The combination of the Conto Termico incentive scheme, supporting renewable heat installations, and the 110 % Superbonus for energy efficiency in buildings allowed Italy to hit a record year for solar thermal in 2021. According to the industry association ANIMA, 225,000 m2 of collector area (158 MW) were installed in 2021, growth of +83 % relative to 2020. This represents a complete trend change after more than a decade of decline. ANIMA says that some further growth at a much lower level may be possible in the short term due to additional funding made available by the National Plan for Recovery and Resilience. ANIMA´s market statistics estimate that more than 90 % of the newly installed collector area has been used to provide hot water. Only a small fraction is related to other applications such as space heating, process heat, cooling, etc. ANIMA stands for Italian Association of Manufacturers of Equipment and Components for Heating Systems.
Photo: Riccardo Battisti
The Superbonus is the main driver behind the strong recovery of the solar thermal market. It allows investors a 110 % tax reduction for energy efficiency measures. The regulations enable the private investor to lend this tax credit to the company realizing the renovation measures, so that the consumers do not pay anything for their renovation works. The technology supplier or installer instead uses the tax credits to reduce its own tax load. The Superbonus can be obtained only by jumping at least two classes in the building efficiency standard through so-called driving measures such as thermal insulation or boiler replacement.
Only a third of the available budget has been spent
Italy has a good variety of possible incentives and support tools for solar thermal. The national scheme Conto Termico, for example, provides an incentive for solar heat plants with sizes up to 2,500 m2, for several different applications and technologies and with a maximum amount of 65 % of the investment cost.
The support scheme web page, unfortunately only in Italian, shows all the details of the incentive mechanism, including the application rules, the amount of incentives for each technology and, as a very recent addition, specific guidelines for using the scheme addressing different potential users, namely private citizens, enterprises, public bodies and multi-family houses.
A Conto Termico Meter is available for checking the resources used so far and the budget still available from the scheme. The following chart shows the strong increase in grants allocated annually between 2016 (EUR 36 million) and 2021 (EUR 327 million). But altogether the scheme is still under-used. The programme administrator Gestore dei Servizi Energetici (GSE) had an annual budget of EUR 900 million, of which EUR 200 million are allocated to public bodies and EUR 700 for private projects in the period under consideration. Hence the proportion of the available budget used increased from 4 % in 2016 to 36 % in 2021.
Resources used annually from the Conto Termico incentive scheme with respect to the foreseen thresholds for both public bodies and private households.
Source: Conto Termico Meter
The detailed results for 2021, also including the breakdown by technologies, have not been published yet and it is therefore not possible to know at the moment how many solar thermal plants were supported by this scheme last year.
113,000 solar thermal plants subsidised
GSE has made available another tool called Atlaimpianti, an interactive online map reporting the renewable energy installations subsidised through the mechanism.
The website visitor can select one or more technologies and then access the full list of incentivised plants with some of their basic details. Regarding solar thermal, for instance, the available data includes its location (region, province and municipality), the gross area and the type of owner (public or private). Unfortunately, the year of receiving the grant is not part of the data set.
The exact installation site can be guessed by clicking on a single system on the list and then checking its position on the map. Furthermore, it is possible to download the selected data as an Excel file. As of March 2022, the map reports more than 113,000 solar heat systems which have received grants since the start of Conto Termico.
As of 8th March the Atlaimpianti overview includes only 92 systems that have a collector area of between 50 and 1,000 m2, and only one single system that is larger than 1,000 m2.
The outlook: smaller but stable growth
What is the outlook for solar heat in Italy in the short term? Federico Musazzi, ANIMA´s Secretary General, reckons that the market can keep on growing, providing that the current good incentive framework is confirmed and stabilised, without changes in the structure, rules, timings, etc. Musazzi underlined that the growth recorded in 2021 should be regarded as exceptional, since last year was a record one for the building sector, thus driving all the involved technologies for energy supply.
Furthermore, the application measures of the recent National Plan for Recovery and Resilience, set up to face the challenges of the post-pandemic period, could also stimulate other market segments, for example the tourism sector, where a hotel bonus is planned. Such a bonus allows an 80 % tax reduction on renovation measures to be obtained until 2024.
Organisations mentioned in this news article:
Conto Termico: https://www.gse.it/servizi-per-te/efficienza-energetica/conto-termico
Conto Termico Meter: https://www.gse.it/contatore-conto-termico