Italia Solare calls for ‘immediate change of pace’ on PV to reduce reliance on Russian gas

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Italy deployed 800MW of solar last year. Image: Eni.

Italy must accelerate the authorisation of new solar projects to reduce the country’s reliance on imports of Russian gas, the president of industry trade association Italia Solare has said.

“An immediate change of pace is needed” to authorise PV plants and allow them to be built, Paolo Rocco Viscontini wrote in a letter sent this week to Italian President Sergio Mattarella, as he called for “rapid, concrete and incisive initiatives” to change the country’s energy paradigm.

With Italy importing around 40% of its gas from Russia, Rocco Viscontini said the situation in Ukraine requires an “urgent revision” of Italy’s energy system “for ethical, economic and national security reasons”.

He added that there has been a lack of political desire in recent years to unblock authorisations for new solar plants.

In part due to stringent permitting restrictions, Italy deployed just 800MW of solar last year, taking its total installed capacity up to 22GW.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said earlier this week that the country must continue to simplify procedures for renewables. “This is the major obstacle for onshore and offshore renewable energy projects; we are continuing to do this and we will continue to push this point.”

Speaking in parliament on Tuesday, Draghi said diversification of Italy’s energy supplies is something to aim for regardless of what happens with Russian gas supplies in the immediate future. “We cannot be so dependent on the decisions of just one country, as this jeopardises our freedom, not just our prosperity. This is why we must first of all aim to significantly increase our production of renewable energy.”

Among the measures the government is exploring to reduce Italy’s reliance on Russian gas include increasing gas imports from Algeria and Azerbaijan and temporally increasing electricity generation using coal- and oil-fired plants.  

In his letter to the president, Rocco Viscontini also hit out at a new government policy of clawing back the profits of solar plants that have benefited from rising energy prices.

Due to remain in place until the end of the year, that measure applies to PV plants with a capacity above 20kW that receive feed-in tariffs through the Conto Energia scheme and are also able to sell electricity to the market or to Italy’s energy management agency GSE. As much as 13GW of PV projects could be affected by the policy, according to an Italia Solare board member.

Italy’s government last month unveiled measures – including new regulations for solar PV in agricultural areas and a fund to help companies install renewables – to accelerate clean energy deployment. Although Italia Solare welcomed a policy to simplify the authorisation process for offshore renewables plants, the association said the proposals as a whole are “a waste of public money”.

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