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Brindisi, Italy

Region: Brindisi
Country: Italy
Leader: ENEA

About the study

The carbon intensive region of Brindisi case study includes the whole territory of Brindisi Municipality in the Apulia Region in Southern Italy. The establishment of the two coal power plants and the chemical plants was dictated by the central government over 30 years ago to support the development of the southern Italian area. Thanks to many national interventions, the territory experienced a period of economic growth until the end of the 90s. However, these projects have pushed the industrial and economic development of the area, away from an agricultural and tourism-based development and towards an industrial development. At the end of 2012, with the globalization and the economic crisis, the Brindisi east coal plant stopped its activity. Further pressure on the territory derived from the decrease of coal plant activities due to planned phase-out of the coal. All this is creating a vacuum in the economy with relevant impact beyond the originating sectors. The loss of jobs and income in the region has started to affect the standard of living in the area. Harbour activities and ancillary businesses are closing due to falling demand. An unemployment crisis and a lack of attractive work opportunities are accelerating youth out-migration, progressive ageing of the population and impoverishment of the territory. Local businesses are failing and require assistance to achieve an economically viable transition to a new green energy landscape.

The Brindisi case study was carried out analysing different components/dimensions:

  • To analyse the socio-cultural component, a focus groups was carried out with the aim to identify and map the stress strains, as conflicts, uncertainties, impasses and dependence situations in the Coal and Carbon and Territory (CCT). For the socio-psychological component, a survey with 127 respondents analysed place attachment and the general perception of the clean energy transition in the region.
  • For the socio-economic component, several factors that lead to structural change both in a economic and demographic composition of Brindisi province and Apulia Region were investigated. The analysis was based on an extensive set of data collected from national sources, mainly national statistical offices and Eurostat.
  • For the socio-political component, the implementation of text analysis identified the narratives and conflicts among different social actors on the energy transition and coal phase-out in the area. Moreover, for the socio-ecological component, in-depth interviews provided an overview of the capacity available in the Apulia region to shape its decarbonisation pathway and to undestand how to deviate from its current (carbon-intensive) path toward sustainable outcomes.

The main findings / results so far are the following:

  • The main challenges for the Brindisi Coal and Carbon Territory are four: diversifying the local economy; saving the energy sector; land remediation and use; bridging the infrastructural divide and human capital formation. The territory is actively working towards the energy transition.
  •  The challenges and coping strategies are often producing different strains within the territory. The territory is experiencing a deep ambivalence about what the territory is and what it should become. Moreover, due to the dependence on national decisions in the matter of energy and industrial development, the uncertainty about the future is exhacerbated by the lack of a clear alternative to the current industrial development despite the desire to take other paths (i.e. tourism). The stakeholders from different sectors perceive differently the transformative capacity; therefore, a broader change could be obtained only by fully involving citizens in the change processes.
  •  The Clean Energy Transition is perceived positively in the territory as it will improve the quality of the environment and open new perspectives and opportunities. The energy transition is seen, mainly from young people, as an opportunity for the redemption of the territory and for the revaluation of its resources. However, the current transition plans create uncertainty regarding their own future. The centralization of the energy transition process and the lack of synergies across scales have not helped to align the energy transition with the territorial efforts to diversify the local economy.
  •  The research has shown how the territory is endowed with positive and motivating symbols for the territory. The harbour and natural heritage are perceived as elements of territorial rebirth on which to lay the basis of the diversification of the local economy. Finally, the territory has a good degree of optimism among its inhabitants, a good openness to innovation and capacity to nurture its distinctive elements.

Local support

Province of Brindisi Council, Comune di Brindisi (Energy Department of Comune di Brindisi), ENEL, Legambiente and DiTNE (for a local technical support).


Access the full case study here.