In an announcement widely celebrated as great news for the climate, Italy’s economic development minister confirmed that his country is committed to phasing out coal and will end all use by 2025. However, the strategy of how the country expects to meet this commitment has yet to be revealed.
Coal accounted for roughly 30% of the electricity generated in the UK in 2014, the year before its government made its own announcement to phase out the fossil fuel by 2025. In 2016 that figure had fallen to 9%, and on April 21st 2017, the UK had its first 24-hour period without coal-fired power generation since shortly after the Industrial Revolution, in 1882.
An abundance of hydroelectric resources in Canada mean that just 20% of the country’s energy use relies on coal. And France, which made a pledge to phase out coal by 2022 in July 2017, gets just 4% of its power from coal due to its extensive nuclear energy industry.
Italy’s use of coal-fired power falls somewhere in the middle of this spectrum. 15% is the figure given by Argus, but approximately 90% of the coal burned in Italy is imported from overseas — from countries such as Russia, Australia, the US, and South Africa. The closure of Italian coal-fired plants by 2025 will therefore have more of an impact on coal exporting countries around the world than on the Italian economy.
The 2025 pledge is replacing a previous proposal for Italy to end coal generation by 2030, which was released in May 2017. Italian power grid operator Terna responded to the 2030 plan at the time by saying the country should “increase gas-fired capacity by at least 1GW to guarantee flexible dispatchable capacity without destabilising the Italian system,” and added that meeting the 2030 phase out deadline “would require another 2.4GW of gas-fired capacity and another 1GW interconnector between Sardinia and the mainland.” This new 2025 pledge is likely to require even more investment than that. A final strategy is expected in November 2017.
The question remains on whether more countries will join Italy, France, the UK, and Canada in pledging to end coal, particularly Germany, which relies on it for roughly 40% of its energy mix. Read our insights into the political and economic factors here.