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Interview with Gianni Chianetta, Assosolare: “Italy’s 2012 market could easily reach 2 – 2.5 GW of new installations”

Assosolare, the Italian National Photovoltaic Industry Association, is dynamically structured for the development of leading projects for the promotion of photovoltaic energy in Italy. The association is internationally recognized as an authoritative counterparty in discussions concerning the implementation of photovoltaic measures and it represents the photovoltaic sectors vis-à-vis all parties and institutions involved.

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Print January 9, 2012, 11:37 (CET)
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Interview with Gianni Chianetta, Assosolare: “Italy’s 2012 market could easily reach 2 – 2.5 GW of new installations”

1. How was the year 2011 for the Italian PV market as a whole? How many MW of new PV power systems are being installed in 2011, to your knowledge?
The year 2011 was a peculiar one for the PV industry in Italy. The 2nd, 3rd and 4th Conto Energia somehow overlapped during the first six months, creating a confused landscape. The total capacity installed so far is about 12 GW, making Italy the second PV market in the world after Germany and the first for installed capacity in 2011. A little over 8 GW was installed in 2011, corresponding to about 150,000 new systems.
 
2. Based on your market position, market knowledge and vision, what are your expectations for Italy’s market development in 2012? What will be the trends and differences compared to 2011?
As I mentioned, 2011 has been a peculiar year. On 1st June, the 4th Conto Energia entered into force and some mechanisms, such as the Salva Alcoa Law and the window period (June, July and August), which allowed ground-mounted systems to be installed without registry, led to a rush in the commissioning of PV installations. This will have an effect on the registry for the second semester of 2012, which will probably have no funds left as they’ve already been absorbed. As a consequence, the market will be made up mainly of the 770 MW foreseen by the big systems registry of the first semester, plus the component of small systems (mainly roof-mounted) that will be installed during the year. It is always difficult to make projections, but we believe that the market could easily reach a 2 – 2.5 GW of new installations in 2012.
 
3. The spectacular growth of the Italian market in 2011 does not show any signs of having been affected by the current economic crisis. What practical consequences are visible in the PV market?
Assosolare always claimed that PV is to be considered an asset and not a burden to the Italian economy. The sector showed a high capacity to create employment and to stimulate innovation, in patent counter-tendency to the negative economic trends we have grown to expect in the current financial crisis. The RES sector and PV in particular represent an opportunity that Italy cannot miss. We are working to make this very clear and we hope the new government will understand that it is of utmost importance for the country. Renewable energies must be treated as a strategic long-term goal and be taken into consideration in a structural way, based on a strong and clear political will. We’re convinced PV can play an important role in the solution of a number of problems, from the economic, environmental and social points of view.
 
4. For a few months now, Berlusconi is no longer the Italian Prime Minister and the new Mario Monti Government has been formed. How will this impact the Italian Solar PV industry and market in 2012 and 2013?
The 4th Conto Energia is in place and running, but it will end. The expense limit of 6-7 billion euro is likely to be reached well before 2016 and probably already in 2012-13. This implies that a new incentivizing scheme will need to be put in place. What comes after that will be a matter of political will that Monti or a new government will have to deal with. In our opinion, no matter the government in place, it is fundamental that the strategic goal to foster PV and RES in general is supported as a National priority. To stir the country towards a new paradigm of energy production, gradually integrating the existing infrastructures and substituting as much as possible the production of electricity using fossil sources, is something that cannot be subject to the winds of political change. There must be an acknowledgement and a fundamental agreement supporting present and future actions towards this goal. Otherwise we risk seeing all the progress made so far going to waste.
 
5. Grid parity will be achieved in Italy in 2012 for residential households, at least in Southern Italy. What changes do you expect to see in the market?
Grid parity must be seen as an indicator. The fact is that, especially in Italy, some factors must be included in the equation. These factors are, for instance, the costs of bureaucracy, the long waiting times and the costs imposed by a difficult and unclear system of authorizations. A lot needs to be done in Italy to simplify the legal-administrative framework and reduce the extra costs that represent a heavy percentage of the overall costs of the system.
 
6. Will large (>1 MW) ground-based PV power plants be developed and built in 2012 in Italy? What will the focus be for the Italian developers, investors and contractors?
The rules of D.Lgs 28/2011 and of the 4th Conto Energia clearly limited the segment of ground-mounted PV in Italy. The registry mechanism for the big systems will allow about 800 MW in the first semester. As for the second semester, there are good chances that the registry will not even be opened as the costs accumulated in 2011 exceeded those foreseen for the same period and these extra costs will weigh on the available funds for the second semester 2012. As a consequence, in 2011 the market focused on industrial and commercial roofs, which is exactly the aim of the aforementioned rules. As an association, we always supported the idea that with better planning (the National Guidelines of September 2010 were going in the right direction) the issues of agricultural land consumption and landscape, as well as infrastructural problems (grid capacity and costs related to the necessity of building infrastructures for isolated systems) could be overcome. We still believe this, and we are still fighting for a more illuminated regulation. In this regard, Assosolare is acting on the legal side to ban at least some provisions of D.Lgs 28/2011.
 
7. What are your expectations for the Italian PV market in 2013-2015 (in MW new installed PV power)? Will it continue the spectacular growth it experienced in 2011?
It is very difficult to answer this question in with numbers. Assosolare is working and will continue to work to make sure there will be a future for the PV Market in Italy – and a good one at that. In order to achieve this, we need a solid ground of political understanding of the sector and a clear will to support it in a long-term perspective. Much of our work is directed towards this goal and is slowly giving its results. On the other hand, we also need to work on public opinion, providing information and training at all levels, including that of the authorities involved in the authorization procedures. The numbers will come as a consequence.

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