Investments agreed to transform Venice’s Marghera industries

A design image for the planned Palais Lumiere in Marghera:

Investments totalling €5 billion have been earmarked to transform the Marghera industrial areas bordering Venice’s lagoon. The plan to change the industrial areas was announced on 16 April 2012 and was presented by Italy’s Environment Minister Corrado Clini, the Governor of the Veneto Region Luca Zaia, Ciriaco d’Alessio of the Venice Water Authority, Venice Mayor Giorgio Orsoni, Venice Province President Francesca Zaccariotto and the President of the Venice Port Authority Paolo Costa. Therefore, the plan has the backing of the key institutional players governing the industrial areas. Of the €5 billion investment, €3 billion will be provided by public funds with €2 billion coming from private investments. Further details about the plan can be found in these two articles from the local press in the links below:

Accordo su Porto Marghera Investimenti per cinque miliardi

Al via la bonifica di Porto Marghera: cinque miliardi per riqualificare l'area

This announcement represents one of the most significant changes to Venice’s development for decades. The industrial areas at Marghera have been in decline since the 1990s. In particular, the petrochemical refinery has been in crisis and the petrochemical plant run by the leading Italian oil company ENI has been temporarily closed for six months, as discussed in this article:

Chiusa per sei mesi riprende la raffineria di Porto Marghera: al lavoro 320 operai

Venice evidently needs to move away from an outdated model of industry at Marghera and conservation of its city centre. Employment levels have fallen in the industries of Marghera, while tourism has provided the main source of employment growth for Venice in recent years. As examined in my book Venice in Environmental Peril? Myth and Reality (2012), Venice needs to modernise its city centre and embrace tourism, which should be developed on the outer islands and the mainland. In addition, Marghera offers opportunities for new types of industries. We welcome the proposals to develop the science and research hub in Marghera, known as VEGA.

However, the new plan’s proposal for “the development of sustainable productive activities” raises concerns. An example of such activities was the opening of a hydrogen energy plant at Fusina near Marghera in July 2010 that was reported as producing energy without emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2). This plant cost €50 million, has the potential to generate 12 to 16 megawatts of electricity and supplies enough electricity for 20,000 households a year. Yet this capacity is tiny if compared to approximately 1,000 megawatts from a nuclear power station, which emits no CO2 during electricity generation. The hydrogen plant was publicised as a unique innovation in renewable energy, when more efficient alternatives should have been explored for this location and Marghera. The proposal to invest in sustainable development activities at Marghera coincides with an announcement by Environment Minister Clini on 17 April 2012 to continue subsidising renewable energy in Italy, which has cost billions of euros over the last few years but produced minimal amounts of energy. Incentive schemes to subsidise Italian renewable energy rose from €1.7 billion in 2008, to €3.4 billion in 2010 and an estimated €6.4 billion in 2011. But far too much of this expenditure has been provided to support small-scale energy installations that produce tiny amounts of power for a relatively high cost, such as the hydrogen plant at Fusina.

Therefore, we advise against investing in sustainable energy projects at Marghera. It would be a much better investment to build a nuclear plant at this location, which would produce much more electricity than the hydrogen plant and would generate no carbon dioxide during the energy production process. In addition, we welcome the development of new technology and research sites in Marghera and the cleaning up of the industrial areas. There was another positive announcement this week that the new tram service between Mestre and Marghera should open in 2014, plus plans for the start of work over the bridge to Venice to connect the tram service with Piazzale Roma. Other development to support the growth of industry and tourism should also be prioritised. A positive example is the light palace, or Palais Lumiere, designed by Pierre Cardin that will be constructed on the edge of Marghera. This impressive palace will include hotel rooms, apartments, offices, shops, bars, restaurants, fitness facilities, cinemas, a conference centre and pools and gardens. Cardin announced at the end of March 2012 that this €1.5 billion complex has been approved by local authorities and work will start in September 2012:

Cardin showcases 'Light Palace' project in China

Further details about Palais Lumiere can be found using this link:

A City Palace

We support this initiative, although the Venice branch of the conservationist organisation Italia Nostra opposes it and the development of Marghera as explained here:

Svolta storica per Marghera?

It remains to be seen how the new investment for Marghera will be allocated. We favour development over sustainable development!

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