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Italy steps out of the dark ages of energy


Photo by Dave Yoder for NYT

In THE AMERICAN, George Clooney’s character hides away in an Italian village so remote that the only means of recreation are the church and the whorehouse, and the nearest public phone is a half-day’s drive away. The town, located in the Abruzzo province, could double for Tocco da Casauria, one of Italy’s oldest towns as well as the site of its latest advancements in renewable energy.

Italy has continually ignored the European Union-mandated emissions reduction target to “get 17% of its totally power form renewable resources by 2020.” Right now Italy is at 7%, and it’s only because of high electricity rates that they’re even that far. Italy has some of the highest electricity rates in Europe, “nearly three times the average in the United States,” so renewable energy is attractive to a poor mountain community like Tocco, especially since the government established a guarantee to buy it from whoever can generate extra. As a result, Tocco’s four wind turbines produce 30% more electricity than the town uses, generating a profit of $200,000 a year that’s being used to renovate buildings and install new solar panels.

It’s too bad that Tocco’s newfound energy independence is a direct result of their monetary gain, but if more towns follow suit – and 800 already have – Italy could go from being one of the continent’s least environmentally responsible countries to its most.