Observations and proposals of the Italian Aluminium Centre in the discussions of the Environment Committees of the Chamber of Deputies and Senate on the National Plan for Recovery and Resilience, one of the tools for the economic recovery of the country and sustainable for the environment
As we know, for almost seventy years Centroal has represented within Assomet the value chain of the Italian aluminium industry, a network consisting of about 600 small and medium-sized companies operating mainly in the automotive, construction and packaging sectors.
The fundamental role played by aluminium in the ecological transition and environmental protection domains is an incontrovertible fact. Suffice it to say that in Italy only secondary metal is produced, from recycling, whose performances in terms of sustainability, decarbonisation and energy efficiency are well known, considering that only 5% of the energy needed to produce primary aluminium is used to obtain it.
The observations and suggestions made by Centroal regarding the parts of the National Plan for Recovery and Resilience are therefore of fundamental importance even for institutions. During the past months, we have dialogued with the political representatives of all the main political parties, deposited our proposals at the Environment Commission of the Chamber of Deputies, and brought them to a hearing at the Environment Commission of the Senate.
Circular economy and decarbonisation: promoting recyclable materials
Following a proposal by the Ministry of the Environment (now the Ecological Transition Ministry), the NPRR envisages the adoption of a strategy for the circular economy. This strategy aims to achieve, among other things, a reduction in the use of non-renewable raw materials, a reduction in the volume of waste and its reuse and recycling, the introduction of traceability systems for material flows. The first tool identified by the NPRR consists in the modernisation and construction of new plants, particularly in the large metropolitan areas of central and southern Italy, for the use of waste, in line with the European Action Plan for the Circular Economy.
Centroal agrees with the objectives and the idea of a strategy able to provide coherence to interventions in favour of the circular economy, but it still notes that what is written in this regard in the Programme is too general. It believes, however, that it is crucial for the country to enhance investments in waste recovery and recycling activities, as well as in mechanisms to promote products made of recycled and recyclable materials such as aluminium.
This can be achieved through:
● a reduction in VAT rates for products made from recycled and recyclable materials;
● legislation to support the circular economy allowing the recovery, including energy generation, of all internal production waste;
● the encouragement of all technological solutions to reduce CO2 and decrease environmental impacts;
● the promotion of technological innovation in plants for the sorting and valorisation of aluminium from separate collection for the quantitative and qualitative improvement of recycling activities;
● the enhancement and promotion of the positive role and contribution of aluminium packaging in the direct and indirect prevention of waste production.
Focus on technological innovation
The establishment of an operational fund to promote the development of the circular economy is envisaged. This seems to pave the way for support, through calls for tenders, for investments by companies in the sector. Centroal proposes the inclusion in the NPRR of a public support project for investments made by production companies to renew or replace their plants and ensure even greater recycling capacity and energy efficiency. For the aluminium supply chain, this would make it possible to intervene on melting furnaces, strengthening the most important link in the circular economy: the transformation of scrap/waste into new raw material. And it would provide the Italian aluminium system with greater competitiveness and manufacturing of products from recycling and a reduction in the import of primary aluminium.
Building and constructions: energy and environmental efficiency
Energy efficiency in the building sector, which is fundamental in terms of decarbonisation, is completely based on the extension of the “energy” Superbonus to 110% and for making buildings safe. Centroal, while expressing its total appreciation for this measure, proposes enhancing the value of recyclable materials through a greater bonus (for example, by intervening on the ‘minimum environmental criteria’ which currently envisage a percentage of recycled material in products of 15%). A certification system would be needed to quantify and evaluate the recycled content of materials used in construction.
Transport: renewing the vehicle fleet
The NPRR envisages the renewal of the local public transport fleet as well as private vehicles in accordance with sustainability. Centroal states that aluminium makes a fundamental contribution to decarbonisation policies in the automotive sector, which is strategic for the country’s recovery. It would therefore be in line with the objectives of the European Green Deal to envisage innovative measures such as, for example, forms of bonus for the use of recycled materials in order to encourage investments in lighter and more eco-friendly components.
To this end, it would be useful to consolidate the ‘Fund for the purchase of low-emission vehicles’, which is due to expire at the end of 2021, and to support investments by companies which renew their commercial vehicle fleets to carry out urban transport activities and reduce harmful emissions.
Energy: not penalising the present while waiting for further technological developments
The National Plan for Recovery and Resilience is based on the implementation of the use of hydrogen in hard-to-abate industry, focusing in particular on ‘green hydrogen’, which is derived from electrolysis using renewable energy.
The use of biogas also appears to be strategic, with the aim of increasing its share of use as a replacement for fossil natural gas. From this perspective, Centroal, while recognising the great potential of hydrogen, notes that its production is linked to the development of technologies and transport systems which are not yet fully mature. Therefore, the use of natural gas by our industrial system should not be penalised; the aluminium supply chain, like many others, uses it in a prevalent manner and, given the technologies currently available, considers it irreplaceable because it is the most suitable fuel to accompany the low carbon transition, as recognised in the National Integrated Energy and Climate Plan (PNIEC) and is fundamental for the country in terms of supply and security of supply. The goal is for the NRP to apply the principle of ‘technological neutrality’, making room for more energy sources and enhancing the role of gas as the most sustainable and crucial source in the process of energy transition to 2050.
We also pointed out that, in order to reduce the competitiveness gap in its price between Italy and the main northern European hubs, it appears urgent to fully implement the redetermination of the fees to cover the general charges of the gas system applied to the industrial sector. This is already foreseen by Article 21 of Law 167/2017 and is in line with the State aid rules on energy and environment defined at European level. Finally, Centroal renewed the request for greater attention to sectors at risk of delocalisation (such as aluminium is defined at Community level) for which Italy, despite some first measures taken as of autumn 2019, still does not provide forms of compensation of indirect ETS costs adequate to ensure their competitiveness against competitors from other major EU manufacturing countries.