trentino (26 of 185, or 14%), and Friuli (20 of 139, with 14.3%). Innovative solutions focus on the use of alternative sources, but especially on saving energy, which proved to be a winning bet for companies, both in ethical and economic terms.


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