The truth and consequences of Italy’s PV surge

Italy’s GSE says PV installs are way ahead of expectations, though exactly how high is still uncertain — but whatever the final tally is, it’ll rock the industry and could lead to a boom market.

by James Montgomery, news editor

January 28, 2011 – Initial figures out of Italy’s state agency for energy services, Gestore dei Servizi Energetici (GSE), has come out with preliminary 2010 PV installation numbers — but there’s a ton of applications in the pipeline worth 4GW, and it’s unclear where, or more precisely when, those eventual projects (if realized) would be put on the official books.

In an effort to break down the numbers (and correct some misunderstandings), IMS Research’s Ash Sharma explains that initially the GSE said cumulative applications for PV systems reached 7GW by the end of 2010, implying 5.8GW of new capacity. But apparently there’s too much uncertainty about how much of those applications are for projects that have been completed, or ones yet to even begin. A domestic lack of module and inverter supplies would make a 5.8GW total impossible, Sharma says, and some suppliers have been submitting applications for grid-connection of projects that aren’t even finished construction (some without modules!) just so they can squeak in with higher tariffs.

Here’s what we know now. “The GSE knows there were at least 1.85GW installed,” Sharma says. “But [they] also have are 40,000 applications to connect to the grid which could total a further 4GW.” Checks with Italian suppliers, he said, indicate “they feel 3.5GW is the reality, but this won’t be confirmed for some months.”

(For its part, IMS had already estimated ≥3.5GW installs in 2010 for Italy, with an “upper-case” estimate of 4GW. That’s far higher than other market estimates; iSuppli initially calculated 1.9GW for Italy.)

At any rate, the GSE’s numbers point to much higher Italian PV installs than projected — and that will have consequences. “PV capacity growth in Italy is now well ahead of the government’s intended roadmap and may now lead to an early intervention to curb growth in this over-heating market,” Sharma says. That could lead to a Germany-in-2010 boom as developers race to get projects completed before the hammer drops.

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