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Italy to hit 1,500 MW photovoltaic capacity in 2010

MILAN (Reuters) - Italy, a major solar energy market in Europe, expects to reach 1,500 megawatts of installed photovoltaic capacity next year thanks to generous incentives, an official at the state-run power management agency GSE said.

Photovoltaic (PV) installations, which turn sunlight into power, increased by 16,000 in number in the first eight months of this year adding 173 MW of new installed capacity and raising a cumulative capacity to above 630 MW and the total number of units to about 50,500, according to GSE.

“We expect that 1,500 MW can be easily reached in 2010 if the exponential growth trend continues,” Luca Benedetti from GSE’s operating directorate told an energy conference on Wednesday.

GSE expects its initial target of 900 MW of total installed PV capacity set for the end of 2009 to be exceeded because operators would race to secure the existing incentives, Benedetti told Reuters at the conference.

PV energy has boomed in Italy since 2007 when the government approved new incentives, among the most generous in Europe. The current scheme is due to be reviewed when installed capacity covered by incentives hits 1,200 MW.

GSE expects the 1,200 MW cap to be reached in the first half of next year.

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Italy’s Industry Undersecretary Stefano Saglia told Reuters on Monday the government planned to reduce incentives gradually in order to ease the burden on the debt-laden state budget but support the growing PV sector at the same time.

GSE, which distributes incentives but does not take part in decision-making on a new scheme, expects that it would not disrupt Italy’s solar market, Benedetti said.

GSE has handed about 220 million euros ($322.6 million) to owners of PV installations since the existing incentives scheme came into force in 2007.

According to GSE estimates, Italy’s PV capacity should rise to 8,500 MW to help the country reach European Union climate change targets which foresee one fifth of all energy produced from renewable sources such as wind, sun and waves by 2020.

($1=.6819 Euro)

Editing by Keiron Henderson

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