Keywords: renewable energy region, 100% renewable energy self sufficiency region, Varese Ligure, renewable energy in Varese Ligure.
Varese Ligure is a municipality in the Italian Region Liguria. Politically, the region is apart of La Spezia province. It is a small rural village which 95% of the land of the rural local authority has not been built and covered by forests. The region is located in the northernmost of the province (Figure 1) and bordered by Genua Province and Parma Province (Emilia-Romagna). The area of Varese is around 136 km2 and occupied by 2,176 inhabitants (2009). The population density is around 16 inhabitants/km2. The community is called “Comunità Montana dell’Alta Val di Vera”.
Renewable Energy Development
A decade ago, Varese Ligure found itself in difficulties due to a weakening economy, decaying settlements and people moving away. This prompted the mayor to try to reverse the trend by investing in its main resources within the framework of sustainable development.
The target of Varese Ligure is to become 100% renewable and 100% organic.
The local authority of Varese Ligure is close to its target. Varese became the first municipality in Europe to get 100% of its power from renewable energy sources in 2001. The region now generates three times more electricity than the people living in Varese need.
Organization of Procurement
A comprehensive program of sustainable development was put in place to achieve self-sufficiency through the promotion of renewable energy sources and energy efficiency. The strategy is managed by the City Council under the direct supervision of its mayor, who is supported, as far as the environmental certification aspects are concerned (periodical audits), by an ad hoc committee.
The measures to promote and raise awareness in term of renewable energy development were:
- Promotion of renewable energy sources: the focus is on wind (two wind-power generators with a capacity of 2 millions kWh/year installed and other 2 generators will soon be installed), solar (two photovoltaic plants installed and a third installation on the public wastewater treatment station is scheduled) and biomass technologies.
- Promotion of energy efficiency: the focus is on biomass; the authorities are promoting the use of pellet boilers by encouraging local production of pellets as a means of generating income and contributing to forestry maintenance.
- Awareness-raising: one of the main actions is the participation in the EU project for schools called FEE (Force Energetique par les Enfantes), to raise the awareness of pupils, families and local stakeholders on energy issues (energy saving and renewable sources) and to the environment in general.
The village launched its overall development strategy with the renovation of the urban centre; on the economic side. The policy has focused on promoting agriculture and tourism and encouraging farmers to take up organic farming. The administration protect and promote the environmental quality of the village. An important aspect of the environmental strategy is the focus on renewable energy sources and energy saving. All these actions have resulted in important synergies that support each other to reach the target.
Varese 100% Sustainable
The town has launched some initiatives to make Varese 100% sustainable:
- a total of 108 organic farms supply 98% of the town’s food;
- water is purified using environmentally friendly technology;
- waste has been significantly reduced.
Renewable Energy in Varese Ligure
Varese Ligure uses a mix of wind, solar, and small-scale hydropower.
The local authority is now completely self-sustainable as far as electricity is concerned. The establishment of wind and PV plants reduce CO2 emission approximately 9.600 kg/year.
There are four wind turbines generator in Varese Ligure.
Two wind-power generators produce 4 million kWh/year. Other two wind-power generators produce 2 million kWh/year.
Totally 8 million kWh/year of electricity is produced and fed into the local grid managed by Acam, a power company in La Spezia. The wind turbines are located on a ridge 1100 meters above sea level.
The town hall has 102 PV panels covering 95 m2 and generating 12,700 kWh/year, which supplies 98% of the total energy consumption of the building. Varese’s secondary school has 39 PV panels covering 36 m2 and producing 4,600 kWh/year, which supplies 62% of the energy used.
In Varese Ligure, the town’s swimming pool is heated by solar power.
Wood Pellet Stoves
A program to promote the utilization of wood pellet stoves is in the works.
The wind farm with a total of 1.800,00 € was financed by EU and regional funds (30%) as well as by private investments (60%). The PV installation with a total of 155.000 € was funded by regional and local funds.
Benefits of Renewable Energy Development
There are some benefits gained through the sustainable development in Varese Ligure:
- The energy network through added jobs, and an additional 350,000 euros [US $514,000] in revenues which are handed over to the council each year.
- Varese has a six-fold increase in tourists in the last ten years (up to 2007). Many of them are coming just to see its renewable energy network.
- In October 1999: Varese Ligure become the first ISO 14001 certified Italian local authority.
- In November 1999: the first European EMAS-registered local authority.
- In January 2004: “Best rural EU-local authority for the promotion of renewable energy” at the European conference on RES in Berlin.