Utility decides to gets serious in Italy -- Picking up the pace at Enel

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Italian utility Enel is planning to increase its wind power capacity to 1490 MW in its home market by 2012 from just 331 MW at the end of March. Driving the decision, says the utility's Luigi La Pegna, is the obligation on Italy to play its part in the overall EU goal for 20% renewable energy by 2020. In the EU's draft renewables directive, Italy must reach 17% renewable energy production in 2020, up from 5.2% in 2005.

"The main message is that in Italy we have to grow in renewables and we see that wind is the most exploitable and profitable [renewable] at the moment," he says.

The approval of a new Italian incentive scheme for renewable energy late last year has also helped to provide greater certainty for investors, says La Pegna. The new system introduced a higher price level for green energy certificates and extended the period over which certificates must be bought from 12 to 15 years.

Enel has a wind power development pipeline of about 3600 MW in Italy, with the majority of projects located in southern Italy. "In Italy, there's a success rate of about 15-20% for projects but we are trying to increase that," says La Pegna, referring to difficulty in obtaining site permits in Italy. "Our strategy is to establish a positive and efficient relationship with all the regions."

Enel last year reached an agreement with the region of Sardinia to add 160 MW of wind power on the island and expects the first two construction sites to open up this summer. About another 70 MW is under construction in Molise and Sicily. Further north, Enel has reached an agreement with the region of Liguria to construct a 21 MW wind farm on a dike in Genoa's port.

Enel's official Italian target for 2012 cautiously includes one 50 MW offshore wind farm and La Pegna notes there is not yet a clear authorisation process for offshore wind farms in Italy. The company has presented initial documents with an undisclosed technical partner for a 350 MW wind farm off the southern coast of Sicily and is also scouting out a site off Apulia.

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