“The year 2011 was a peculiar one for the PV industry in Italy,” Gianni Chianetta, President of Assosolare, told Solarplaza during the interview. Three new Conto Energia overlapped during the first six months and 8.0 GW was installed during the year. This made Italy the world’s leader for yearly installed PV capacity and the cumulated capacity rose to 12 GW. The Italian PV capacity in 2008 was 0.4 GW. This means a growth of 3000% over the three past years, mainly materialized during 2011. On the other hand, the year 2011 shows different peaks and valleys in the market. The year started successfully with many new installed capacities as a consequence of the 3rd Conto Energia. In March the market stopped completely, because of the waiting for the new Conto Energia.
This one eventually came in June and the market started increasing again, to go down for the second time in a year in September, because of the financial crisis. The strong growth of the Italian PV market will probably not continue in 2012. “Yearly installed capacity is expected to plummet to about 2 or 2.5 GW,” said Gianni Chianetta. Some segments of the Italian PV sector will continue to grow, but the market will slow down in a way that cannot possibly be desirable in a country, in which employment and security of energy supply are priorities. The rough slow down of the solar PV advance foreseen for 2012 will also be a consequence of the regulatory changes of the first months of 2011. And those regulatory changes have been partly based on a National Energy Plan, which is now “anachronistic”. In Carlo Rolle’s, Director at BNP Paribas Project Finance Italy, opinion, Italy needs an update of the National Energy Plan, and then consistent and insightful legislation on the Italian energy sector, in order to pursue an energy market design that gives more space to renewables, and that can address production, storage, and transport capacity issues.
Financial Crisis & Political Situation
The financial crisis has been one of the main reasons for the reduction of the Italian market at the end of 2011, but the market is certainly not dead. Everyone needs to keep in mind that more than 90% of the new PV investments are based on bank financing. “The market is still alive, and PV players are still busy making offers, but as customers approach the final stage of sourcing financing for their initiatives, then the game stops, as they wait for a never-ending decision process,” according to Andrea Brumgnach, Director of Making Energy. The solar PV industry must be seen as an asset and not a burden to the Italian economy. The sector showed a high capacity to create employment and stimulate innovation. The solar PV sector is, according to Chianetta, a chance that Italy cannot miss. Hopefully the new government will understand and see this chance. For a few months now, Berlusconi is no longer the Italian prime minister and the new Mario Monti Government has been formed. This new government has to deal with a very hard challenge. It has to win back the trust of the world’s financial markets, secure the state financial sustainability and re-boost the economy. This will also have a big influence on the Italian PV market, because without financial stability, customers will not invest and banks will not provide loans. Carlo Rolle is convinced that the new government will succeed in his job: “Even if the international situation is still full of dangers, the Government is gradually moving Italy back and away from the cliff’s edge.” Andrea Brumgnach shares this view: “I’m confident the new government will be able to reach this goal.”
Challenges of 2012
The existing Italian National Energy Plan of nuclear energy covering 24% of power demand in 2020 is anachronistic. This leaves a large gap for renewable energy, said Rolle. “Solar PV also deserves more growth, because it is a relatively stable energy production source, because it has strong job creation potential, and because grid parity is in sight for solar PV.” Furthermore the European authorities still want to move towards a decarbonization of the economy, and solar PV energy totally fits the profile. In 2012, the focus of the Italian developers, investors and contractors will not be on large ground-based plants. The future of the Italian solar PV sector is, according to Brumgnach, on-roof. For sure, over the coming years we will see few new big ground-based plants, but this part of the Italian market is at the end. Brumgnach thinks that the most important challenge for market players involves their ability to understand and attack this market. It is going to be hard for Italy to achieve its 2011 performance again in the future. The Italian market will slow down in 2012 and maybe recover somewhat in 2013 as a consequence of the end of the registration duties introduced in 2011. On the other hand, it is clear that the solar PV sector is firmly established in the market. “Compare today’s situation the incredulity and lack of knowledge on the sector that was common up until 2008”, concludes Carlo Rolle. “Italy won’t fall back anymore into such ignorance and irrelevance in the solar PV power sector.”