Excessive bureaucracy and long waits to connect plants to the grid is slowing down the potential for enormous growth in Italy’s solar energy market.
Although the country is a solar power hot spot, with 17,000 plants tapping its plentiful sunlight, approval for such plants can drag very slowly, taking months of painstaking decision-making.
“The local impact of a big plant is looked at with much, much tension,” said Stefano Neri, chairman and chief executive of solar power company TerniEnergia SpA.
The wave of requests for hook-ups to the grid has swamped utilities, leading to complaints and months of delays.
An ongoing investigation launched last year by the national power authority showed that it took 97 days on average to hook up renewable energy plants, including solar, in the period from May 2006 to October 2007.
“It seems to me that Italy should look to be one of the top, if not the top, country in terms of photovoltaic development in the next few years,” said Domenico Inglieri, a board member at the GIFI association of Italian photovoltaic companies.
Since the end of 2006, Italy has nearly quadrupled its solar energy capacity to 197 megawatts, enough to power about 100,000 homes. With 12,200 new producers online since early 2007 alone, it is estimated output will reach 450 megawatts by the end of 2009.
The surge coincides with the launch of a government policy early last year that allows subsidised tariffs and eases the way for market operators.