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ECONOMY

Community cooperatives: the small Italian towns taking charge of their own future

Villages setting up as so-called 'cooperatives' are gaining pace across Italy. Here, a founder of one of the latest communities to run themselves tells us how she believes this will create the country's future.

Community cooperatives: the small Italian towns taking charge of their own future
Vetto. Photo credit: Il Pontaccio - Società Cooperativa di Comunità/Facebook

“We want to build a better future for Vetto, starting with us and for us,” Elisa Marchi, one of the founding members of the town’s community cooperative, told The Local.

Vetto is a mountainside town in Emilia Romagna with a population of around 1,800 inhabitants.

Alongside other passionate advocates of the area, she set up ‘Il Pontaccio‘, a cooperative that aims to boost local businesses and put the community on the map – to attract new residents and tourists alike.

“Vetto is such a beautiful place and a wonderful area to live. By setting up this cooperative, we want to build new possibilities for future generations,” stated Marchi.

READ ALSO: Could Italy’s abandoned villages be revived after the coronavirus outbreak?

“We have a big pot of ideas from the community, new enterprises and companies. A lot of young people are involved who want to build new companies, too,” she added.

The people of Vetto want to take the fortunes of the town into their own hands by launching this social scheme.

More and more small Italian communities are adopting the model, which sees citizens as producers and users of goods and services.

To fill the gap left by a decreasing young population and an increasing elderly one, this project aims to invest in human capital and thereby attract new life once again.

“The past year gave us time to reflect on what is important to us and how we want to live. It’s even more important to have a good quality of life,” said Marchi.

READ ALSO: The Italian properties ‘nobody’ wants to buy in 2021

An advantage of running the community this way is “union and solidarity”. Vetto is able to grow with the population by putting resources into local businesses and listening to what citizens want from their town.

“We share the dreams and ambitions of the residents. We want to create an environment that’s cooperative with other places and share our knowledge of the territory,” she added.

For Marchi and her colleagues, the cooperative is “a dream waiting to be realised”.

“We hope to see new people, children playing in the playground, people riding e-bikes through the hills and we want to invite people to come and eat our food. We will select food that’s grown from our farms and we have lots of delicious jam, honey and fruit here,” said Marchi.

READ ALSO:

Vetto counts among one of Italy’s towns in need of new investment – there are long-abandoned properties which are in need of renovation. Something the government hopes to tackle with the Superbonus.

This is an opportunity to move to beautiful scenery, according to Marchi, as the town now has fibre internet, making remote working a possibility.

“There is space for Vetto to grow and the chance for more people to have a good life here. Now’s the time to make the most of all this potential,” she said.

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MONEY

How to get a discount on the cost of solar panels for your Italian property

Solar panels are an understandably popular choice in Italy, and if you're thinking of installing them on your own home there's funding available to help lower the cost. Here's what you need to know.

How to get a discount on the cost of solar panels for your Italian property

As utility bills rise, more home and business owners in Italy are looking at installing solar panels as a possible way to reduce costs in the long term.

Solar panels are already hugely popular in Italy, with the nation ranking top worldwide for solar-powered electricity consumption.

READ ALSO: Who can claim a discount on energy bills in Italy?

And no wonder: it’s a solid bet in a country where there is sunshine in abundance. But what about the costs of installation?

The good news is that there’s financial help available from Italy’s national government aimed at encouraging uptake of solar energy, as well as other incentives from regional authorities in many parts of the country.

It’s in the government’s interest to incentivise solar power, as Italy has vowed to transition to greener energy with its National Integrated Plan for Energy and Climate (Piano Nazionale Integrato per l’Energia e il Clima 2030 or PNIEC).

So how could this benefit you? Here’s a look at what you can claim at both a national and a regional level.

Regional funding for installing solar panels

As well as the national government subsidies available for covering the cost of solar panel installation, some regions have introduced their own bonuses or discount schemes.

The sunny southern region of Puglia and the wealthy northern region of Lombardy have seen the highest number of residential photovoltaic systems installed, according to market research.

it’s not surprising, then, that these two regions’ governments are offering cash incentives to help cover the cost of installing solar panels.

Depending on the type of system you opt for, you could expect to pay between around €5,000 and €13,000 for installation, design, labour and paperwork.

To contribute to this initial outlay, the local authority in Puglia has created a pot to help homeowners on lower incomes move towards renewable energy.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about installing solar panels on your home in Italy

Newly introduced in 2022, the so-called Reddito energetico (energy income) offers households with an annual income below €20,000 a bonus of up to €8,500 for installing photovoltaic, solar thermal or micro-wind systems in their homes.

The bonus is intended for residents who have citizenship of an EU country or, if you are a citizen of a non-EU country, you can still claim the bonus if you have been resident for at least one year in a municipality in Puglia.

The €20,000 annual income refers to a household’s ISEE – an indicator of household wealth calculated based on earnings and other factors.

A worker fixes solar panels. (Photo by Ina FASSBENDER / AFP)

For this particular scheme, if you claim this bonus from the authorities in Puglia, it precludes you from also claiming funds at national level concurrently – such as through the popular superbonus 110 home renovation fund (see below for more on this).

Although there are other government bonuses, such as the renovation bonus (bonus ristrutturazione) that offers a much higher maximum total expenditure of €96,000, it can only be claimed as a 50 percent tax deduction spread over 10 years in your tax return.

For lower income families in Puglia, this may not be as cost effective as the grant from the regional authorities, which may equate to more money towards the cost and supply of solar panels.

For more information and to apply for Puglia’s renewable energy bonus, see here.

Lombardy is also stumping up funds to continue the solar power momentum experienced in the region.

While the coffers for private properties are currently closed, the region has made funds available for those with small and medium-sized businesses – again, in a move designed to lessen the impact of rising energy costs.

Business owners can claim a 30 percent grant for the installation of solar panels. There are more funds available to cover the cost of consultancy during the process too.

For more details on applying for this energy bonus in Lombardy, see here.

Other regions have also taken the initiative with encouraging more homes and businesses to change to solar-powered energy.

The region of Tuscany is offering an incentive on installing solar panels to residents in the form of tax deductions spread out over several years.

Works permitted include installing winter and summer air conditioning and hot water systems using renewable sources. This covers heat pumps, solar panels or high-efficiency biomass boilers.

For further details and information on how to apply, see here.

Each region may have its own solar panel bonus, either in the form of grants or tax deductions, available to private residents and/or businesses.

Check your regional government’s website to find out what may be currently on offer.

Solar panels are an increasingly popular option for those renovating homes in Italy. Photo by Jeremy Bezanger on Unsplash

National subsidies for installing solar panels

If your region isn’t offering any cash incentive to install solar panels on your property, there are government funds available, which cover all 20 regions.

The authorities introduced and extended a package of building bonuses in order to galvanise the construction industry following the economic downturn caused by the pandemic.

While there is no single, separate package of incentives for installing solar panels in 2022, you can take advantage of other government bonuses that include the cost of solar panel installation and supply.

As noted, you could use the renovation bonus (bonus ristrutturazione), which amounts to a 50 percent tax deduction spread over 10 years in your tax return – or through the superbonus 110, a scheme that promises homeowners a tax deduction of up to 110% on expenses related to property renovation and making energy efficiency measures.

READ ALSO:

The property must make at least a double jump in energy class or reach the highest efficiency rating when accessing these bonuses.

There’s a substantial amount of funds on offer to install your solar panels.

Using the renovation bonus, there is a maximum total expenditure of €96,000 (per single housing, including condominiums). Remember this amounts to a 50 percent tax deduction, so the maximum saving you would make is €48,000.

The renovation bonus has been extended until 2024 and, where solar panel installation is concerned, you can claim for the costs of labour, design, surveys and inspections, as well as VAT and stamp duty.

You must tell Italy’s energy and technology authority, ENEA, that you’ve done the works within 90 days in order to access the state aid for solar panel installation.

If you choose to use the superbonus route to claim funds for your solar panels, however, you can spread out the tax deduction costs over five years. Alternatively, you can apply for it as a discount on the invoice (sconto in fattura) or through the transfer of credit (cessione del credito).

The limit when using this bonus is €48,000, which can now be accessed for a while longer as the government extended the deadline for single family homes.

See HERE for details on how to claim it.

See more in The Local’s Italian property section.

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