Italian PV industry threatened by retroactive FIT cuts

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Despite broad opposition from banks and the Italian PV industry, not to mention looming lawsuits, the Italian government has unveiled plans to impose retroactive changes in the feed-in tariff for PV systems.

Government officials presented the draft law on Wednesday. The bill then has 60 days to become law through parliamentary ratification.

German company New Energy Projects, which has operated in Italy for four years in consulting and management of renewable energy projects, says it hopes the parliament will amend the bill in the interest of PV investors.

The planned changes to the current FIT legislation are expected to affect some 8,600 operators of PV systems with capacities of more than 200 kW, which receive about 60% of the total remuneration paid by Italy’s Gestore dei Servizi Energetici (GSE), which manages the country’s electricity services and support schemes for renewable energy sources.

According to the planned measures, the GSE would would stop paying for the actual monthly production in June and instead commence monthly payments based on only 90% of predicted annual production. After one year, a final statement would follow based on the amount of energy actually produced; operators would then either owe money to the GSE if production was far less than initially predicted or receive additional payment if more was generated.

The new legislation would also force operators to choose one of two options. The first option would mean that operators with a 20-year tariff period would have to accept a 10% cut, while the second option would extend the 20-year term to 24 years and make the cut dependent on the remaining years in the initial guaranteed period. Operators have until November 30 to decide on one of the two options, which would then enter into force January 1, 2015.

Offering an example, New Energy Projects said that a 990 kW plant that went online in 2011 with a guaranteed FIT of €0.291 with 16.5 years remaining in its tariff period would have normally received €4.8 million a year. Under option 1, the plant would make €500,000 less, or 4.3 million a year. Under option 2, it would still make €4.8 million a year, but would have to extend its remaining 16.5 years by four more years for a total of 20.5 years.

Italian state bank Cassa Depositi e Prestiti SpA wil offer financial support to operators to help offset the cuts.

PV operators and investors, angry at the change in regulations to "guaranteed" FITs, are hoping Italy’s parliament softens the proposed legislation.