Dr Armanini, could you give briefly give us an overview of the Italian PV market in the last years?
As you know, from a global point of view, the solar PV market has passed through a period of exciting growth, and this is especially the case of Italy. Thanks to the Italian PV feed in tariff scheme (the well known Conto Energia), the Italian market has shown an amazing growth: more than 1.5GW of solar PV power have been settled and the yearly market size is of about 1.5GW. The current incentive scheme was due to expire by the end of this year, but a new Conto Energia has been approved. The uncertain environment for investment due to the expiration of the old feed in tariff scheme has thus been resolved and a new investment horizon for the frame 2011-2013 has been clarify. The new Conto Energia was long awaited, but thanks to the positive view of the government and thanks to a clear European framework, it can be considered more than satisfactory.
What are the key novelties introduced in Italy by this decree?
Since the prices of solar PV installations have dropped after the approval of the decree in 2007, the feed in tariff scheme have been cut accordingly. The amount of the cuts is of the 10% for the small residential rooftop plants (1-3 kW) and of about 25% for the ground mounted plants bigger than 1 MW. But parallel to the cuts two important changes should be highlighted. The first is that according to the new law PV plants are divided in two main categories: installations on buildings and any other plant type. The new incentives scheme forecast also 6 classes of plants based on the power installed: from 1 to 3 kW; from 3 to 20 kW, from 20 to 200 kW, from 200 to 1000 kW; from 1000 to 5 MW and over 5 MW.
A second interesting change introduced by the new decree is that an extra 5% of incentives is recognized to the projects improving the building energy class, involving asbestos removal or located in small municipalities, in industrial/commercial areas or, finally, inside quarries and municipal dumps.
What do you forecast for the Italian PV market in the next years?
Similar experiences coming from other European countries tell us that most important is that governments decrease the incentive amount trough time avoiding abrupt steps. And this is exactly what the new Conto Energia forecast: every 4 months in 2011 the tariff will further decline and it will decrease by an additional 6% in 2012 and 2013.
The potentially critical point of the decree is that the government has conceived a cap of only 3 GW of power, while the Italian PV associations are requesting a cap of about 8 GW. However there is a 14 months window in which it is still possible to benefit of the incentives also after the cap has been passed. This is an interesting point of the decree, because it helps in guaranteeing some investment flexibility.
Do you see some critical point in the Italian market?
In the last years the Italian growth has been limited mostly by the regional differences in the authorization pathway to grant the construction permissions. However in 2010 new national guidelines have been approved and are under implementation at the regional scale. And this is for sure something that will further encourage the growth of the Italian PV market.
What are the most promising PV plants for the Italian PV market?
According to the new decree, we see as extremely promising the medium to large rooftop mounted solar PV plants because they have access to higher incentives and they are usually subjected to a simpler regulation. For this kind of plants costs and time of development are thus substantially cut.
What are the innovations favoured by the new Conto Energia?
The innovations favoured by the new feed in tariff scheme are mainly three. The first two elements are the installation of innovative PV materials, as glass PV surfaces, and concentrating solar power plants. This is a very interesting point, boosting innovations and transforming Italy in a cutting edge market for this kind of plants. The third element is related to the allocation of electricity in the national grid. The decree will recognize a higher tariff to those plant owners who will release a reliable production output on a daily basis to help the national grid manager to better allocate electricity in the grid.
How does your company integrate in this scenario?
Prothea has developed a portfolio of 4 solar PV projects, totalling 11 MW in Italy and more than 50MW are going to be authorized in early 2011. Our projects have high standard characteristics and high technical design. The high irradiance, more than 1350 equivalent hours, and the close grid connection, usually on site, guarantee strong economics for the investors.
Prothea is a greenfield and rooftop developer of solar energy power plants. We are based in Italy (Milan) and UK (London) and active in Italy, France, United Kingdom and other Mediterranean countries. With our technical, project management and financial skills, we are active in every segment of the project development chain.