Very Much Tomorrow

This is not a post about book, film or notable essay. Rather it is a story that appeals to me. The story, as it was told in a Times article last month, is about an ancient Italian hill town that has developed a project that is strikingly different than anything in its past or that you might expect it to do.

The town is Tocco Da Casuria, a “quintessential Italian town of 2,700 people” in the central part of Italy. I’ve been to such towns, lingered there for hours, returned time and time again. There isn’t much going on in these hill towns. The streets are quiet. It is hot when I am there. I go to a small café or “bar” to get a cold drink and there are two or three elderly men there watching a soccer game on the TV. I sit down and watch the game. It is hard to leave.

Tocco has undertaken a project that has started to take hold in other comparable Italian villages. And it is a major achievement for a little town like Tocco, one, however, that is not being emulated in large urban centers where Italian planning and regulation requirements pose too many barriers at the present time.

What Tocco has done has become totally energy self-sufficient. Not only that, but the little village is making money from its electricity production by selling it to other communities in Italy. Last year the excess production of renewable energy earned the town 170,000 Euros ($200,000). The surplus funds permitted it to renovate its schools, “tripled the budget for street cleaners” and ended local taxes and fees for community services like garbage removal.

Tocco has achieved this degree of energy sufficiency has been by building four wind turbines and roof-top solar panels in private residences, the sports center complex, and some of its ancient buildings. According to the Times article “Tocco was motivated to become an early adapter because Italy already had among the highest electricity rates in Europe, and nearly three times the average in the United States, and it could not cope with the wild fluctuations in fossil fuel prices and supply that prevailed in the last decade.”

These are representative of the conditions that exist in every town and city in industrial countries. When combined with the falling price of renewable energy and government incentives to Italian communities that are able to produce surplus energy, the development of such projects has become a no brainer.

The Tocco Da Casuria story captured my imagination. Here is the typical Italian hill town that has preserved its old ways and at the same time is on the forefront of energy technology. Old men at the café sitting outside in the sun, their wives on their way to the market, and all the while wind turbines are blowing in the wind high among the hillside olive trees and new roof-top solar panels are soaking up the energy to light its walkways and power its few offices and shops.

As the Times article points out “Tocco is very much tomorrow.” It is also a small town where change seems to come more readily than in larger urban centers, one that apparently has been implemented with comparable savings in more than 800 Italian communities not unlike Tocco.

There is also another story to tell about Tocco Da Casuria, one not discussed in the Times article. It is the story of how these changes came to pass, the people who were responsible for initiating and implementing the projects. The situation that led the town to consider adopting sustainable energy projects is well known but not the process whereby they became a reality. It is worth the trip there to find out. Arrivedici.