A low priority for politicians

Most of the politicians slated to speak on wind policy during the opening session of Italy's annual wind power event failed to show up, sounding a disappointing note at this year's Expo Eolica Mediterranean on September 29, a three day event held at Rome's trade fair.

"A political signal would have been welcome," says Luciano Pirazzi of Ente Per Le Nuove Tecnologie, l'Energia e l'Ambiente (ENEA), the main government agency responsible for promoting renewables. "But by now, unfortunately, it's generally the rule that politicians don't come." As well as providing the industry with guidance on government thinking, politicians also help to draw the press, Pirazzi notes. A larger media presence could have helped spur a greater public debate on wind energy.

This year's Expo Eolica Mediterranean was the fourth time the event had been held and provided an opportunity for industry players to weigh both the opportunities as well as the difficulties of operating in the Italian market.

Some Italian regions have opposed wind energy and the national government has been slow to approve follow-up laws in support of important renewable energy legislation that went into effect in 2004, including a measure to streamline what often remains a complicated site permitting process.

Nonetheless, an increasing number of new turbines are still getting into the ground as attractive prices for wind energy in Italy has helped to draw developers. Last year, some 357 MW of capacity was installed in Italy, compared with roughly 100 MW in each of the previous two years.

As the Italian market grows, the exhibition space devoted to the fair this year was almost double that of the previous event, with about 70 exhibitors present, including Vestas, Gamesa, Enercon and GE Energy. While industry players note that one recent trend in Italy has been to increasingly use larger-sized turbines, one conference session at the event was also dedicated to the prospects for small-scale wind projects, marking a change from discussions of legislation, incentives and financing.

As the trade fair's name suggests, discussions were not devoted solely to Italy but also looked at prospects for the business in other countries in the Mediterranean, including Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt. While the wind is blowing strongly in some parts of northern Africa, participants also discussed how to make investments in these countries remunerative.