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In preparation for COP26, an interview with Michele de Nigris, Director of Sustainable Development and Energy Sources at “Ricerca sul Sistema Energetico”.



In preparation for COP26, an interview with Michele de Nigris, Director of Sustainable Development and Energy Sources at “Ricerca sul Sistema Energetico”.

In preparation for the COP26 event, today we offer you our interview with Michele de Nigris, Director of Sustainable Development and Energy Sources at Ricerca sul Sistema Energetico. Dr. De Nigris will be the guest speaker tomorrow at the conference organized in collaboration with the Embassies of Italy and the United Kingdom and the NGO "The road to COP26: the choice of Bulgaria".

Q: How could you briefly explain what circularity in energy is to a non-expert?

Michele de Nigris: The current way of managing energy can be represented as a straight line: the flow of energy enters from the generation side, flows into the transmission and distribution lines and ends up at the user, except for the inevitable losses. Along the way, energy is progressively lost and materials are consumed: from the fossil fuels burned in power plants to the materials that make up the entire energy system if nothing is recycled.

On the contrary, it is possible to convert that straight line into a circle, or better, into a series of circles: by feeding the energy system with renewable energies (wind, solar, geothermal, hydroelectric) we can close the first circle of generation making the incoming energy flow sustainable. The flow of matter in generation can be closed by making sure that the material used to build generators, such as photovoltaic panels or wind blades can be recycled at the end of their life. Energy transmission and distribution can also be made circular if the heat generated by the inevitable losses is put to useful use, if it recycles the copper, iron, oil, glass, and plastic with which the system is built. Similarly, any action to make energy use more efficient contributes to the circularity of the energy system.

Q: What fundamental changes in daily life will the EU's commitment to becoming climate neutral by 2050 require?

Michele de Nigris: Is that goal easily achievable? The European commitment to a 55% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, achieving carbon neutrality by mid-century, is very challenging and will bring many changes to the daily lives of each of us. It is first of all a great call for energy efficiency, sustainable mobility, self-production, recycling and awareness of the impact of our every action on the planet. It is also a great opportunity for each one of us to be more and more conscious protagonists of our future: choosing, encouraging and accepting the generation from renewables, changing our consumption profiles to adapt them to the availability of energy on the grid, selling to our neighbor the energy we produce with solar panels, giving to recycling the energy components at the end of life.

Q: At the conference The road to COP 26: the choice of Bulgaria, you will present the experience of Italy in the energy transition, are there examples of transition from an economy dependent on coal, to a green economy that Bulgaria could take and transfer from Italy, not only in terms of technology but also in terms of approach to the problem, cooperation between sectors, etc.?

Michele de Nigris: I would like to cite two examples of Italian excellence in the energy sector. The first is that every sector of the Italian economy, and in particular industry, craftsmanship and distribution, has paid a great deal of attention to energy efficiency, because in Italy energy has always been a little more expensive than in other European countries. This is the result of energy choices made over the years. In terms of energy efficiency, Italy is among the international champions and has progressively reduced the energy intensity of each product. This has been possible thanks to the initiative of individual entrepreneurs, but also thanks to the incentives that have gradually been made available by institutions.

The second example is certainly that of smart grids: the level of automation of the electricity network achieved in Italy is an internationally recognized example: starting from the electronic meter introduced almost twenty years ago and now in its second generation, the network control systems allow the inclusion of large amounts of energy from solar panels, allow the development of smart charging of electric vehicles, allow the user to produce and consume energy locally. In all areas of energy, Italy participating as a protagonist and leader in the initiatives of the IEA, Mission Innovation and COP26 maintains an attitude of great openness to all forms of collaboration.

Michele de Nigris is Director of the Sustainable Development and Energy Sources Department at RSE. As an electrical engineer, he developed a significant part of his career in the field of transmission and distribution technologies at CESI and then at RSE, before addressing, together with his staff, the main challenges related to the interaction of the energy system with the environment. Active at international level, he leads the European SetPlan working group on grid integration and resilience and represents Italy in the coordination committees of the International Energy Agency, as Vice President. Author of about 90 papers published on national and international journals, he is also actively involved in standardization activities as Chairman of the Committee "Integrated Energy Systems" of the National Electrotechnical Commission.