Today, people’s well-being, industrial competitiveness and the functioning of society in general terms are strictly dependent on the availability of safe and affordable energy resources. On the other hand, energy production has historically been largely based on the consumption of fossil resources, generating growing concerns about their rapid depletion and increasing greenhouse gas emissions (CO 2 in particular).
In order to address the identified problems, an integrated approach is essential that acts both on the reduction / optimization of consumption (e.g. through energy efficiency practices) and on the diffusion of alternative energy production processes, based on the exploitation of renewable resources, which are more sustainable from an environmental point of view.
Over the last few years, several virtuous tools have been developed aimed at energy sustainability, which include the definition of interventions and policies at local, national and international level and the development of innovative technologies. The knowledge and dissemination of these tools can make a fundamental contribution to strategies aimed at guaranteeing the supply and use of energy in a safe, efficient and sustainable manner.
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The energy sector is of strategic importance for the European Union (EU), as the standard of living of its citizens and the production processes underlying its economy depend on considerable energy consumption, the production of which causes, on the other hand, significant environmental impacts. According to data from the European Commission (EC), the EU is the largest energy importer in the world, with an imported share equal to 53% of that consumed internally at a cost of about 400 billion EUR per year. To meet their needs, many EU states depend on energy imports from a limited number of non-member states, making them vulnerable to supply disruptions.
In order to manage energy issues, the EU has developed important policies over the last decade to ensure secure, sustainable and affordable energy.
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The evolution of European legislation
Community legislation and guidelines on energy have followed one another at a fast pace in recent years. An important step in the definition of an action plan for climate and energy, setting three ambitious goals for the EU to be achieved by 2020:
- reduce greenhouse gases by 20% (or by 30% in the case of an international agreement);
- decrease energy consumption by 20% by increasing energy efficiency;
- meet 20% of European energy needs with renewable energies.
The package, the first in a long series of measures for the governance of the sector, entered into force in June 2009 and will be valid from January 2013 until 2020. It has established six European legislative instruments aimed at putting into practice the 2020 objectives, intervening on promoting the use of renewable energy, improving the Community system for the exchange of greenhouse gas emission quotas (ETS), quality of fuels, capture and storage of CO, emissions of CO 2 of the car and sharing emission reduction targets.
The new objectives for the reduction of atmospheric pollutants include:
- 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to 1990 levels;
- at least a 27% share of energy consumption from renewable sources;
- energy efficiency improvement of at least 27% .