Lorenzo Boscherini and the future of photovoltaics in Italy

No closure and no layoffs. Are the wishes for the next edition of Solar Energy Report, of which the fourth was presented. Lorenzo Boscherini, project manager of the Politecnico di Milano, thus paints an updated picture in the early months of 2012 of the most relevant technological trends, of the market developments in the last two years, of the competitive dynamics that characterize this industrial sector and of the strategies of the main operators.

1) Prices and technologies: what happened in solar in 2011?

There has been a drastic decrease in prices, around 35-42%, both for traditional modules, 90% of the national market, and for second generation ones: this decrease does not correspond to a reduction in the cost of making them. . As regards market prices, referring to our analyzes, we expect a further decrease in price: for traditional modules, for example, we are talking about 9% between the end of 2011 and 2012 and 8.5% between 2012 and 2013 .

From a technological point of view, improvements in the efficiency of converting sunlight into electricity are expected in the coming months: by 2013-2014 the second generation modules can reach efficiency levels of 13.4%, up to to reach 14.6%. The efficiency of traditional technologies can also go up to over 16%.

2) How has the Italian market evolved?

In 2011, Italy installed 5.6 GW of new photovoltaic power, over 6.6% less than in 2010. For the plants connected to the national electricity grid, in 2011, Italy has the world record: 9, 37 GW of power - (44.6% share in Europe, over 33.8% in the world), against the “only” 7.4 GW of Germany. Observing the distribution between the different plant sizes, there is an increase in plants larger than 1 MW, which went from 22% to 31% of the national market. The share of plants with power above 200 kW has generally increased, to the detriment of the commercial segment (systems from 20 to 200 kW) and residential installations (with power below 20 kW) which remained constant around 12% of the total power .

3) What dynamics emerge in this industrial sector?

The regulatory ferment - with the Renewable Energy Decree which stopped the third Energy Bill and the approval of the Fourth Energy Bill - obviously also affected the photovoltaic industry in Italy. In this turbulent context, the Italian photovoltaic operators were unable in any way to plan their investments and their activities, “navigating by sight” and seizing the opportunities that the market presented to them from time to time. There was also a significant contraction in margins, often to levels lower than those recorded in 2009, with serious difficulties for many of them, until bankruptcy.

4) What elements of continuity and discontinuity in the fourth edition compared to the others?

The major element of continuity with the last edition remains, unfortunately, the regulatory uncertainty that has characterized and continues to distinguish the photovoltaic sector in Italy. Last year we had concluded the Report pending the issue of the fourth Energy Bill, this year we are waiting for the fifth Energy Bill to be issued. This climate of uncertainty has not allowed and does not allow homogeneous development during the year of the market and does not allow industrial operators to define medium-long term strategies.

5) What future awaits photovoltaics in Italy?

If the Fourth Energy Bill were to remain in force throughout 2012, the photovoltaic market in Italy could be around 2.7 GW in 2012, down 53% compared to 2011. This figure is confirmed by the trend of the first months of 2012 with the two-month period January-February which saw an installation of only 70 MW.

On the other hand, in the case, more and more current in recent days, that the Fifth Energy Account comes into force as early as the second half of 2012, approximately 1.78 GW could be installed by the end of 2012.

6) How long is Italy missing from grid parity?

For some applications, grid parity has already been reached in Southern Italy. Even if the incentives for the production of electricity from photovoltaics were eliminated by the end of 2012 or at the beginning of 2013, therefore, the Italian photovoltaic market will not stop completely. Clearly there will be a sharp slowdown, except for residential and industrial plants, which self-consume 50% or 100% of the energy produced and located in regions of Southern Italy.

7) What would you like to be able to record in the next report?

We would like to analyze the dynamics of the supply chain of the Italian industrial sector without having to register the closure of companies or the use of layoffs for them. At the same time, we would like to register a linear market, without rushes to installations as happened in the last two years, thanks to the issuance of a stable Energy Account with defined rules for at least a few years.

Interview byMarta Abbà

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