Having sought (and found) their success far beyond the borders of Italy, the re-flourishing of the Italian solar market has put Solar Ventures in a unique position: renewed focus on their home market, with a wealth of international experience gained to make the most of it.
Solar Ventures has developed over 500 MWp worldwide since 2007, back then in the early Conto Energia days. Of course, those days are long gone. Italy has reached the famous market parity status, where developers can now build large-scale solar plants without the need for subsidies or additional governmental incentives. This ushers in a new era for developers, something you will speak about at the conference. Can you briefly summarize what things have changed the most for you as a developer in the last 10 years?
Back then, solar energy was just a niche. There were only a few players in the game and no really big ones. Today, we’ve hit the mainstream: all the big energy and infrastructure players are present. It is a much bigger and more competitive game
PPAs are blossoming in Italy, starting to gain some traction, with already some corporate PPAs being signed. With the new decree in our sights, the market is set to grow dramatically. On the other side, merchant revenues can also play a big role, as currently forward electricity prices are around 60 EUR/MWh, thus a significant gap with current LCOEs (79% reduction from 2010-2017). What is Solar Venture’s vision on the PPA/merchant conundrum? Do you have a preference for one or looking into both options?
At the moment we are analyzing all options. The beauty of the new solar paradigm is that revenues are no longer determined by governments, In fact, there can be several different approaches and they are all valid in some way. We are certainly looking into long-term PPAs, but some merchant component can definitely make sense as well. The PPA tenor length really depends on the project. 10 years is a good one. 12-13 could be even better.
How hopeful are you for the new Strategia Energetica Nazionale and the role ascribed to solar? What would you like to see when the new decree is published?
Solar is a very dynamic technology and has always positively surprised the market. In 2007, the Energy strategy called for 20 GWp by 2020. That target was already met just 5 years later. Now, many people say the new objectives are too optimistic, but think of how Japan - a country as big as Italy and twice as much populated - has already installed over 50 GWp of solar! in just 6-7 years.
I believe we will be surprised again, and all the different segments and factors are instrumental to this purpose: large-scale solar, small-scale solar , PPA-driven structures, renewable decrees…
I can imagine that, with the new opportunities offered by solar in many markets, many new players are entering the field, such as institutional investors. What impact can they have on investment amounts or financing opportunities?
It is certainly a very dynamic environment. There are countless interested equity investors involved in various stages and several new providers of debt in various formats. For developers it is sort of a financial nirvana right now.
What are the expectations for Solar Ventures in 2019? What are you currently working on?
At the previous edition of your event in 2018, we announced our target of developing 1 GWp of solar in Italy and Spain. We recently passed the 1.4 GWp mark, so I would say we are progressing well!
We will soon receive our first permits and move to the second phase of closing PPAs, starting construction, locking down financing.