Our activities fall within the national strategy for the Circular Economy, particularly as regards the development of secondary raw materials (SRMs) that derive from the correct recovery and recycling of waste. With the activities that it carries out, the Environment BU plays a vital role through the collection, transport and treatment of urban and special waste. In 2021, our facilities, which process waste mainly from sorted collection, obtained 381,691 tonnes of end-of-waste raw material (+4%), made up of paper and cardboard, gravels and sands, high-quality compost and glass. The Asti facility, in 2021, produced 100,571 tonnes of selected glass and was also the subject of an in-depth life cycle assessment (LCA) which, covering all phases from door-to-door collection to furnace-ready cullet, highlighted the environmental benefits.
Our approach to circularity does not, however, end with the waste management sector. In the Smart Infrastructure BU, circularity is actualized in the reuse of still suitable and functional materials deriving from network maintenance activities; in the Generation and Trading BU, circularity comes from the desulphurization of flue gases at the Monfalcone facility with the production of gypsum with law-compliant chemical and physical characteristics that can be used directly as a raw material in cement plants.
So as to guarantee equilibrium in the European electricity network, in 2021, our combined cycles saw increases in the number of hours of functioning during particular periods of the year, with higher TWh production compared to 2020. These increases affect the percentage composition of the energy mix produced, penalizing, in particular, the share of production from renewable sources, which fell from 33% in 2020 to 30% in 2021, despite the fact that production increased by 170 GWh thanks to the new biomass digestion plants acquired and to the increase in solar energy production.
For many years now, we have been committed to shifting from fossil fuels to renewable sources. This has involved the roll-out of numerous projects, focussing mainly on the further development of renewables and on meeting the flexibility requirements of the electricity system.
The Group’s CO2 emission factor stands at 330 kg/MWh, with a 6% increase on the previous year. In terms of indirect emissions from electricity purchasing, the infra-group green energy supply has been expanded, now also involving sites not included in 2020. Net of new businesses acquired, the electricity purchased by the Group has a zero CO2 emission factor.
In 2021, UNARETI signed up to the Oil & Gas Methane Partnership (OGMP2.0), the new methane emissions reporting framework introduced by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in 2020 and part of the broader International Methane Emission Observatory (IMEO). In the sphere of this scheme, UNARETI was awarded “Gold Standard”, as noted in the IMEO’s “An Eye on Methane” report. The award recognizes both the achievement of methane emission reduction targets (-40% by 2025 vs 2019) and the solidity of existing reporting procedures and plans to improve them further by 2024.
Overall, in 2021, the use of thermal WtE systems, production from renewable sources and efficient cogeneration have made it possible to avoid the production of 3.6 million tonnes of CO2 and to save 1.2 million TOE of primary energy.
Secondary raw material produced by Group facilities
Sorted waste collected +22.4% compared to 2020
Group CO2 emission factor
During 2021, analysis continued to identify potential interference of our activities with the system of protected areas. From the mapping phase – covering increasingly broad areas – it emerged that out of 296 of our sites and networks analysed, 105 showed potential interference with the system of protected areas, which takes into account not only the criteria of area vicinity and overlapping but also of larger areas of possible influence. Following on from the site and network mapping, a relevance index has been developed to measure the degree of potential interference that activities could have on ecosystems.
In 2021, six sites where action could be taken were identified. They were chosen not because they were directly affected by our activities but because they corresponded to areas subject to protection, of great ecological value and with possibilities for improvement of the ecosystems. It has been decided to take the following action: