Photovoltaics, the virtuous choice of local authorities

Monday 3 May 2021



By Antonio Allocati

Managing a local administration such as Treviso and chairing the Veneto regional department of Anci is a double role that Mario Conte interprets with a strong focus on issues that gravitate around the energy transition, one of the tools considered essential to ensure its territory a series of opportunities for growth and development. What role must local administrations play in energy transition? “The role of municipalities is absolutely central. The energy transition, after all, has priority over all the political agendas of the territories. The Municipality, which can initially be interpreted as the lowest link in the entire institutional chain, in reality has an irreplaceable function. Municipalities are, in fact, the bodies that have the greatest connection with the territory and know its needs and characteristics best. And, above all, they exercise active and direct policies, from the management of costs to that of services”. Do you consider policies related to energy efficiency a lever for employment and economic development? “Anything related to the energy transition is a tremendous lever, both from an employment standpoint and for environmental development. The truth is that the pandemic has greatly accelerated everyone’s sensitivity to ecological issues, even and especially among citizens…”. If today we ask students to ask us future-oriented questions, 90% of the issues on the table would concern the quality of the environment in which we live. Today ecology is a dominant theme and municipalities must be ready to ride this wave, with the awareness that investments in energy efficiency are not actually costs, but concrete tools to build development and to bring something not immediately quantifiable, but essential, which is called quality of life”. Local administrators therefore also have a strong responsibility…. “We municipal administrators now find ourselves at a crossroads: we can limit ourselves to “suffering” the energy transition, without knowing how to seize the real opportunities, or we can manage it with an approach aimed at creating a plus value that, over time, will bring solid benefits to our territory. However, in the absence of adequate preparation and strategy, there is a strong risk that all this will turn into an extemporary exploitation of resources. Without building anything. It is up to the municipalities, I repeat, to capitalize on the opportunities to ensure growth and well-being to their communities”. You have been president of Anci Veneto for about two years. What relevance do energy efficiency policies have within Anci? “They have priority relevance. As Anci Veneto we are creating, with various partners, training and information courses, focused on all the opportunities of energy efficiency. But I say more. Anci Veneto is working in synergy with the Region to consolidate itself as a platform that allows us to accompany local authorities in the energy transition with new initiatives, always with a training orientation. I believe, and I say this with a hint of pride, that Anci Veneto is the first regional Anci to aim with great determination at the creation of this initiative that will allow us to better develop projects to support municipalities. Since I took over the presidency of Anci Veneto [in November 2019, ed.] I strongly wanted the association to aim to stand by the municipalities, disseminate information and do training.” What are the results achieved? “In the last year, so marked by the pandemic, with the seminars organized by Anci we have trained almost 10 thousand administrators and I mean councillors, aldermen, but also technical employees of municipalities on issues of close relevance, starting with the management of Recovery Fund resources, and with a strong focus on energy efficiency. Topics on which we must necessarily increase our skills. Energy transition means, first of all, opportunities. Sometimes, however, they are opportunities that are missed and, in some cases, fail to produce the expected benefits. We must avoid this, starting from the growth of our skills”. A strategy aimed at maximum concreteness and results… “Certainly. I’ll give another example. We asked the Veneto Region to participate in a ministerial call for bids on digital transition, which is a fundamental asset for driving the energy transition itself. Through Anci we were able to finance and support the digital transition of 537 municipalities out of 563. An excellent result that prepares the ideal scenario for the introduction of new energy policies”. After all, the virtuous example of local administrations can be of fundamental importance in spreading the concept of energy efficiency among the general public… “This is where we get into the issue of raising awareness of changing habits. I believe that one of the main tasks of an administrator is to indicate the direction to his citizenship; we are called “first citizens” precisely because we are at the top of a community. I strongly believe that the actions of administrations have a direct impact on the behavior of the population. In this case, a virtuous conduct can enter the habits of the public in a simpler and more direct way. But some segments of the population, and I’m thinking of the younger ones, don’t even need to be stimulated that much. On the contrary, they are the ones who can teach lessons in behavior to us adults.” What are the obstacles that local governments face in implementing a sustainability-oriented policy? “First and foremost, I would like to mention the bureaucracy that constitutes, at various levels, a considerable obstacle. On issues related to the environment, important steps are being taken to simplify, where possible, all types of procedures. Energy transition is too important an issue to be trivialized and penalized by excessive bureaucracy. Another major issue is the lack of resources, especially from the economic point of view. However, I would like to point out that it is up to the administration itself to adopt a vision and a strategy that are capable of producing results, whatever the conditions. I want to bring to support this thesis still the example of my administration”. Tell us… “About two years ago we set up a structure called TEN – Treviso Europa Network. As a matter of fact, we have connected in a network that has our Municipality as its leader all the partners of the services of the territory, with the aim of being able to better intercept the current European funding. At the regional level, the network intends to act as a single spokesperson for the instances of the economic, civil and social world of the territory, starting a synergic comparison with the Veneto Region on the regional planning of European funds. Treviso Europa Network therefore works in synergy to create national and international strategic partnerships and organizes exploratory missions to Brussels and events to promote European issues and bring public and private entities closer to EU funding opportunities.Tell us… “About two years ago we set up a structure called TEN – Treviso Europa Network. As a matter of fact, we have connected in a network that has our Municipality as its leader all the partners of the services of the territory, with the aim of being able to better intercept the current European funding. At the regional level, the network intends to act as a single spokesperson for the instances of the economic, civil and social world of the territory, starting a synergic comparison with the Veneto Region on the regional planning of European funds. Treviso Europa Network therefore works in synergy to create national and international strategic partnerships and organizes exploratory missions to Brussels and events to promote European issues and bring public and private entities closer to EU funding opportunities. I must say that the results obtained so far have been extraordinary, thinking of how many projects have then obtained funding. To cite an example, we have just benefited from a 7 million euro fund to replace diesel municipal public transport with electric vehicles”. The Municipality of Treviso is the first administration at national level to have also established the Next Generation EU Department. Can you tell us about it? “At this moment, Italian mayors are not involved, at any level, in the choices regarding the management of Recovery Plan resources. But it is also true that we local administrators have the responsibility to be ready when the State’s project plan is presented and then approved at European level. The question I ask myself is, “Are Italian municipalities ready from the standpoint of staffing and training and expertise to approach these funds and then turn them into works for the benefit of our territory?” The answer from my point of view is no. So we need to start structuring ourselves and studying what types of projects might be interested in new investments for the good of our city. So I have appointed one of our aldermen, Alessandro Manera, and asked him to identify and select projects – on topics such as digitalization, innovation, green revolution and ecological transition, infrastructure for sustainable mobility – that could benefit from the incoming resources. A Recovery Plan will be set up, mapping out existing projects, filing status, missing funding and works and those that we intend to start. I repeat: it is essential that we are ready. Today it is not important to say how much money we want because, quite simply, it is not up to us. Today it’s fundamental to have in-depth knowledge that allows us to make the most correct decisions and take advantage in the best way possible of the opportunities that lie ahead”. All prerequisites for a profitable management of the energy transition… “Let’s try not to miss this great opportunity. It must be said that Treviso, unfortunately, starts from a position that is strongly negative. Our city, in fact, is always among the most polluted in Italy. The administration is not to blame for this, but we do not want to give up and resign ourselves. We want to do everything to change the situation, and we do not spare ourselves on anything…”. How do you imagine the city of the future, in conclusion? “Let’s say that talking about the city of the future, too many times the term smart city has remained just a brand name on the letterheads of municipalities. I believe that, from this point of view, Italy has lost a lot of time compared to some European cities that are developing very interesting examples. Today we are called upon to take responsibility: young people look to the most evolved foreign cities as true points of reference. But I am confident that a city of 86,000 inhabitants like Treviso can play its own cards to become a model of change”.




The Sardinian municipality of Serrenti is one of the examples of how photovoltaics and energy efficiency have become the protagonists of a virtuous case history that has also obtained important awards and recognition. The project – funded by the Region of Sardinia – is called The House of Energy, is promoted by the local government and is based on the establishment of a municipal smart grid that allows the intelligent distribution of energy to buildings. The first Energy House involved a school and the municipal theater of the town and is based on components such as Regalgrid’s Snocu – to manage the flow of energy according to the needs – and hybrid inverters by Solax, with a storage system with a capacity of 43 kWh that allows excellent autonomy from the grid in the evening and night. This project has taken further steps forward over time. First of all with “E.C.0energy” (Municipal buildings at zero energy) with the realization of the second House of energy, which, thanks to the new funding of 112 thousand euros, POR-FESR Sardinia 2014-2020, has aimed at the implementation of a pole where municipal buildings, thanks to the photovoltaic source, work in creating a distributed network of green energy, self-consuming and minimizing the withdrawal from the national grid. The photovoltaic energy plays a strategic role in the stabilization of the network and in an energy conversion on the energivorous buildings. The project is developed in the school and sports context of Via Eleonora where the regional funding is intertwined in a positive way with the renovation works and efficiency put in place by municipal funds. The new micro network involves the PV plant of 19.3 kWp with an annual production of 27 thousand kWh, related to a single POD where are connected since 2012 the buildings of the nursery school, kindergarten, multipurpose gym and elementary school. We arrive today, therefore, at the new important step, “In Serrenti the Green”. With the contribution of 50 thousand euro for municipalities with less than 5 thousand inhabitants and the addition of municipal savings for a total of 78 thousand euros, the micro-network is perfected that, from the measuring group of the City Hall where there is a photovoltaic system from 17. 1 kWp and annual production of 20 thousand kWh, goes to physically connect the building of the former barracks and the Corda house (adjacent headquarters of the Municipality) with the offices of the police, technical maintenance office and social services, (and the new Piazza Gramsci) the micro-network has accrued over the years significant savings in the bill: with the projects Illuminamente and S. E.I projects (which were the basis for the establishment of the Energy House), with savings of over 40 thousand kWh: in fact, the bill has been reduced by 10 thousand euros per year, thanks to the reduction of the 6 + 20 kW groups. The project, which still involves the technical partners Solax and Regalgrid, provides for the birth of the 3rd Energy House, with 2 hybrid inverters, a storage system of 43.2 kW nominal, and a software for the management of energy flows and an additional meter dedicated to electric recharge. The goal is to go from a self-consumption of 55% to well over 90%, as has already been achieved with the network theater-middle school. Finally, it should be remembered that another key partner in this project was the Sardinian company Ucnet, which installed and commissioned the three Energy Houses.




Regalgrid Europe is a technology provider based in Treviso, Italy, born with the aim of developing a sustainable, advanced and innovative system of renewable energy management through the combination and coordination of hardware for the exchange and optimization of energy flows. Its mission is to create a digital energy platform that is the new standard for intelligent communication between different devices and energy systems. The goal is to bring new benefits to energy consumers and producers. The maturity of the platform is the result of many years of work: the patented architecture of the Regalgrid® platform has been validated through several tests, first in the lab and then in real installations, carried out since 2012. In the field of Public Administrations, Regalgrid Europe has distinguished itself as a technological player and technical advisor to expand the use of energy sharing in a context in which Public Administration realities aggregate together with citizens and companies for the constitution of local Energy Communities. The provision of services aimed at territorial promotion, collection of memberships, monitoring of interest in the proposed initiatives and support in the various stages of the establishment of local energy communities are part of the services that Regalgrid Europe provides to Public Administrations that are interested in taking part in a real green revolution. The role of the Treviso-based company takes the form of providing space for education on energy saving and the concept of energy community with dedicated webinars, energy profiling of the various entities with which it collaborates, and the provision of services and technological tools to promote smart management of available energy resources. In fact, thanks to the SNOCU communication device, intelligent algorithms and Regalgrid® platform, Regalgrid Europe not only allows a building to be connected to an energy community in which clean energy is produced, stored and shared in a network of users, ensuring greater autonomy and savings in the bill, but also allows real-time monitoring of consumption data, photovoltaic production and storage, real-time active control for optimizing
of the performance of production plants and storage systems, heat pumps and EV charging stations, and finally sharing excess energy with other consumers or prosumers within an energy community. Among the various projects in which Regalgrid Europe has participated in the context of PA there are public entities in the Major Islands of Sicily and Sardinia, such as the case study launched in the Sardinian town of Serrenti, and the most recent agreement with the associationAnci Veneto to promote knowledge and facilitate the understanding of energy communities in the Public Administration.