Solar overlooked again by Italian auction as Portugal tender draws nearer

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At 5.4MW and 4.3MW, the two winning solar bidders in Piedmont were dwarfed by 30-50MW wind power counterparts. Image credit: Marit & Toomas Hinnosaar / Flickr

Solar projects have once more been found to be largely absent from Italy’s renewable auction series, with new results showing only 5% of contracts went to the industry in the latest exercise.

The 500MW second round of Rome’s new contracts-for-difference (CfD) auction programme ended up awarding 425MW, split between 19.4MW of support for solar bidders and 400MW-plus for their wind power counterparts.

The results released by government energy agency GSE list four solar winners, including three mainland projects – a PV scheme in Lazio (3.9MW) and a first (5.4MW) and a second (4.3MW) ventures in Piedmont – together with a fourth 5.7MW solar bidder on the island of Sardinia.

The dominance of larger wind projects, with various 20-50MW bidders bagging contracts, marks a repeat for the CfD auction scheme launched by Italy last year. In late January, the 500MW first round chose a single solar winner, a 5.07MW project on Sardinia.

PV body Italia Solare linked solar’s muted performance to Italy’s subsidy ban for projects on farming land, as well as its complex permitting rules. The results underscore Italy’s need to simplify authorisation to “allow solar to play the role it deserves”, CEO Paolo Rocco VIscontini told PV Tech.

Portugal sets price caps after €14.76/MWh PV milestone

Italy’s solar campaign, part of a plan to push installed capacity between today (around 20GW) and 2030 (50GW), is being staged after the country had to combat one of the world’s worst COVID-19 outbreaks.

As speakers noted during Solar Media’s recent Large-scale Solar Summit, solar players – already facing challenges pre-COVID – have resorted to financing innovation to bolster business models hit by the plunge of power prices, a threat to Europe’s broader subsidy-free solar segment.

The pandemic also forced a redrawing of auction timetables to Italy’s west, over in one of Europe’s most talked-about solar markets of 2019. In Portugal, a solar tender initially due to launch in late March has now been rescheduled to begin next Monday (8 June 2020).

Lisbon’s solar tender – set to offer 700MW across three auction modalities – will put forward 12 contract lots for bidders. According to documents released in recent days, bidding will work downwards from an initial maximum price of €41.54-41.73/MWh (US$46.37-46.58/MWh).

The figure marks a drop on the €45/MWh ceiling prices Portugal had set for its 1.15GW solar tender in 2019, which ended up producing individual tariffs of €14.76/MWh. The number has since been described as a global solar cost milestone but also a figure PV players “cannot survive on”.

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