Difficult Task: Implementing Solar Building Codes in Italy
 Difficult Task: Implementing Solar Building Codes in Italy

Difficult Task: Implementing Solar Building Codes in Italy

solarordinances.eu” Orientation in the solar obligation jungle in Italy: The website of the EU-Project ProSTO gives advice and support to municipalities in Italy and other European countries to successfully implement solar building codes.

The Italian situation concerning solar building codes is very complex. “We have a framework law with a renewable heat obligation for new and refurbished buildings, but application rules for this law were never developed”, says Riccardo Battisti from the Italian Research Institution Ambiente Italia, who is also responsible for the European project ProSTO (Pro Solar Thermal Ordinances). The ministry of economic development postpones the publication of application rules from month to month. Therefore, obligations are only operating where local authorities in regions or municipalities have developed their own rules.

So far 167 municipalities have implemented solar building codes, according to a recent study done by the Italian environmental organisation Legambiente. Altogether there are 2,996 municipalities in Italy. “Copy well”, advised Edoardo Zanchini of Legambiente during a workshop on solar obligations during the Solarexpo fair in Verona in May. There are reference laws provided by the state government and they make the implementation much easier for the municipalities.

Today there are also a few regions which have implemented renewable building standards, among them Lombardy and Lazio. The speech during the above-mentioned workshop by Alessandro Drago, a representative of the Lazio Region, made clear how difficult it is to implement the requirements from the provincial building standard at a municipality level in Italy.  “The first building efficiency law 192/2005 did not work at all”, said Drago. The regional law with the title “Regulations to foster the use of solar thermal energy and reduction of waste water in buildings” stated the necessity for the municipalities to use solar thermal systems in new building to produce domestic hot water, but it did not declare the solar fraction or define a deadline for the approval of local obligations by municipalities. “Only 5 of 378 communities adopted the building code.” Hence, an amendment was made at the end of 2007. In this new economic financial law there was a paragraph saying that end consumers in municipalities which implemented the building codes of 2004 would receive higher incentives than without implementing the building code. There was a deadline of April 2008 for the municipalities. “But still only 6 municipalities more adopted efficiency standards for buildings”, explained Drago.

In fact, some municipalities even took the issue of incentive reduction, with which they were being threatened by the regional government, to court.  The latest attempt by the region followed in May 2008, when a solar building obligation was approved which follows the rules of the national obligation. 50 % of the domestic hot water must be covered by solar thermal technology in newly constructed buildings as well as those undergoing major renovations. A simple replacing of the boiler or the heating system is not considered a major renovation. In historic buildings or city centres, the share of solar energy of the domestic hot water demand is reduced to 20 %.  These regulations are part of the law governing ecological materials and sustainable energy in buildings, which also envisage training for municipal experts.

“Bureaucratic obstacles are the biggest problem in implementing building codes”, concluded Drago. It needs intensive training in municipalities to get them into action. He aims at convincing at least ten new municipalities this year.

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Baerbel Epp

Bärbel Epp is Founder and Director of the German communication and market research agency solrico and editor-in-chief of solarthermalworld.org