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International photovoltaics

New feed-in tariffs in France and negotiations in Italy

Effective tomorrow, France has reduced its feed-in tariffs by around 20 percent, and roof systems larger than 250 kilowatts are no longer eligible. Meanwhile, Italy has postponed its review of its solar policy until April. Instead of a ceiling on the market, feed-in tariffs for PV could be cut drastically as early as June.

 - A ground-mounted solar array in southern France.
A ground-mounted solar array in southern France.

The new feed-in tariffs adopted by the French government only apply for systems up to 100 kilowatts. The old French distinction between fully integrated building arrays – in which the solar panels are not only on top of a roof, but actually replace part of the roof membrane or building envelope (the array itself is watertight) – and "simple" building-integrated arrays remains, but a new distinction is made between residential buildings, educational and healthcare facilities, and other buildings.

In each case, the feed-in tariffs decrease in categories of increasing the system size, with the most generous rates being paid for fully integrated arrays on residential buildings up to nine kilowatts, which receive 46.4 cents per kilowatt-hour. From 9 to 36 kilowatts, only 40.6 cents is paid. If the array on a residential building is only "simply integrated," you only get 30.35 cents per kilowatt-hour. The rates for non-residential buildings are even lower at between 40.6 and 2825 cents depending on the size and type of array. No feed-in tariffs at all are offered for roof arrays larger than 250 kilowatts any longer.

It is worth contemplating that these rates are nonetheless considerably higher than in comparatively less sunny Germany, where the highest rate – paid for what in France would be called "simple integration" on residential roofs up to 30 kW – is already below 29 cents and could drop down to below 23 cents by the end of the year (see this chart from German Solar Association BSW-Solar).

Growth corridor and speech scheduled reductions

The government now also has an annual growth corridor of 100 megawatts for systems up to 100 kilowatts each and 150 megawatts for systems up to 150 kilowatts. The total growth target is 5.4 gigawatts of installed capacity by 2020, equivalent to no more than 500 megawatts per year.

The ceiling for ground-mounted arrays is 200 megawatts annually. These systems will be awarded on a competition basis (calls for tenders / requests for proposals), and 12 cents will be paid for each kilowatt-hour sold to the grid.

The decree specifies a quarterly reduction in feed-in tariffs, with French energy regulator CRE reporting new applications for grid access each quarter. Based on actual growth, rates will then be reduced by between 2.6 and 22 percent starting on June 30, 2011.

In adopting this policy, Paris did not take account of any of the proposals from the photovoltaic sector.

Italy hesitates

While France has at least made the new rules clear, Italy has postponed negotiations until April. Representatives of the Gruppo Impresse Fotovoltaiche Italiane (GIFI), the Environmental Ministry, and Economic Development could not reach an agreement. As a result, the current feed-in tariffs in Italy will remain in place until the end of May.

Photovoltaics is booming in Italy. Already, 3.7 gigawatts has been connected to the grid, with another 3.8 in the pipeline, bringing the country up to 7.5 gigawatts – dangerously close to its target of eight gigawatts for 2020.

Onlookers in Rome are optimistic that a compromise will be reached. "We are convinced that our policies can be adjusted so that investments in industry and jobs along the entire value chain of renewables can be protected," explains Paolo Romani, Minister of Economic Development. "At the same time, we have to make sure that citizens are not faced with unjustified cost on their power bills," he adds. (Sven Ullrich / cm)

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