An Italian wealth management fund controlled by the Pallavicini family, best known for owning one of Italy’s most extensive private art collections, is planning a major expansion into Europe’s renewable energy sector through its controlling shareholding in Denmark’s Greentech, a wind farm operator. Read more…
Italian anti-mafia police have made their largest seizure of assets as part of an investigation into windfarm contracts in Sicily. Officers confiscated property and accounts valued at €1.5bn belonging to a businessman suspected of having links with the mafia (Read past FT reports here and here)
Roberto Maroni, interior minister, on Tuesday accused the businessman – identified by police as Vito Nicastri and known as the island’s “lord of the winds” – of being close to a fugitive mafia boss, Matteo Messina Denaro. Read more…
Enel hopes the flotation of its renewable energies division will become Europe’s biggest IPO since the global financial crisis erupted two years ago, but critical environmentalists are questioning whether Italy’s heavily indebted utility, with a suspected “climate sceptic” as chief executive, is as green as its image boasts.
Enel filed a request to the Italian stock exchange on Friday to list its Enel Green Power unit, with placement of a minority stake planned for October, market conditions permitting. Enel could raise up to 4bn euros by selling about 30 per cent of EGP, Fulvio Conti, chief executive, was reported as saying. Read more…
The world’s photovoltaic industry is heading for a shake-out with big Chinese and US manufacturers of solar modules competing for dominance in Europe as smaller companies suffer from a collapse of prices and lower subsidies.
Executives speaking at the Italian PV Summit and trade fair in Verona last week were heartened by higher forecasts of demand for solar power made by the Paris-based International Energy Agency but they also warned of the dangers of a bubble forming in fast-growing Italy following the bursting of the Spanish market last year.
“We will see more consolidation of players, leaving a handful of very large manufacturers,” said David Hogg, head of European operations for China’s Suntech Power which plans to increase output to 1,250MW in 2010 from 700MW last year and is developing a new generation of high-efficiency Pluto panels. Read more…
Italian finance police, mounting an operation codenamed “Gone with the wind”, said on Wednesday they had arrested two of the country’s most prominent businessmen in the wind energy sector on charges of fraud and are investigating their sales of wind farms to foreign companies.
Oreste Vigorito, head of the IVPC energy company and president of Italy’s National Association of Wind Energy, was arrested on Tuesday in Naples. Vito Nicastri, a Sicilian business associate, was arrested in Alcamo, Sicily. Two other men were arrested in Sicily and the Naples area, while 11 others were charged but not arrested. Police said the charges related to fraud involved in obtaining public subsidies to construct wind farms. Read more…
Lighting the way: Sicily has moved its focus from large-scale wind or solar farms to microproduction this year
Italy, a growing market for renewable energy, is on the road to becoming the first country to achieve “grid parity” – the Holy Grail of solar power, where costs of producing photovoltaic energy fall below retail electricity prices.
At the same time, however, the photovoltaic industry is warning of the dangers of a speculative bubble unleashed by the attraction of the highest incentives in Europe but with no long-term clarity over the level of tariffs to be set after 2010. Read more…
“Italy is a strange country and Sicily is an extreme example of this.”
Salvatore Moncada, a Sicilian constructor who has diversified into renewable energy production, begins an interview by describing the huge obstacles he faces in doing business on the island, ranging from Cosa Nostra mafia to labyrinthine bureaucracy and lack of transparency.
Despite these problems, his Moncada Energy Group has become the largest local company in wind power production – some 100 megawatts from five windfarms – challenging the dominance of big multinationals such as Italy’s Enel, Eon of Germany and International Power of the UK.
Like giant sentinels, dozens of wind turbines straddle the mountain ridges near Sicily’s infamous mafia stronghold of Corleone. But despite a strong breeze rippling the leaves in groves of olive and fig trees, the soaring blades of the turbines have stood motionless for over a year.
Further west, near the port of Trapani and the ancient hill-top town of Salemi, two more wind farms are similarly frozen.
Just who approved, built and sold these renewable energy projects, which were developed on the basis of public subsidies, has become the subject of investigation for Sicily’s anti-Mafia magistrates, who are trying to keep track of organised crime’s latest bid to move into mainstream business.
Sicilian magistrates have launched an investigation into suspected collusion by mafia gangs, entrepreneurs and local officials in the construction of windfarms that are sold on to multinational companies.
Italian and European Union subsidies for building windfarms and the world’s highest guaranteed rates for the electricity they produce have turned southern Italy into a highly attractive market exploited by organised crime.