Changes afoot in Italian renewable legislation

Yesterday, we reported on modifications to Spain’s renewable legislation, which will have a significant impact on the solar sector in particular, but laws in other countries are also being modified as the industry evolves. Here, Serena Manzoli, renewable energy legal consultant, discusses how the forthcoming application of Directive 2009/28 in Italy, for example, will change the process for authorising new renewable energy facilities.

Directive 2009/28 EC will be implemented in Italy through a decree law, which was recently approved by the Government and needs to obtain the final approval by the parliamentary commissions and Conferenza unificata (Italy’s regions and provinces). While this new decree law is not yet in force, renewable energy developers should be aware of what lies ahead when if it is passed, which appears to be likely very soon. Serena Manzoli, an expert in Italian renewable energy law takes a look at what will change.

“Firstly, the well known DIA will be substituted by an analogous procedure which the the legislator’s imagination conjured up: Procedura Abilitativa Semplificata (PAS) or Simplified Authorisation Procedure,” explains Manzoli.

The PAS, Manzoli explains, will be used only for authorising RES plants (whereas the DIA was a general permit for building, which will be replaced by another institute, the SCIA). The PAS involves sending a communiqué to the municipality in question, together with a project of the plant to be built. The municipality then has 30 days to deny the authorisation or ask for integration of the documents. After 30 days, you are free to start building the plant. For those already acquainted with the Italian framework, it seems clear that the PAS is basically a twin of the old DIA. In this regard, not many things will change then: only the name.p>

“The second, much more interesting, novelty is that the Government wants to increase the limit for using the PAS up to 1 MW,” Manzoli adds. Today, according to Decree Law 387/2003, the DIA can be used up to 20 kW for photovoltaic, 60 kW for wind, 200 kW for biomass, 100 kW for hydro plants, whereas the Autorizzazione Unica (AU), a much longer process, is applicable for bigger plants. With the new decree law, the limit for using the shortened PAS procedure will be increased to 1 MW, on two conditions: that no Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) or other environmental permits are required to build in the area. p>

According to Manzoli, this modification is “unexpected”. Indeed, in March 2010 the Constitutional Court (Corte Costituzionale) declared unlawful the Regional Law of Apulia that set a limit of 1 MW for DIA, for not being in accordance with the aforementioned Decree Law 387/2003, which set lower limits. Even the Government, with the Guidelines issued in September 2010 and a following circular, seemed to confirm this well established rule.

So, what happened?

“Most probably, the change of mind is due to considerable pressure from the energy market, which has been pushing for abating legal and administrative barriers,” says Manzoli. “Nevertheless, one can ask why the new limit was not set directly in the 2010 Guidelines, which were long awaited (7 years) and should have been written after a long period of consultation with all stakeholders.”p>

And what will be the consequences? “Whereas the PAS represents a very efficient shortcut if compared to the AU, the environment could be put at stake,” Manzoli warns. Many regions do not require an EIA for plants smaller than 1 MW, therefore with the PAS no control will be performed on the environmental impact of some plants. “It is therefore expected that environmental protection associations will challenge the new procedure,” she says.

Serena Manzoli works for Natural Ius, which is specialised in Renewable Energy Law in Italy.

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