Italian minister fears feed-in tariff fraud

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A sudden rise in the number of solar power installations in Italy is being investigated by the government over fears of feed-in tariff (FiT) fraud, according to Industry Minister Paolo Romani. Around 55,000 requests for government incentives covering projects with a total capacity of 4,000MW were received by GSE, the state energy services agency, as developers rushed to sign up before FiT rates expired at the end of 2010.

“As we feared, cases of real fraud have emerged,” Romani said in a letter to newspaper Corriere della Sera. “It's an abnormal acceleration. Controls have started immediately.”

In 2007, generous government subsidies were introduced in Italy and since then the solar sector has experienced considerable growth – it is now Europe's third-largest PV market. However, because of falling module prices, this year the FiT has been cut, which led to the large number of subsidy applications before the 2010 cut-off date.

This sudden surge in project proposals has raised eyebrows among ministers in Rome, particularly when discrepancies emerged regarding project sizes; one 8MW industrial-sized project application in Italy’s solar heartland of Puglia transpired to be a 40kW domestic installation.

As a result of this and other fraudulent claims, Romani revealed that government incentives would no longer be handed out at the last minute or before thorough inspections and controls have been carried out.

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