Transition to low-carbon mobility in Italy can boost economic growth and reduce air pollution

Italy could boost its economy and create 19,225 net additional jobs in 2030 through the transition from a mobility system fuelled with imported oil and diesel to one that is driven by domestically produced renewable energy.

This is what a new study, released today by a consortium of stakeholders in the Italian mobility and energy sector, coordinated by the European Climate Foundation, Enel Foundation and Transport & Environment, reveals.

According to “Fuelling Italy’s Future: How the transition to low-carbon mobility strengthens the economy”, the transition to low and zero carbon vehicles in Italy will be instrumental to increasing Italy’s GDP by 2.4 billion euros by 2030 (compared to the reference scenario). The analysis, undertaken by Cambridge Econometrics, Element Energy and CERTeT research centre at Bocconi University, shows that Italy could achieve the double bonus of minimising its exposure to oil price volatility and maximising the market for its solar and wind energy, with a consequent increase of its national energy security.

Thanks to the transition to low carbon mobility, the issue of low air quality linked to passenger mobility will also be addressed, avoiding 1,100 premature deaths by 2030 and preventing a significant number of lung cancers, chronic bronchitis and asthma.

Key findings

  • Economic growth: Italy has the opportunity to reduce leakage from the domestic economy and minimise its exposure to oil price volatility by replacing imported oil with its solar and wind energy. In 2017 Italy imported 15.9 million tonnes of refined petroleum products. By cutting oil imports, the report shows, it could save about 21 billion euros between now and 2030 and 377 billion euros by 2050, with a consequent boost to the Italian trade balance.
  • Job creation: The petroleum industry employs relatively few people in Italy as last year 1 million euro of added value in the petroleum sector created only 3.5 jobs, while the electricity and hydrogen sectors are almost 5 times more labour intensive. According to the report, the transition has a net positive impact on employment, as 19,225 net additional jobs will have been created in Italy in 2030 and more than 50,000 net additional jobs in 2050.Nevertheless, it is clear that well targeted policy interventions delivering assistance to those workers that lose their jobs in the transition are needed.
  • Competitiveness: The Italian automotive industry has experienced a substantial loss of competitiveness over the past decade. The transition to new technologies and powertrains present opportunities to improve the competitiveness of the industry, focusing on new supply chains and the changing demands of the wider European motor vehicles industry. In particular, Italy could regain domestic market share that has been eroded over the past decade if Italian car manufacturers manage to be again at the forefront of European development of small and efficient urban vehicles.
  • Impacts on consumers: The transition to a low emission mobility entails a shift towards vehicles with a higher purchase price but lower running costs, offsetting their greater initial purchasing cost. According to the TECH scenario of the report, in 2030 the total cost of ownership over the average useful lifetime of a small sized pure battery electric vehicle will become lower than that of a conventional petrol car. This is due to lower fuel and maintenance costs, that will allow consumers to save about 917 euros per year in 2030 as well as reductions in the purchasing price of battery electric vehicles, as a result of lower battery prices.
  • Health: Italy’s main cities suffer from air pollution which is mainly caused by emissions from a petrol car-dominated vehicle fleet. Low-carbon mobility can help cut air pollution by decreasing substantially NOx and PM emissions from cars. The study shows that such emissions can be decreased respectively by 50% and 63% compared to 2017 levels, moving close to zero in 2050. Thanks to the reduction of air pollution due to tailpipe emissions, the TECH scenario shows that in 2050, about 114,644 life years will be gained, for an equivalent of almost 1,400 lives. Around 2,000 cases of lung cancer and 12,600 cases of chronic bronchitis will be also prevented in the same time period.
  • Investment in Grids and Chargers: Sufficient publicly accessible charging infrastructure is a key enabler for the accelerated uptake of low-carbon mobility, as mentioned also in the National Plan for Recharging Infrastructure (3).  It is estimated that 3 billion euros will be required for investments in charging infrastructure for electric vehicles in the period to 2030. Of this, €1.8 billion will serve to provide publicly available charging infrastructure for electric vehicles.

However, the report warns, it is essential to accompany and manage the transition towards low-carbon mobility with well targeted and forward-looking policy interventions, in order to generate quality employment, especially in terms of adaptation and transformation of workers and regions that are particularly affected by the long-term decline in motor vehicles, and guarantee social, environmental and economic sustainability.