Italy announces latest delay in solar subsidy saga

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The final announcement of Italy’s much-anticipated new solar subsidy bill has been delayed until next week, reports Reuters. Despite reports surfacing yesterday that Conto Energia IV would be passed before the end of the week, the industry’s wait on the outcome of the crucial legislation looks set to continue, after the Government revealed a key meeting had been postponed until next Thursday.

The meeting in question is the state-regions conference, which could have considerable bearing on the final bill. Although the opinion of the regional bodies is non-binding, industry sources claim they could introduce changes to the revised subsidy structure.

Regardless of the outcome of this meeting, the final version of Conto Energia IV, which will come into force on June 1, is likely to introduce considerable caps on feed-in tariff (FiT) subsidies, a move that will impact heavily on the future of Europe’s second largest solar industry.

Earlier this week, a draft of the bill, outlining the Government’s intention to reduce subsidies and introduce a 23GW cumulative cap until 2020, was circulated. Under the terms of the draft, the regulatory period will be split into two parts: a transition period from June 2011 until the end of 2012, and then 2013 through to 2016.

The first stage will see caps placed on ground-mounted installations and on new FiTs at 3.1GW and €820 million respectively. Meanwhile, tariff rates for all installations are to be cut by 3-5% per month until the end of 2011, before being reduced by a further 8-12% in both the first and second half of 2012. No formal capacity caps have yet been introduced for the second regulatory term (2013-16), although tariff reductions are expected to be steeper than the specified quarterly 4% if the specified total FiT cost threshold is exceeded.

Reports outlining the proposed changes resulted in falling share prices for many major solar panel manufacturers on Tuesday, with analysts bemoaning the severe cuts. Despite this reaction, junior industry minister Stefano Saglia claimed that Italy would retain its place as one of Europe’s leading solar markets.

In order to become law, the decree needs to be signed by the industry and environment ministries and published in Italy’s official governmental journal, the Gazzetta Ufficiale della Repubblica.

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