Italy has never been a major
producer of coal, being almost entirely dependent on imports. While about 1.5 –
2 Mt of coal per year were produced in the country in the early 1980s,
production drastically dropped to minor levels by 1995, and has since then
remained relatively stable, with 0.32 Mt of production in 2014 against 13.76 Mt
of imports in the same year, coming mainly from USA, South Africa, Australia,
Indonesia and Colombia, but also from Canada, China, Russia and Venezuela.
After dropping from 17 per
cent of the electricity mix in 1990 to 9 per cent in 2000, coal power has then
increased as oil-fired units were again repowered to use coal. By 2004, coal
power once again amounted to roughly 16 per cent of electricity production.
This level has remained constant in recent years, hovering between 13 and 16 per
cent over the last decade, providing 15 per cent of total generation in 2015.
In Italy, 8 coal-fired power
plants are still in operation (5 of which are owned by ENEL), for a capacity of
almost 9GW. The majority of Italy’s coal power plants are over 20 years old,
and, collectively, they are the source of close to 10 per cent of Italy’s total
national CO2 emissions.
The only coal resources in
Italy are concentrated in the Sulcis –
Iglesiente basin in south-western Sardinia. The mining activities
were suspended there in 1972, but since 1997 the Sulcis basin has been the
subject of new attention to evaluate new solutions for an eco-compatible use of
During the early 2000s, new
importance has indeed been given to coal as an alternative energy source. As a
consequence of such renewed interest in coal, Art.1.70 of Law No. 239 of August
23, 2004, entrusted MISE (in cooperation with the Ministry of Environment and
the Ministry of Infrastructures and Transport) with the task to promote one or
more framework agreements with interested operators, research institutions and
interested regions, in order to encourage the research and the use of advanced
and environmentally sustainable technologies for the production of electricity
or of fuel from coal.