The smart window developed by the Milan-Bicocca University is worth a million euros. This is the amount invested by Glass to Power, a spin-off of the University of Milan. A real success of innovation in the academic field that represents one of the most important investments ever made in Italy to acquire a family of patents developed as part of the activity of a public university. All this less than five years after the first research data developed by Professors Sergio Brovelli and Francesco Meinardi of the Department of Materials Science (2014) and less than two years after the establishment of Glass to Power in September 2016, with the aim of starting a real commercialization phase at the beginning of 2019. The technology used in the window is LSC – Luminescent Solar Concentrator, which uses nanocrystals inserted in plexiglass sheets. Nanocrystals convert sunlight into infrared rays that are reflected inside the panel until they reach the edge of the panel itself. Here a thin strip of silicon photovoltaic cells converts infrared photons into electrical current with high efficiency. Energy flows invisibly from the transparent windows of homes, offices and shopping centers, directly to the storage systems or for immediate use by any user.
The California Energy Commission has reinforced its commitment to the development of more sustainable systems by signing an agreement that requires all single-family homes and apartment buildings, built from 2020 onwards, to be equipped with solar panels. This initiative originates from the necessity to find alternative solutions for the production of electricity, which is now still largely dominated by fossil fuels, that still has a total share of 62.7%. The objective set by the Commission is to achieve the “zero net energy”:each building will have to consume the same amount of energy that it can store with solar panels. This is not a trivial energy saving, considering that, according to forecasts, in 2020 about 117 thousands single homes and 48 thousand for multiple households will be built in California.
The European Parliament has approved new binding targets at the European level. They expect «a 35% improvement in energy efficiency, a minimum share of at least 35% of energy from renewable sources in the gross final energy consumption and a 12% share of energy from renewable sources in transport by 2030». In order to achieve these objectives, the Member States of the European Union «are encouraged to establish the necessary national measures, which will be monitored according to new rules of governance of the Energy Union». 35% is the minimum target that is required by the environmental organizations and the renewables companies, and it is anyway a step ahead compared to the previous 27% target that was set by the European Commission. The binding 35% target for renewable energy has been approved with 492 votes in favour, 88 against and 107 abstentions and the MEPs state that «in 2030, the share of renewable energy must be equal to the 35% of the energy consumption of the European Union. National objectives should also be established, from which the Member States would be allowed to deviate, under certain conditions, up to a maximum of 10%».
Renewable energy consumption continues to grow in Europe. In 2016, the share of energy produced from clean sources, in the gross final consumption, has reached the 17% throughout the European Union, almost doubling the figure of 2004 (to 8.5%). This is what emerges from the Eurostat data. The EU objective is to achieve 20% of the gross final consumption of energy from renewable sources by 2020, and at least 27% by 2030. At the moment, the highest share of renewable energy by country shows Sweden at the top of the ranking, while Luxembourg, Malta and the Netherlands are in the lowest positions. Since 2004, the share of renewables in the gross final energy consumption has increased significantly in all the Member States, according to Eurostat. Compared to 2015, it has increased in 15 States out of 28. With more than half (53.8%) of the energy produced from renewable sources in its gross final energy consumption, Sweden was by far the country with the highest penetration of clean sources in 2016, followed by Finland (38.7%), Latvia (37.2%), Austria (33.5%), and Denmark (32.2%). On the contrary, the lowest share of renewable energies was recorded in Luxembourg (5.4%), Malta and the Netherlands (both 6%). In relation to the targets set for renewables, 11 out of the 28 EU Member States have already achieved the level required by 2020: Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Croatia, Italy, Lithuania, Romania, Finland, Sweden and Hungary. Austria is less than 1 percentage point away, while the Netherlands (8%), France (7%), Ireland (6.5%), the United Kingdom (5.7%) and Luxembourg (5.6%) are the furthest away from their targets. Italy is currently above the EU average, with 17.4%.