Italy’s Solar Ban On Agri Land- Not As Bad As It Sounds

Highlights :

  • Italy’s solar ban on agricultural land has come as a surprise to the country’s solar body.
  • However, it would be safe to say that the ban can be relooked after further demonstration of the effectiveness of agrivoltaics, rather than just ground mounted solar plants
Italy’s Solar Ban On Agri Land- Not As Bad As It Sounds UPERC Grants Compensation To SAEL For Increased GST Rates

A recent ruling by the Italian government to ban solar PV installations on agricultural land has been met with howls of protest by the country’s solar trade association which has claimed it would cost Italy as much as €60 billion (US$64.5 billion). We believe the protests are unfair at this stage. Keep in mind that even in India, solar plants are not allowed on land classified as agricultural land.

The government, by banning solar on land designated as agricultural is simply trying to conserve or preserve Italy’s productive agricultural land where many solar farms have sought permission for installation, according to Agriculture Minister Francesco Lollobrigida. This has created issues linked to tax benefits on agricultural land, as well as the longer-term European worry around food security and preserving legacy farming produce in key regions. This will be an issue across many countries in Europe, who have become a lot more worried about food security in the wake of the Ukraine war, as well for the cultural significance of much of their produce. Japan, with its massive rice subsidies, is just an example of another rich country unwilling to give up farming.

However, projects already undergoing approvals will be protected from the new ban, according to the government, even as the new rules need to be ratified by the two houses of parliament to become law.

Italia Solare, the trade body for the solar sector in Italy claims that the ban would undermine the government’s 50GW target for solar PV deployed by 2030. Adding that just 1% of agricultural land could be enough to achieve 50% of this target, they make the case for the co-existence of Agriculture and photovoltaics with crops between the rows of photovoltaic modules. While this would appear to be true, it is also true that it still needs to be tested further for impact on crop productivity across multiple cycles and on land. More importantly, with enough evidence in place over the next few years, a catch-up on solar installation is much more easier than in say, nuclear or other sources. And that could be sooner than later, seeing the improvement in efficiency of Agrivoltaics as a class.

Until then, there is enough scope to drive solar through residential and rooftop solar,  as indeed, Italy has already been doing thanks to the government’s Superbonus incentives. The scheme provides incentives linked to higher energy efficiency, where solar installations are covered as well, besides thermal insulation etc. 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.

Once this incentive ends, the pressure to increase utility-scale and ground-mounted solar will return. There is also the prospect of some agricultural land being declared non-agriculture and fit for solar in due course, as farmers weigh land productivity versus its use for other options.

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Prasanna Singh

Prasanna has been a media professional for over 20 years. He is the Group Editor of Saur Energy International

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