For more than 15 years, the Eurac Research Institute for Renewable Energies has been working closely with companies, at regional, national and European levels. In the national working table on photovoltaics, of which Eurac Research is one of the driving forces, you had the opportunity to get to know the names behind the Italian photovoltaic industry even better, especially the companies most committed to research and development. Can you give us an overview of the trends in this sector?
First of all, let's say that the Italian panorama in this sector is strongly connected to the European one, so the dynamics of the photovoltaic industry’s development in our country and in Europe go hand in hand. In Europe, the photovoltaic industry has moved from the construction of products necessary for photovoltaic systems, in the first decade of the 2000s, to a world more focused on services: installation, maintenance and performance. Since the end of the decade of 2000-2010, production of modules gradually shifted towards Asian countries. While Europe has remained on the side of services related to photovoltaics that have more of a strong presence on the ground, namely installation, maintenance and monitoring. In this sector, in Italy there are important companies that operate not only at national level, but also at European and worldwide ones. Even the integration of photovoltaics in buildings, which must also take into account aesthetic and architectural aspects, remains strongly linked to the region. However something has changed over the last two years...
There is a different awareness. We are at the beginning of a new development trend. On the one hand, the importance of not being dependent on Asian manufacturers for the production of the photovoltaic module itself has been understood. Now in Italy, as well as throughout Europe, we are attempting to bring back the manufacture of high-tech photovoltaics. We are talking about the so-called gigafactories, which are already a reality in Asian countries but until now had never taken root in Europe: factories that allow annual outputs equaling gigawatts of production capacity to be reached. At the same time, we have ambitious environmental plans - at the Italian level there is the National Integrated Plan for Energy and Climate 2030 (PNIEC)- that, in order to be achieved, requires the right technology. We would have to install a significantly larger amount of photovoltaics than we are doing now and, owing to the current state of the industry, the risk is that to achieve these goals, buying the technology from non-European countries and therefore losing a strong train of economic recovery and industrial policy would be the prevailing method. By starting from this situation and this new awareness, in a working table with other representatives of research and development in the photovoltaic sector, we were able to list a series of useful actions to make the development of the industry more solid. We want to ensure that the achievement of climate goals is both positive for the environment and for the growth of the Italian photovoltaic industry. It is from these assumptions that our strategy for the relaunch was born - our support for the relaunch of the market from the point of view, one of research and development.