San Giovanni a Teduccio is a working-class neighborhood on the outskirts of Naples, Italy. Once an industrial center, today it’s home to abandoned factories that sit in ruins by the sea.

But the rooftop of a former orphanage points to new beginnings for the community. There, the sun shines onto the deep-blue surface of 166 solar panels that provide low-cost, clean energy to 20 neighboring families, placing San Giovanni at the helm of an equitable energy transition.

San Giovanni, which launched in 2021, is one of at least 35 renewable energy communities across Italy, according to Legambiente Campania, a leading environmental nonprofit that helped create the entity and install the panels.

The project is part of a national effort to get households, businesses, and local authorities to jointly generate and distribute energy from renewable sources. Proponents say it’s a model not just for transitioning economies away from fossil fuels, but also for lifting people out of poverty.

“This community didn’t need empty words,” said Anna Riccardi, president of Fondazione Famiglia di Maria, a grassroots youth educational organization housed in the former orphanage. Riccardi, who worked with Legambiente to bring panels to her community, said that what residents do need is an equitable energy transition.

Naples has one of the country’s highest rates of poverty and unemployment, and yet its residents have some of its highest energy costs.

Read the full article about Italy's renewable energy communities by Lucrezia Lozza at YES! Magazine.