Source: AFP/Getty Images

Italy Switches on Five New Subsidy-Free Solar Power Plants

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Octopus Investments Ltd. started generating power from five subsidy-free solar plants in Italy in the latest sign that clean-energy can be profitable without government support.

The plants have a two-year fixed power price agreement in place with Italian power trader Green Trade SA, said Matt Setchell, head of renewable energy investments at Octopus, in a phone call. The plants are located in the Montalto di Castro region of Italy and have a combined capacity of 63 megawatts. Panels were supplied by Canadian Solar Inc.

“Renewable power doesn’t always need the government,” Setchell said. “It’s being driven by demand, rather than subsidy.”

Globally, solar prices have fallen by 62 percent since 2009, with every part of the supply chain trimming costs. That’s help cut risk premiums on bank loans, and pushed manufacturing capacity to record levels. By 2025, solar may be cheaper than using coal on average around the globe, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Europe currently has a handful of subsidy-free solar plants, located in Spain and Italy, according to Lara Hayim, at the London-based researcher. Those projects do run the risk of “cannibalizing” themselves by producing large volumes of solar energy, that in turn, can depress the high wholesale power prices that the projects rely upon, she said.

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