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Enel coal power plant project in Porto Tolle, Italy


The Enel thermoelectric power plant of Porto Tolle is located on the Polesine Camerini Island at the Pila mouth of the Po (one of the Po River´s main mouths), in the middle of the Po Delta Regional Park (established in 1997) and at the border with a Special Protection Area and a Site of Community Importance [1].

Enel wants to convert the station currently using fuel oil to a coal-fired power plant.

The current power plant consists of 4 groups of generators (constructed between 1980 and 1984) with a total production capacity of 2.640 MW, able to generate about 8% of the electricity demand in Italy. Over the past decades, Enel has presented several plans to convert the plant. In 2002 Enel presented a project for the conversion to Orimulsion, a bitumen-based fuel, later shelved. In 2005 the company launched the project for the use of coal instead of oil fuel, in order to reduce the cost to produce energy and increase efficiency.

Environmental associations (Greenpeace, Legambiente, WWF) and the Porto Tolle local committee (Comitato Cittadini Liberi Porto Tolle) expressed strong opposition to the use of coal. The new 1.980 MW coal-fired plant would emit in the air more than 10.5 million tons of CO2 per year and other pollutants (nitrogen and sulphur oxides, fine and ultrafine dust, organic compounds, etc.). The polluting emissions would cover a range of several tens of kilometres. The project represents a real threat to the environment, the health of the citizens and the economy of the area.

The thermoelectric plant, almost in disuse since 2006, has already been the object of condemnations for environmental crimes (in 2006, 2009 and 2014) committed in the years of fuel oil functioning [see other comments]. Since 2005, the resistance of the associations and the local citizens, who have tried to hinder the process to convert the plant, has been growing (through legal actions, demonstrations, occupations) and has clashed with lobbying actions carried out by Enel to promote the new “clean coal” project, that would entail carbon capture and sequestration (see project details.) In 2009 the project received a positive Environmental Impact Assessment. In 2010 environmental associations and local committees presented an appeal to the TAR (Regional Administrative Tribunal) to annul the decree. The Tribunal rejected the appeal but resistance to the project continued and in 2010 the associations presented a new appeal to the Council of State, that was upheld in 2011.

The main contested point accepted by the Council of the State concerned the lack of assessment by the Ministry of the Environment of alternatives to coal, such as the use of methane gas. The Regional law establishing the park (1997) originally imposed for power plant fuel sources the use of methane gas or other alternative sources with equal or lower impact on the environment. Thereafter, the Veneto Region modified the regional law, adding a paragraph that admits the use of coal under certain conditions [1]. The change allowed the State Council to issue a new sentence that unlocked the procedures for the plant conversion and restart the approval process for the project in 2012, taking into account the original plan approved in 2009.

Local committees and associations against the project expressed strong opposition to the new sentence, but in January 2014 a new reversal took place, the EIA Commission of the Ministry for the Environment gave a negative opinion and again blocked project to convert the Porto Tolle power plant to coal. Enel now needs to modify the project and present a new environmental impact study.

In september 2014 ENEL announced the will to stop the project.

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Enel coal power plant project in Porto Tolle, Italy
State or province:Province of Rovigo, Veneto region
Location of conflict:Polesine Camerini, Municipality of Porto Tolle
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Other
Thermal power plants
Specific commodities:Coal

Project Details and Actors

Project details

The coal-fired project would reduce the current capacity of 2,640 MW to 1,980 MW (three groups of 660 MW). In addition, 5% of the energy would be produced using biomass. Works for the conversion of the plant would last 5 years.

In October 2008, Eni and Enel signed a Strategic Cooperation Agreement to develop technologies for CO2 capture, transport and geological sequestration and to accelerate the deployment of CCS. This included the construction of a large scale integrated CCS demonstration plant for the Enel’s Porto Tolle power station. The CCS demonstration facility project intended to capture CO2 present in the flue stream from the power plant, then transport it to an off-shore saline aquifer and inject it underground [3].

The Porto Tolle Project received €100 million in funding through the European Energy Program for Recovery (EEPR) and it would have been part of the European Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) Demonstration Project Network.

In 2013, due to delays in time schedule and problems to obtain authorizations for the conversion, ENEL renounced to the CCS demonstration project and stopped the European funding.

Project area:168
Level of Investment for the conflictive project3,350,250,000 USD (2,500,000,000 EU)
Type of populationSemi-urban
Affected Population:73,000 (inhabitants of the Veneto Po Delta Regional Park)
Start of the conflict:2005
End of the conflict:2014
Company names or state enterprises:ENEL Group (Enel) from Italy
Relevant government actors:Ministry of the Environment and Land Defence, Veneto Region, Emilia Romagna Region, Province Rovigo, Municipality of Porto Tolle, Municipality of Rosolina, Municipality of Adria
International and Finance InstitutionsEuropean Energy Program for Recovery (EEPR)
European Union (EU)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Comitato cittadini liberi di Porto Tolle, Coordinamento dei comitati per la difesa della salute e dell’ambiente del Polesine, Italia Nostra, Rete No Coke Nazionale, Greenpeace Legambiente, WWF, Coordinamento Veneto contro il carbone, ISDE-Medici per l'Ambiente, Forum ambientalista, Rete Stop Enel

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:International ejos
Recreational users
Religious groups
Local ejos
Social movements
Fisher people
Local government/political parties
Trade unions
Local scientists/professionals
Industrial workers
Informal workers
Forms of mobilization:Artistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Land occupation
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Occupation of buildings/public spaces
In 2006, greenpeace activists occupied for three days the Porto Tolle plant to protests against the coal project. Activists climbed the chimney (250mt) of the power plant and exposed written against the decision of Enel to convert the plant to the use of coal. 25 Activists were arrested for the occupation, they were acquitted in 2013. Local activists organized events and demonstrations (e.g. the national demonstration against coal in Adria, October 2011) with other associations, local committees and networks against the use of coal.


Environmental ImpactsPotential: Air pollution, Fires, Global warming, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Other Environmental impacts
Other Environmental impactsThe plant would emit in the air high quantity of CO2, SO2, NOx, PM highly damaging to the environment [2].
In addition, the transit of large vessels for the supply of coal would damage the marine fauna and flora of the Delta river park. [4] The long-term impacts of carbon capture and storage technologies are also unknown.
Health ImpactsPotential: Accidents, Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Occupational disease and accidents, Deaths
Other Health impactsPremature deaths caused by the plant emissions were calculated in the 2012 report published by the independent organization SOMO concerning Enel activities and comparing the cost to use coal with the use of other resources. [2]
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Other socio-economic impactsThe local fishing industry and the tourism sector would be damaged by impacts of the coal project. [4]


Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Strengthening of participation
Proposal and development of alternatives:Two possible alternatives emerged from the associations against the use of coal. On the one hand, the dismantling and restoration of the area contaminated by the oil-fuel power plant and the conversion to renewables energies. On the other hand, the conversion to natural gas.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Yes
Briefly explain:The mobilization, thanks also to the support of national and international environmental associations, was able to face the authorization process showing the negative aspects of project. The mobilization increased in the years and succeeded in involving many citizens and informing the local population on the project and its impacts on health and environment. Inhabitants’ involvement was a great success in an area where lack of interest and information led to accept polluting projects (as the oil fuel power plant) in exchange for workp and urban development.
The mobilization has managed to bring together networks and associations protesting against Enel’s projects to use coal from other places as well.
The project to convert the power plant to coal was stopped. Although there were other obvious strategic reasons for Enel, it is unquestionable that the mobilization had an important impact in the final result.

Sources & Materials

Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

[1]Regional Law 8 September 1997, n. 36 (BUR n. 74/1997)

State Council sentence n. 3569/2012

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[2]Enel Today & Tomorrow. Hidden Costs of the Path of Coal and Carbon versus Possibilities for a Cleaner and Brighter Future, SOMO, May 2012

[3]Porto Tolle CCS demonstration project, 2011

[4]Observations to the Environment Minister. Comitato "cittadini liberi-Porto Tolle", Associazione WWF Provinciale di Rovigo e Ass. Italia Nostra onlus Sezione di Rovigo. 30/01/2013

[5]Study on the environmental compensations reported by the Institute for Environmental Protection and Research (Ispra). 01/2014

[6]Arrests Enel bis process

Report on Enel activities, Rete Stop Enel, 2012

Legambiente article, february 2012

Po Delta Regional Park

Article on the conversion process, June 2012

Surveys on health impacts of fuel oil power plant, 01/2014

Minister of environment stopped authorizations, 01/2014 -

Rovigo Oggi online newspaper, Porto Tolle plant articles

Il Fatto Quotidiano newspaper web page, Porto Tolle plant articles

WWF campaign

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Greenpeace against coal in Porto Tolle

Other comments:The oil-fuel power plant has been objects of investigation for environmental crimes for years. According to a report carried out by the Institute for Environmental Protection and Research (Ispra) commissioned by the Ministries of Health and Environment, Enel should reimburse the State with a compensation of € 3.6 billion for environmental and health damages caused between 1998 and 2009 by the company in the Po Delta area. [5]Thus, in 2014, the process called “Enel bis” led to the arrest for environmental disaster of the former administrators of the company [6].

Meta information

Contributor:CDCA (
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:1507



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