Geopolitics and Italian Foreign Policy in the Age of Renewable Energy

Climate change is a major security challenge of the 21st century. While inaction would lead to catastrophic consequences (with implications for energy security), action also involves radical transformations affecting the global energy landscape. Renewables will be a pillar of the energy transition and their wider adoption has already started to affect political relations and the very notion of energy security, with new risks and opportunities emerging. While renewables increase decentralisation and regionalisation, they also retain a global dimension (mostly related to critical mineral availability and the integration of global value chains). Renewables greatly augment the importance of digitalisation. Energy security concerns will gradually shift away from access to resources and transit issues to electric grid security, cybersecurity and system adaptation. There is also an intense geo-economic competition to develop comparative advantages in renewables. Finally, fossil fuel exporters are going to be affected by the transition. Italy has built a position of leadership in renewables, which could be further consolidated and translated into geopolitical leverage. Challenges also exist, requiring adaptations to Italy’s foreign energy policy.

Paper produced in the framework of the IAI project “Geopolitics in the age of renewable energies: challenges and opportunities for the Italian foreign policy”, June 2020. Published also in Italian: “Geopolitica e politica estera italiana nell’era delle energie rinnovabili”.

Rome, IAI, June 2020, 56 p.
978-88-9368-134-6 (en); 978-88-9368-146-9 (it)
Publication date: 

Executive summary
1. Introduction
1.1 Context and scope of research
1.2 Zooming in on Europe and Italy
2. The geopolitics of RES: Global trends
2.1 Drivers of RES growth and comparative advantages
2.2 Key features of RES
2.3 The transition to RES and geopolitical shifts
2.4 Cooperation and competition in materials and manufacturing
2.5 Risks and opportunities in oil and gas exporting countries
2.6 What global energy governance?
3. Europe and the geopolitics of RES
3.1 The EU’s identity as an RES leader
3.2 The European Green Deal
3.3 Strategic considerations around the EU’s support to RES: Sustainability, security and competitiveness
3.4 Internal EU politics and RES
4. The Italian RES landscape and shifting foreign policy priorities
4.1 Italy as early mover and RES leader
4.2 RES and the National Energy and Climate Plan
4.3 The geopolitical salience of RES for Italy and implications for Italy’s foreign policy
4.4 Foreign policy recommendations

Research area