A volcanic island in the Mediterranean sea with an abundance of olive trees and bushes of capers, Salina is part of the Aeolian islands North of Sicily. With its three cities Santa Marina, Malfa and Leni - home to around 2,500 inhabitants spread across 26km2 - Salina is the second largest island in the archipelago. Its pristine natural landscapes are what earned the archipelago the title of UNESCO World Heritage Site and made Italian director Massimo Troisi choose Salina as the set for his movie “Il Postino” (The Postman) - the inhabitants of the island will gladly point visitors to the most beautiful spots on the island.
Salina’s main economic sectors are tourism, small organic farms and sustainable fishing.
Pollution in paradise?
But behind Salina’s paradisiac setting lies a significant problem. With an annual consumption of 1,800 tons of diesel oil and liquefied petroleum gas - representing more than 70% of the island’s energy consumption - Salina’s carbon emissions add up to almost 6,000 tons of CO2 per year. Most of the houses on Salina were built before 1960, and while their style forms part of the island’s charm, the energy performance of these houses is extremely poor. This leads to high electricity bills for the island’s inhabitants, as part of the energy needs to be imported from the mainland.
Public transport on the island is managed by a company owned by the three municipalities. It is covered by diesel-fuelled minibuses, which emit almost 135 tons of CO2 per year. The fuel for the cars on the islands, as well as drinking water, is brought to Salina by boat, which is also the main means of transport to and from the island.
Making Salina green again
Labeled by everyone “the greenest of the Aeolian islands”, Salina decided to give honour to its name and start its clean energy transition. It started with signing the Pact of Islands in 2013, followed by the establishment of Sustainable Energy Action Plans with clear targets for 2020 in all three municipalities. Since then, the island has taken initiatives to promote eco-tourism and reduce pollution and environmental degradation, and is planning to implement energy efficiency and energy saving measures
particularly in public lighting systems and the heating and cooling of its public buildings. The municipalities further aim to produce energy locally, capitalising on the island’s abundant renewable energy resources of electricity and heat, and to switch their public transport to electric minibuses powered by solar PV. The charging stations would be available for electric vehicles on the island as well. These initial plans and activities have been well received by residents, local tour operators and visitors.
Involving all actors of the local community - including citizens, companies, trade associations and tour operators - is a challenge Salina is working to overcome as it advances its energy transition. The municipalities driving the transition are aware of the shift needed in people’s mindsets in order to choose clean energy options, such as opting for an electric vehicle for a new car rather than one that runs on fossil fuel, and plans targeted education and communications activities to bring the local community on board.
The island will further need to find solutions to finance the clean energy transition. A new law in Italy foresees an economic contribution by the government over the next 20 years for every kWh of electricity produced with solar PV. Current financial support is further provided through tax incentives for building renovation (covering about 50% of the costs over ten years) and for refurbishments to improve energy efficiency and seismic resilience in buildings (covering 65% of the costs over ten years), provided by ENEA.
Further national legislation in support of renewable energy is expected in the coming years following the recent finalisation of the European clean energy package. Salina’s transition efforts are supported by the Regional Department of Energy, which will contribute to the transition together with the three municipalities and ENEA.
The Clean Energy for EU Islands Secretariat will support Salina in its efforts to create a unified vision shaped by the island community over the coming months, and to fulfill its objective to extend the clean energy transition to other Sicilian islands.