Final, absolute solar photovoltaic installation figures for Italy are not expected to be officially released until early May, according to reliable sources, yet confusion remains as to what those figures may ultimately be. PV-Tech reported in January that installation figures released by the Italian government agency GSE for 2009 had disappointed, with only 374MW installed–up only 10% from 338MW in 2008. An important factor–and something we have just discovered–is that timelines for reporting connection to the grid run a little longer than the typical benchmark cut-off dates used in Germany. This means that May is probably the earliest that the official figures will be published.
According to new data from GSE, the current installation figures for Italy have reached 582MW for 2009. Greentech Media has reported recently that it believes 544MW was installed in Italy last year.
However, thanks to information gathered by our in-house feed-in tariff expert Emma Hughes, we know now that there would appear to be a 60-day timeframe for PV power plant owners to communicate to GSE their connections to the grid and a 60-day timeframe for the GSE to communicate to the PV plant owner the results of the application evaluation. Those results can then be added (or not) to the official annual installation figures. This means that a lot more megawatts could yet be added to the 582MW currently logged.
Greentech Media is right to note that Italy has become the second-largest market to Germany, even though neither country seems to be ready to post official figures!
In mid-January, GSE issued a statement highlighting that 815MW had then been supported by feed-in tariff schemes. Support under the new FiT premium scheme had totaled 649MW and 164MW under the first scheme.
GSE also expected that the PV capacity ceiling of 1200MW (supportable under the Decree of February 19, 2007) would be reached in July.
The Greentech Media story covers most of the issues around that point, so I will refer you to their commentary. However, a key point not covered was the important aspect of “grid parity” being reached in Italy before any other European market.
The simple implication is that when parity is reached, any tariff changes would have little negative impact and that country’s market can grow and grow. With the drastic reduction in module selling prices in 2009 and projected declines of 20% in 2010, grid parity in Italy may come sooner rather than later.
However, with “bankable” module production capacity currently maxed-out and shipments heading to Germany in the first half of 2010, installations in Italy should be muted until the second half and possibly skyrocket only in the fourth quarter.
Should the German market collapse after the July FiT changes, then further price declines could benefit the Italian market and close the timeframes even further for grid parity in the country.
The negative aspects of an overheating Italian market would therefore be muted.
While most eyes are understandably focused on the German market and what this means for the industry as a whole, we may need someone to pull back and remodel what grid-parity will do to the industry when Italy gets there first en masse.