In Saline Joniche, on the southern tip of Calabria, SEI s.p.a. presented a project to build a 1320 MW coal-fired power plant. SEI S.p.A. is a company held by the Swiss Repower Group (57.5%), the Hera Group (20%), the engineering company Foster Wheeler Italiana S.r.l. (15%), and the investment company Apri Sviluppo S.p.A. (7.5%). Coal will be procured on the international market and delivered by sea through the Saline Joniche port. The installation is designed to process locally produced biomass in addition to burning coal.
The project generated widespread opposition among environmental associations, citizens and local institutions both in Italy and in Switzerland.
A powerful mobilization occurred in Kanton Graubünden, the home region of Repower. In 2007, the Coordinamento delle Associazioni dell'Area Grecanica (coordination of associations of the Grecanica area) was created with the aim to inform and raise awareness on the risks and problems related to the coal power plant. The mobilization stressed on the negative environmental and health impacts of the coal project and called for a sustainable development for the region. Moreover, the plant will be located in the old industrial area known as Liquichimica Biosintesi, built in the 1970s and immediately abandoned. The industrial project was strongly supported by ‘Ndrangheta (local Mafia) that benefitted a lot with it. The risk of criminal infiltration is extremely high for the new installation as well.
The lack of jobs and economic resources in the area is a strong issue, which is why a few groups have sprung up in favour of the project, which is seen as an opportunity for economic growth.
In June 2012 the Monti government issued a decree declaring the environmental compatibility of the project, and in April 2013 the Italian Ministry of the Environment also formally concluded the environmental impact assessment. The approval process will be complete with the granting of an "autorizzazione unica", where the region of Calabria plays an important role.
In 2012 local associations and then Greenpeace, Legambiente, LIPU e WWF presented appeals to block the authorization for the new plant.
The Ministry of Cultural Heritage, the Region Calabria and local authorities also disapproved the project. In particular, the Region presented two appeals to the TAR Lazio to annul both decrees presented by the government and by the Ministry of the Environment. The Region opposes the project following the directions of the Regional Energy Plan (2005), which prohibits the construction of coal-fired plants in the territory and point to energy production from renewable and sustainable resources . Moreover, as attested by the Energy Plan data, Calabria produces nowadays 'more' electricity than it consumes.
Resistance also gathered form in Kanton Graubünden, Switzerland. That Kanton owns about half of Repower's shares. This semi-public ownership status allowed resisting activists to refer to the corporation's direct liability to the public. Around 2008, activists began to spread the news of Repower's coal-plant aspirations (which first involved another coal plant project in Brunsbüttel, Germany), to contact various stakeholders, form a civil association for 'a future without coal', and send editorial letters to local newspapers. In 2011, they organized a podium discussion and got the press and a TV channel to cover the story extensively. They also informed senior national scholars about the case, 24 of whom published an open letter expressing their opposition to coal-based energy. Public opinion polls were commissioned both in Calabria and in Graubünden, which showed a clear rejection of the power plant project by both populations. Thereupon, a coalition of activists, NGOs and political parties decided to launch a plebiscite demanding the local government to disavow of any coal-based energy projects in general and to forbid publicly (co-) owned companies to invest in those in particular. Supported by a sustained and inspired campaign, this demand won in a public vote on 22nd of September 2013, in spite of a strong, almost unanimous stance of the local economic and political elites in favour of the coal plant. Repower then pledged to retract its investments from Saline Joniche by 2015.
Following those events, in spring 2014, in Italy, local and national resistance groups started to lobby the public multi-utility Hera based in Emilia-Romagna, asking the withdrawal from the project.