Red-tape trim and energy communities: Italian solar’s recipe for COVID-19 recovery

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Image credit: Wassim Chouak / Unsplash

Pandemic-stricken Italy could create over a hundred thousand jobs through targeted changes to green energy legislation at little or no cost, two trade bodies have claimed.

Associations for solar developers (Italia Solare) and installation technicians (ATER) recently joined forces to propose a nine-point green energy plan they say the government could use to shore up its economy, which some fear could slip into a fresh recession following the COVID-19 crisis.

Describing the measures as “possible, necessary, well-targeted interventions”, the trade bodies said they would require “zero or very modest” costs. If enacted, the proposals could see the sector create “over 100,000 jobs” and boost GDP in this “dramatic period”, they added.

The streamlining of solar plant permitting is one of the nine measures outlined in the joint letter, addressed to Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte. The central government must intervene “rapidly and effectively” to help projects blocked at regional level, the associations said.

Italia Solare and ATER would also like to see the release of already-committed subsidies; a move to lighter penalties; a reactivation of credit transfer mechanisms; the facilitation of PV repowering; differentiated power tariffs; and the immediate adoption of a reform on power dispatching.

In addition, the associations believe Italy could benefit from quickly implementing its new Energy Communities programme. Meant for collective rooftop PV on homes, businesses and others, these systems could alone create jobs in their “tens of thousands”, the trade bodies said.

Survey finds impacts as Italy eyes 20GW-to-50GW push

The calls for a PV-friendly COVID-19 response in Italy – mirroring similar campaigns at the European level – come as the country battles one of the most severe outbreaks worldwide. Current figures suggest more than 150,000 have contracted the virus nationwide, a figure only surpassed by Spain and the US.

The risks of a potential economic recession find the country, Europe’s fourth largest economy and second largest PV market, working to achieve ambitious solar growth targets. From 20GW-plus at the latest count, installed PV capacity must reach 50GW by 2030.

Events convened prior to the COVID-19 outbreak underscored the challenges the country’s solar agenda faced even before the crisis hit, including the complex authorisation process and difficulties in negotiating with local landowners.

Judging by a recent survey by Italia Solare, the pandemic risks exacerbating the problems. The poll, carried out in March, found three-quarters of solar respondents were already reporting last month a drop in business orders. Many predicted the fall in demand would intensify in the coming months.

The current top issues, Italia Solare said as it released the survey results, include a struggle to start deploying already-contracted PV projects, to complete under-construction plants and to carry out inspections at a time when lockdown measures make it impossible.

On the flipside, Italian solar respondents appeared – in line with their Spanish peers – not to fear price hikes with PV components. Only 35% expected 5-10% price increases over the next six months, with an even slimmer 7% predicting raises in the 15-35% range.

See here to read Italia Solare's and ATER's proposals in full.

This publication has set up a tracker to map out how the COVID-19 pandemic is disrupting solar supply chains worldwide. You can read the latest updates here.

If you have a COVID-19 statement to share or a story on how the pandemic is disrupting a solar business anywhere in the world, do get in touch at jrojo@solarmedia.co.uk or lstoker@solarmedia.co.uk.

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