Italy: Energy Efficiency

Last Updated: 20 November 2018
Article by Andrea Carreri and Giuliano Proietto


The energy efficiency of a system - whether of an industrial size or of a civil or residential nature – consists in the ability to exploit the energy supplied to it to satisfy its needs. The lower is the consumption relative to the satisfaction of a given need, the better is the energy efficiency of a structure. Therefore, defining the energy efficiency of a system can be complex, due to the variety of devices that make-up the same system and their configurations.

However, by studying end uses and the transformation sector related to electricity production, it is possible to identify the most energy-intensive sectors. The Italian national budget shows that final consumption is divided into almost equal shares between the (i) industrial, (ii) civil and (iii) transport sectors:

  1. Industrial sector: energy efficiency is the primary goal of any industrial energy policy, as it is among the main items of final consumption both in economic and strictly energy terms. Efficiency can be achieved through energy saving interventions, with the aim of recovering part of the energy wasted during the processes through exhaust fumes and steam and reused in other thermal processes or sold outside for district heating.
  2. Civil sector: consumption in the civil sector is often due to a high degree of energy inefficiency of end-users, both regarding the thermal and electrical consumption: the first is due to the need for heating of the living areas and the production of domestic hot water. In fact, through interventions that make the building structure more efficient, it is possible to drastically reduce thermal consumption. The second, is for the most part related to the lighting and power supply of thermal users. The main efficiency interventions are therefore to be directed towards better technology for luminaires (high-efficiency lamps) and the replacement of thermal users through solar thermal systems, heat pumps and condensing boilers. The use of class A appliances allows significant savings in terms of energy consumption.
  3. Civil transport sector: is one of the largest items of final consumption and has some potential for improvement for energy savings. Parallel to the development of new technologies to improve or replace the internal combustion engine, it is necessary to structure the transport offer in a different way.

The extremely wide range of possible measures to improve energy efficiency and intelligent energy management often requires planning and management by specialists in the field; this complex reality has led to the recognition of ESCO (Energy Service Company) companies defined by the relevant Italian regulation as "(...) the natural or legal person providing energy services or other energy efficiency improvement measures in the installations or premises of the user and, in doing so, accepts a certain margin of financial risk (...)" (Article 2 of Legislative Decree 115 of 30 May 2008). These companies, which must be certified according to UNI CEI 11352, are responsible for providing customers with services related to the design, construction, management and analysis of energy-intensive systems in order to keep consumption within the established limits.


At European level, given the growing attention to environmental sustainability, there has been over the years a growing expectation on the potential development of energy efficiency, as it is capable of (i) guaranteeing an energy system less exposed to risks and volatility and (ii) contributing to the reduction of CO2 emissions and local pollutants for sustainable growth.

From a regulatory point of view, the EU and the governments of the Member States have thus thought of medium to long term strategic plans that provide quantitative objectives and harmonize the measures of the past. This process was completed at EU level with the approval of European Directive 2012/27 of 11 September 2012 (the "Directive").

The Directive provided a framework of measures aimed at ensuring the achievement of the 20% energy efficiency target by 2020 and provided new guidelines for further improvements beyond that date. In summary, the most significant points of the Directive are the following:

  1. setting indicative national targets and introducing National Energy Efficiency Plans;
  2. boosting the efficiency of the building stock and the energy performance of public buildings and the purchase of energy-efficient products by the Public Administration;
  3. obligation for large companies to carry out an evaluation of energy performance;
  4. introduction of accounting for thermal consumption and standardisation and simplification of billing procedures and reading of energy consumption;
  5. promotion of high-efficiency cogeneration.

Finally, on 22 June 2018, a political agreement was reached on new rules to improve energy efficiency in Europe between the negotiators of the Commission, the European Parliament and the Council. The new regulatory framework provides an energy efficiency target of 32.5% savings by 2030, with an upward revision clause by 2023. These new approach clearly shows the high level of ambition of the EU and the considerable change of new technologies and cost reduction through economies of scale.


By Legislative Decree 102/2014 (the "Decree") and the Action Plan for Energy Efficiency, Italy implemented the Directive, establishing a framework of measures for the promotion and improvement of efficiency aimed at achieving the national energy savings targets set for 2020.

To this end, the Decree outlined a series of actions aimed at overcoming obstacles and market failures that hinder efficiency in the supply and end use of energy. More specifically, the Decree introduced 4 main innovations:

  • the National Energy Saving Target, which consists of reducing primary energy consumption by 20 million tonnes of oil equivalent (Mtoe) by 2020, equal to 15.5 Mtoe of final energy, counted from 2010.
  • the establishment of a mandatory energy efficiency regime, consisting of the mechanism of White Certificates that must ensure the achievement of energy savings of not less than 60% of the National Energy Saving Target. The remaining volume of energy savings will be obtained through the incentive measures in force.
  • As regards the industrial sector, it introduces the obligation for large companies and energy-intensive companies to carry out an energy audit every four years, in order to identify the most effective measures to reduce energy consumption and to promote its implementation in SMEs.
  • For the improvement of the energy performance of buildings, both public and private, the Legislative Decree 102/2014 and the Legislative Decree 102/2014 then provided for sectoral plans for energy efficiency, or rather: the Strategy for the Energy Re-qualification of the National Real Estate Park ("STREPIN"); the Action Plan for the Almost Zero Energy Buildings ("PANZEB"); the Plan for the Energy Re-qualification of the Central Public Administrations ("PREPAC"); finally; the National Fund for Energy Efficiency, an important financial instrument to support energy requalification of Public Administration's buildings and the interventions for the reduction of energy consumption in the sectors of industry and private services.


Fiscal measures are undoubtedly an important incentive to achieve energy efficiency objectives.

In particular, we will focus here on the measures that affect the corporate income producers subject to corporate income tax (and, therefore, on companies with share capital).

A first form of incentive is the so-called "ecobonus" (which also belongs to individuals and individuals IRPEF). This facility, introduced in 2006 and confirmed annually to date with each budget measure, consists of a deduction from IRES for companies that perform interventions that increase the level of energy efficiency of existing buildings.

The deduction is recognised if the expenses have been incurred, among other things, for:

  • the reduction of energy requirements for heating;
  • the thermal improvement of the building;
  • the installation of solar panels;
  • the replacement of winter air conditioning systems.

The maximum amount of the deduction varies according to the type of expenditure (for example, for the installation of solar panels is now equal to 65% of the expenditure, and the maximum amount of savings achievable with the deduction is equal to 60,000 euros). The deduction is distributed in 10 equal annual instalments.

Other forms of incentive are the so-called "super-amortization" and the so-called "hyper-amortization". The "super-amortization" is a measure - introduced in 2016, and then repeated every year, also in 2018 - through which it is recognized, for the purposes of amortization, an increase of 30% (until last year it was 40%) on the cost of new capital goods. The facility is granted regardless of the location of the assets, provided that the related depreciation contributes to the formation of income subject to taxation in Italy.

To have access to "super-amortization ", capital goods can also be the subject of a leasing contract, or built in economy, and must of course be used within the production process of the company.

Also, photovoltaic and wind power plants are included, as expressly recognized by the Italian Tax Agency Note No. 4 of 30 March 2017. More specifically, a distinction will have to be made in relation to these plants:

  1. for the costs relating to the real estate component of the power plants, it will not be possible to proceed with "super-amortization " (which is excluded for investments in "buildings"), but will continue to apply the tax depreciation rate normally provided for such assets, equal to 4%;
  2. instead, the costs relating to the plant component of the same power plants (for which the ordinary amortization rate is 9%) may be subject to "super-amortization ".

The so-called "hyper-amortization" consists in an even more advantageous facilitation: it always invests new material capital goods, but it allows an increase in the amortizable cost not of 30%, but of 150% (until last year it was equal to 140%). The eligible goods must be functional to the technological and digital transformation of the enterprises according to the model "Industry 4.0" and must possess the requisite of "interconnection".

Circular no. 4/2017, already mentioned, contains some examples of systems related to energy efficiency which can benefit from the so-called "hyper-amortization". It also makes it clear that these must be "solutions that interact at the level of machines and components of the production system and are based on a combination of sensors, control systems and processing / simulation connected and able to manage the consumption of energy, water and the reduction of emissions intelligently recovering or releasing energy based on the status of the process and machines, optimizing the distribution of electricity and minimizing any overloading (smart grid)".

It should be noted that a company that benefits from the so-called "hyper-amortization" on tangible assets can also benefit from a sort of "super-amortization" (an increase of 40% of the purchase cost) on intangible assets included in an annex to the legislation that introduced the benefits; in this list we also find "software, systems, platforms and applications for the intelligence of plants that guarantee mechanisms of energy efficiency and decentralization in which the production and/or storage of energy can also be delegated (at least partially) to the factory". If the value of the asset is greater than 500,000.00 Euro, an expert opinion is required.


The term cogeneration refers to the combined production of electrical/mechanical energy and thermal energy (heat) obtained in special plants using the same primary energy.

The combined production of electricity and heat is used both in industry, especially in self-production, and in the residential sector.

The heat is used in the form of steam or other heat transfer fluids (hot/superheated water, diathermic oil) or in the form of hot air, for use in industrial processes or in the residential sector for urban heating through district heating networks, as well as for cooling through absorption systems.

Electricity, which can count on an extensive distribution network, is either self-consumed or fed into the network. The privileged users for cogeneration are those characterized by a rather constant demand over time for thermal energy and electricity, such as hospitals and nursing homes, swimming pools, sports and shopping centers as well as food industries, paper mills, industries related to oil refining and chemical industries.

High Yield Cogeneration ("HYC") units can also access the white certificate system according to the conditions and procedures established by the Ministerial Decree of 5 September 2011.

A cogeneration unit is defined as high-efficiency if the value of primary energy savings (PES) resulting from it is at least 10% or, in the case of micro-cogeneration units (< 50 kWe) or small cogeneration units (< 1 MWe), if it has any positive value.

The GSE provides annual recognition of the final balance of CAR operation and, for cogeneration units that require it, the subsequent recognition of the number of White Certificates to which they are entitled. The GSE also examines requests for preliminary assessment (estimate) for units not yet in operation, aimed at the subsequent access to White Certificates.

In the event that the project presented does not comply with the regulations, the deficiencies detected and any changes to be made will be indicated. Finally, the GSE carries out the verification and control activities on the incentivised plants, informing the MISE and the producer of the final outcome of the inspections.


White Certificates, or Energy Efficiency Certificates ("TEE") are transferable securities which certify energy savings achieved in the final use of energy through interventions aimed at increasing energy efficiency. The TEE system is an incentive mechanism based on an obligatory primary energy saving regime for electricity and natural gas distributors with more than 50,000 end customers.

For each year of obligation, from 2017 to 2020, savings targets have been set that distributors must achieve through the implementation of energy efficiency measures. Obligated parties can fulfil the compulsory savings quota in two ways:

  1. directly carrying out the energy efficiency projects admitted to the mechanism (also through the companies controlled by them, or controlling companies);
  2. purchasing the securities from the other parties admitted to the mechanism (i.e. other distributors, certified ESCOs or public or private end users who have appointed a certified EGE).

For each ton of oil equivalent ("TOE") of savings achieved through the implementation of the energy efficiency project, a Certificate is recognized for its entire useful life established by the regulations for each type of project (from 3 to 10 years). Voluntary and obligated entities exchange TEE on the market platform operated by the GME or through bilateral negotiations. All subjects admitted to the mechanism are entered in the Electronic Register of Energy Efficiency Certificates at the GME.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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