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Digital archive of theses discussed at the University of Pisa


Thesis etd-03212017-003532

Thesis type
Tesi di dottorato di ricerca
Thesis title
Opportunities and Threats of Farm Biogas Diffusion at the Regional Level in Italy
Academic discipline
Course of study
tutor Prof. Brunori, Gianluca
tutor Prof. Bartolini, Fabio
commissario Prof.ssa Andreoli, Maria
commissario Prof.ssa Salvioni, Cristina
commissario Prof.ssa Stojanović, Žaklina
  • agroenergy
  • AKIS
  • bioeconomy
  • biogas adoption
  • Common Agricultural Policy
  • energy production
  • farm household model
  • impact assessment
  • knowledge
  • mathematical programming
  • Mediterranean
  • real option valuation
  • short rotation forestry
  • SNA.
Graduation session start date
The provision of renewable energy by agriculture – so called agroenergy – is a key element of the Europe 2020 Strategy and has sparked the public and research debates on the bio-based economy. Hot topics involve direct and indirect land use change, as well as the ability of agroenergy to foster or hinder food and energy security. Worldwide research has dealt with those and other issues associated with the sustainability of the diffusion of agroenergy generation systems, but the subject is still open. The agricultural sectors’ contribution to the provision of energy is central issue in Horizon 2020 strategies and has shaped the public and research debates on the future of bio economy. The common agricultural policy (CAP) has been one of the main drivers of farmers’ behaviour changes and represents the main agricultural policy instrument to address viability of rural areas and maintaining the profitability of the agricultural sector. In addition, the European Commission backs the agricultural knowledge and innovation system (AKIS), being the key to successful implementation of a bioeconomy in the EU. AKIS-specific measures are also included in the rural development policy of the CAP 2014-2020. Then, studying the AKIS is important for policy planning in the EU. Chapter 2 analyses the AKIS behind the adoption of farm biogas in an area of central Italy, thereby describing adopters’ and business typologies. The methodology relies on social network analysis of primary data, collected via questionnaire to plant adopters, and focuses on the estimation of three network attributes: cohesion, knowledge co-creation, and brokerage. We highlight three business models: i.e. multifunctional farm, entrepreneurial farm, and Energy Service Company. The latter is the most widespread. Self-education, upstream industry, agronomists, farmer/biogas unions, university, public-funded projects, and public research centres are AKIS’ stakeholders, which provide information and know-how. Upstream industry is the most influential node, the one that can help knowledge diffusion across adopters, regardless of their background. Self-accessible resources are the main providers of information at the adoption-decision stage. The networks are centralized on self-education tools, while upstream industry and the Research Centre on Animal Productions is the broker. Policy intervention aimed at improving AKIS in the biogas sector should involve the upstream industry in decision making, while considering the duality self-accessible information vs. physical advisors. To contribute to the ongoing policy debate towards CAP reform, Chapter 3 provides an empirical model to simulate the impact of alternative CAP mechanism on the provision of renewable energy. By applying a dynamic mathematical programming model the paper tests the impact new policy measures design on provision of second-generation of bio fuel crops that represent a relevant option for the Tuscany farmers. Results show that CAP reform positive impacts on the supply of energy crops mainly due to the introduction of greening payments, which allows an enlarging of crops diversification. Model results stress also the income stabilisation effects of energy production introduction at farm level, due to reduction of farm exposure to the market prices fluctuations. Chapter 4 contributes to the ongoing debate on the sustainability of agroenergy. We propose an empirical model to simulate the diffusion of farm biogas installations and estimate a set of indicators covering the economic, environmental, and social dimensions of sustainability at the regional level. Model results show that agroenergy production can help farmers stabilise their income and keep viable rural areas, despite some trade-offs among socio-economic and environmental indicators. Major drawbacks are environmental risks associated with farming intensification.