Italian market facing PV power plant ‘fire sale’

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The Italian market will soon be flooded with cheap PV power plants for sale, according to a developer.

With a further retroactive change to the country’s feed-in tariff set to kick-in at the turn of the year, more projects are expected to fold with banks selling them off at rock bottom prices on an already flooded market, according to the Andreas Hoynigg, president of the German firm Solar8, which owns a number of projects in Italy.

“There are already many, many plants on the market but the foreclosure sales, the big sell off, will start next year,” he told PV Tech. “Many of the owners can’t pay the interest of their financing anymore [due to policy changes] so the Italian banks are selling the plants but this takes time. They have to go to court and wait for a decision and the Italian courts move extremely slowly. So we believe the big sell off will start next year.”

After removing the guaranteed price of €0.07kWh and restructuring the FiT payment schedule, next year the government’s retroactive reduction in FiT payments will begin. The market price for electricty in Italy is around €0.03kWh.

Plant owners have been given the choice of spreading their payments out over 24 years instead of 20, a 7-9% absolute cut dependent on plant size, or a complex new payment schedule with a 15% cut in payments for the near term in return for a 15% increase in the longer term.

Hoynigg warns that with very few buyers in the market, prices are likely to fall further and claims that he receives calls daily from other developers looking to offload projects.

Solar8 has this week agreed a deal with investors to reduce the interest rate on its bond from 9.25% to 3%. The extra leeway means that it has avoided having to sell plants for low prices or to refinance in the unhealthy Italian banking sector.

“You can’t finance plants at the moment,” said Hoynigg. “There are thousands for sale and no buyers, and secondly the Italian banks have no money.

“Traditionally there was an Australian firm and some Russian investors but now there are very few buyers left in the market. We’re in the situation now with our finances that we may – very carefully – consider buying again,” he added.

Hoynigg said that the low prices represented the high risks involved that few investors would have the stomach for.

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