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Italy investment by Swiss utility

Swiss utility Atel has acquired a stake in Italy's Moncada Energy Group, a wind project developer based in Sicily, for an undisclosed sum. The stake in Moncada provides Atel with a supply of green certificates. As an operator of conventional power plant in Italy, Atel is bound by law to provide customers with a proportion of its supply from renewable energy sources -- and is required to buy green certificates to demonstrate its compliance with the law.

Atel will acquire its partial ownership of Moncada by taking a 30% stake in a company called M&A Rinnovabili, previously 100% owned by Moncada, which is active in wind development and has recently begun to diversify into other renewables, like solar and biomass energy. Atel says the acquisition is part of its strategy to expand its renewable energy business.

The company is aiming to meet half of its required green certificates quotient in Italy with electricity generated by its own plants and by acquiring shares in other power plants. Atel currently owns and holds shares in 17 Italian power plants with a combined capacity of 1700 MW. Two of these are Sicilian wind farms with a total capacity of 93 MW. Atel owns 49% of each of them.

Electricity retailers in Italy are required to provide a small but growing portion of their production from renewable sources of energy. For 2008, the required percentage is 4.55%, a figure that will grow to 7.55% in 2012 (page 85).

For Moncada, Atel's investment will help it meet the goals of its recently announced industrial plan, which calls for investment of EUR 3 billion through 2015 to expand its wind and new renewable activities in both Italy and abroad. Moncada currently operates five wind farms in Sicily, with a combined capacity of 105 MW. Atel points out that this is about nine times the capacity of all Swiss wind turbines. Moncada is constructing wind projects on the island that will add another 250 MW to that total. It has a 700 MW development pipeline in Italy.

Moncada's growing international business, including two 500 MW wind farm projects planned for Albania and Tunisia, is excluded from the deal with Atel.

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