Sustainability Transition in the Italian Electricity System: Incumbent Actors and their Power

University essay from Lunds universitet/Ekonomisk-historiska institutionen

Author: Filippo Guarnieri; [2020]

Keywords: Social Sciences;

Abstract: On a global scale, the energy system is the biggest contributor to anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, which accelerate the processes of global warming and climate change. The sustainability transition of energy systems is fundamental if the Paris Agreement goal of keeping the increase in global average temperature to below 2˚C compared to preindustrial levels is to be achieved. Transitions are considered to derive from the interaction between actors of three analytical levels: micro-level of niches, meso-level of regimes, and macro-level of the landscape. With a focus on the Italian electricity system in the decade 2008-2017, this study aims at analysing the dominant actors at the regime level, namely the government and the dominant energy firms, in order to understand how they used their power to influence the system’s transition. A qualitative case study is conducted by examining the governmental energy strategies issued in the period of interest, as well as newspaper articles on energy topics from the main daily Italian newspapers. The results comply with existing research since it is demonstrated that dominant actors of the Italian electricity system used their power to actively resist a radical transition to a low-carbon system, thus favouring traditional fossil fuels for electricity production. This is especially noticed in periods of economic instability caused by the 2007 financial crisis. Nonetheless, it seems that, with decreasing economic concerns, regime actors started supporting the introduction of low-carbon solutions to electricity production. In conclusion, this study suggests that the Italian government needs to actively foster the transition of the electricity system, as well as every other highly polluting system, to low-carbon alternatives.

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