Italian government challenges Sicily’s moratorium on solar parks


The Italian Council of Ministers has decided to challenge the Regional Stability Law issued by Siciliy in May, with which a moratorium on large-scale solar projects was enforced until September 8.

The Italian Cabinet said the new provisions for the temporary suspension of all authorizations awarded to large-scale wind and solar projects are not complying with Article 41 of Italy’s constitution, which states that private economic enterprise is free, as well as the principle of protection of competition, which is included in Article 117.

In the text of the Stability Law, the regional administration of Sicily, which is Italy’s southernmost and sunniest region, specified that it intended to assess the visual and environmental impact of all of the approved PV and wind power projects through a full review of the regional territory, without providing further explanation.

The introduction of the moratorium (a word that takes us back  the darkest times of PV, especially in France and Spain) was probably due to the environmental concerns created by the increasing number of solar projects under development on the island, as a result of the improved conditions for the private PPA segment, and the eventuality that auctions for utility-scale solar and wind may be launched in November. The island of Sicily, on the other hand, has been theater of several scandals related to the early years of solar energy development in Italy, while also being one of Europe’s area with the highest levels of illegal building.

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The challenging of the Sicilian moratorium is the second action taken by the new Italian government for the renewable energy sector. The first one was the decision to join, along with Spain, the group of EU countries which were urging Brussels authorities to set a 35% renewable energy target by 2030, which in the end, after several months of discussion, was set at 32%.

Although the two parties supporting the current government coalition – the Lega Nord and the Five Star Movement (M5S) – have in their respective programs the development of renewable energies, it is still unknown how exactly these intentions will be translated into reality. The current Minister of Development, Luigi Di Maio, who is also the leader of the M5S, said in May that fiscal incentives for sustainable house building and renovations, that are currently supporting small-sized renewables, should be provided with additional financing. He also stated that renewable energy incentives should be financially supported with funds that are now being granted to hydrocarbons. As for the development of big solar plants, exactly as the M5S’ founder Beppe Grillo, Di Maio believes that it is not strictly necessary, and that rooftop PV must be prioritized.

A big problem for the aforementioned fiscal incentives, however, may come for the introduction of a flat tax – the priority number one of the other coalition’s party – which would very likely mean their end, as well as that of several other fiscal incentives of any kind. If the flat tax will be introduced, however, is currently hard to predict, as the Italian government has to deal with a huge public debt, pressures from Brussels for more austerity, and an economic growth which remains among the slowest in Europe.

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