Italy: €6 billion FIT limit almost reached; accusations of PV fraud arise


In order to support its solar market, the Italian Government set aside €6 billion until 2016 for feed-in tariffs. However, GIFI (the Italian photovoltaic industry association) president, Valerio Natalizia tells pv magazine that nearly €5 billion has already been spent, indicating that the coffers will be dry in 2012.

Natalizia believes this will probably occur at the end of the year. However, he adds that predictions by others have gone both ways, with some believing it will happen earlier, and others later.

One thing is certain though: when the €6 billion is reached, the Conto Energia IV will be over. As is laid out in the current Conto Energia, when this limit is hit, the Ministry has to develop a new decree regarding incentives.

Currently, there are no plans on the table to discuss a new strategy, or to change the current Conto Energia. However, as Natalizia says, it is necessary to initiate discussions in 2012, "because we [Italy] need … incentives until at least until the end of 2013."

Accusations of fraud

On Monday, Götz Fischbeck, senior equity analyst for PV stocks at BHF Bank AG in Germany, stated that Since October 20, the photovoltaic installation counter on GSE’s website, Italy’s regulatory body for electricity, has shown declining figures.

Specifically, he noticed that the number of plants which were registered under Conto Energia II have declined by 220 MWp – equivalent to systems worth roughly €1 billion – over a seven day period, and that at least 35 MWp have been denied a FIT altogether.

According to Fischbeck, "The reason for this is that the authorities are revoking permissions for PV systems which are considered to have submitted fraudulent applications or where the required permissions have been circumvented.

"While for some systems the ‘only’ fraud constituted in a false registration date leading to a remuneration according to the significantly lower ‘Conto Energia 4’, for a number of systems the entitlement to receive feed-in remuneration has been revoked completely."

While GSE could not be reached for comment, GIFI’s president tells pv magazine that the association has asked for official answers from the GSE. "At the moment [they are] rumors," he said, adding, "We are trying to investigate, to get more information."

Natalizia says it is quite normal for the counter to move up and down and, from his point of view, there is no possibility that photovoltaic plants registered under Conto Energia II could be moved. However, if it did occur, it would be "a little bit strange".

Fischbeck stated that many of the revoked permits will be challenged in court. He added, "With the currently installed 11.1 GWp of PV in Italy already 80 percent of this financial commitment (i.e. €4.9bn annually) has been absorbed. Without any additional financial commitments the budget cap of annual support for PV systems will be in reached in in the middle of 2012."

Both Natalizia and Fischbeck believe that next year will see significant declines in terms of newly installed capacity. This year, Natalizia says that around 5.5 GW will be added to the Italian grid – 4.5 has already been installed, he says, and expectations are that one more GW will be added by the end of the year – while next year will see between 2.5 to three GW added. However, he states, "there is a lot of uncertainty. It’s even worse than in the past to make this kind of forecast."

Investment situation

Fischbeck believes that risks associated with investing in photovoltaic in Italy will rise following the heightened scrutiny which is being placed on submitted registrations.

Natalizia is also of the opinion that the investment situation is not currently ideal. He says that for the whole Italian economy, the situation is "not so good", with the level of investment having been reduced over the past months and access to credit being limited.

"It has not completely stopped," he says, "but there are more difficulties, especially because the access to the credit is not so easy."