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.
According to the 2017 Agi-Censis Report, “The culture of Innovation”, the most important answers to confront the complex challenge of sustainability and the decarbonisation of the economy will come from innovation. In regards to this, according to the data contained in this report, among the infrastructures that are most appreciated by Italians, we can find photovoltaic parks with a percentage of 82.4%, high-speed railway stations (76.4%), and wind farms (73.3%). While among those that are the least appreciated, in the first place are oil refineries with the 77%, followed by the coal-fired power plants (76.5%) and chemical or metal-mechanical plants (63%). There is therefore confidence in new technologies and new discoveries: the 65.6% of Italians are deeply convinced that we will all become producers of energy, thus generating a “smart-grid” scenario, in which it will no longer be only consumption to unite us, but also production. The 57.6% of the respondents stated that they were confident that, thanks to innovation, we would soon have all the energy that we need without significant impacts on the environment. There is a deep and widespread conviction that over the next thirty years we will witness and participate in profound changes in the energy scenarios: according to some people, it will be a manageable change, while according to others, this change will be predominant in regards to energy resources and it will give rise to an increase in social gaps.
Extreme climatic events (typhoons, heatwaves, and floods), natural disasters, ecosystem collapse with loss in biodiversity, human inability to mitigate the effects of global warming: environmental risks are the most alarming topic under discussion. This is what has emerged for the second consecutive year from the global Risks Report, published by the World Economic Forum on occasion of the last meeting in Davos. It is interesting to notice how the perception of risk has changed over the last ten years: during the period 2008-2010, the economy and the geopolitics were the unknowns that dominated the scene. On the contrary, from 2011 onwards, the environmental issues have gained the first place, with a peak of concern recorded between 2017 and 2018. Climatic change is ultimately changing the risk management strategies of big companies and of public-private institutions all around the world. In particular, many energy utilities are aware that in a few years they could lose huge profits due to the obsolete and no longer profitable existing infrastructure, such as coal-fired power plants. As a result, the so-called “carbon risk”, the financial risk associated with global pollution and CO 2 emissions, is gaining increasing importance in the investment decisions of banks, governments and fund managers.
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%».