On the bandwagon of renewables


After the referendum in Italy, the wind has changed and, despite the recession, even big energy companies now see huge prospects in solar and renewables which are growing up in a tumultuous way in Italy and abroad. But the strength of the sector remains in the thousands of small companies. The editorial of Gianni Silvestrini.


Post-referendum scenarios. Enel Director Fulvio Conti said that Italy may install 30,000 MW of solar power by 2020, which would cover 10% of the country’s electricity demand by the end of the decade. Francesco Starace from Enel Green Power goes further and suggests a scenario in which renewables will satisfy 50% of the Italian electricity demand by 2050.

Such statements were unlikely to be made in public before the referendum but apparently the wind has changed

However, even abroad targets are constantly being raised. Horst Seehofer, Bavarian Prime Minister, recently declared that his government has set the target to cover 50% of the Land’s electricity requirements with renewables by 2021.

“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win”, said Gandhi.This analysis fits perfectly with the situation considering the history of renewables in Italy and around the world. Except that in this case even those who initially snubbed them want to jump on the bandwagon. Many large energy multinationals are now turning to renewables. Gandhi’s “then you win” should be completed with “then they follow you.”

In fact there is room for everyone, even if the focus of renewable energy dissemination is and will always be represented by thousands of small businesses operating at local level.

Let’s have a look at some figures on the overwhelming growth of photovoltaics, which explain the enthusiasm of certain statements. Enel connected 5,000 MW in the first half of 2011, to which must be added the connections of Terna and other distributors. If we think that until 2005 Italy had settled on an average of 5 MW of solar power installed per year, it is understandable that the success of this technology upset all certainties, markets and, strategies.

Italy has also become stronger on the production front. At the end of the year the factory rub by 3Sun, a joint venture between Enel, Sharp and St, will start operations in Sicily with a production capacity of 160 MW/year, expandable to 480 MW/year by 2014. A project designed when market evaluations were much more cautious, and is now insufficient. Other small plants are being planned in various regions, including Tuscany and the Marches. The additional incentive granted to European solar systems is offering some respite to these investments, but the Asian competition will be fierce.

Finally, a flash on Germany. In the middle of beautiful summer days (10am -2 pm), the solar gain now reaches 11,000 to 13,000 MW (figure: solar power expressed in MW fed into the German grid on May 30, 2011), generating precious energy for the grid.

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