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MONEY

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

As energy bills continue to soar in Italy, more homes and businesses are turning to solar power. Here's what you need to know about investing in photovoltaic panels for your property and how you can use government funds to foot the bill.

Solar panels are an increasingly popular option for those renovating homes in Italy.
What you need to know about installing solar panels on your home in Italy - and the bonuses on offer to help pay for it. Photo by Bill Mead on Unsplash

Rising costs of living and energy bills continue to hit homeowners in Italy hard, made even worse by the knock-on effect of the war in Ukraine.

In response, the Italian government has taken various steps to bring down rising energy costs, such as extending an energy bonus to offset the price hikes.

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

As energy prices have soared over the past year, one option to save on future electricity and gas bills in Italy is to invest in solar panels for your home or business.

Aside from its money-saving potential, solar energy is more sustainable and, as such, the government is offering funds to encourage its uptake.

This is partly due to Europe’s climate goal of reducing greenhouse gases by 2030, according to research by the Eurac Research Institute for Renewable Energies.

Italy also has its own National Integrated Plan for Energy and Climate 2030 (Piano Nazionale Integrato per l’Energia e il Clima 2030 or PNIEC), which is focused on decarbonisation, energy efficiency and security and the internal energy market.

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

The nation already ranks top worldwide for electricity consumption covered by solar panels according to the latest research.

The number of photovoltaic systems in Italy has increased by more than tenfold over the last decade – and growing numbers of Italians are considering installing their own solar-powered energy, according to market surveys.

As solar energy becomes more widely available in Italy, even stores such as IKEA now sell solar panels.

Some 40,000 solar panel systems had been installed in Italy up to the end of 2020 – but three million are said to be needed over the next decade to keep pace with climate change targets and the consequent energy source transitions.

READ ALSO: Italy plans to cut air conditioner use to save energy

Residential properties show the highest uptake, with the sunny southern region of Puglia and the wealthy northern region of Lombardy contributing the most to this growth, according to market research.

But how much will it cost and is it worth making the switch? Here’s a look at what to expect in terms of savings, plus how you can access government help to pay for installation.

What’s the cost of installing solar panels in Italy?

There are a multitude of options on the market and many combinations of products for a 3 kW photovoltaic system (standard household power in Italy).

As a general rule, the cost of a 3 kW photovoltaic system varies between €5,500 and €8,500, according to energy news reports.

These prices refer to the average cost of the photovoltaic system, including design, installation, paperwork and service.

This size of solar-powered system should suffice for a family of 3-4 people, producing around 3,500kWh per year, which roughly equates to the amount of electricity a family would use annually.

The cost of solar panels has steadily decreased over the previous decade according to industry data, reaching 0.30 euros per watt in 2020 for the average price of solar panel modules, compared to 2009 when it was equal to 2.5 euros per watt.

Costs can vary depending on the type of system you opt for too, such as the traditional version or those that are hooked up to the grid with back-up batteries.

READ ALSO: How and where to find your dream renovation property in Italy

The typical 3 kW photovoltaic system is cheaper but doesn’t have any energy storage systems. This means that the excess energy produced cannot be used, but can still be sold to the national energy distribution system, in exchange for deductions on your energy bill.

A house restoration project in progress.

There are bonuses available in Italy to pay for solar panels on your property. Photo: Nolan Issac on Unsplash

A 3 kW photovoltaic system with storage is more expensive than a conventional system, as it is equipped with an intelligent on-grid system for storing energy in powerful lithium batteries.

These types of solar panel systems can run to over €13,000 for 2022, reports suggest.

From an economic point of view, this is certainly a bigger commitment, but you do get a lot of power for your buck –  the storage batteries mean you can store your self-produced energy and consume it when you need it.

The final price is influenced by various factors including the power chosen – it is the solar panel power and not its surface area that defines the price.

Are there any subsidies for the installation of solar panels?

Yes. The Italian government has introduced and extended a raft of building bonuses in order to galvanise the construction industry following the economic downturn caused by the pandemic.

And included in this state aid are funds for solar panels.

There is no single package of incentives for installing solar panels in 2022 per se, but you can take advantage of other government bonuses.

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 so-called 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: Budget 2022: Which of Italy’s building bonuses have been extended?

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

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

Using the renovation bonus, which would cover both the supply and the installation of the solar panels, there is a maximum total expenditure of €96,000 (per single housing, including condominiums).

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

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.

How much can I save on electricity bills if I install solar panels?

Depending on how much power you consume, your bill could even be reduced down to zero.

In any case, using the power generated by solar panels means you use less electricity supplied by the national power services, known as GSE (Gestore dei servizi energetici) – meaning savings on your bills as you’ve produced the power yourself.

You could also get deductions on your bill by selling the excess power your solar system has generated, but that you have not consumed, back to the national grid. (This may not be allowed, however, if you’ve taken advantage of the superbonus funding.)

READ ALSO: Do you have to be Italian to claim Italy’s building bonuses?

Variables such as how much power you use, when you consume it, the size of your installation and how well it’s positioned to receive as much sun exposure as possible and the quality of the system, will all affect how much you could eventually save.

At best estimates with a highly performing solar-powered system, consumers could save around €1,500 per year on average on their energy bills, according to research carried out by Solar Index Italy.

That means most systems are estimated to pay for themselves within 5-7 years, depending on the type you opt for.

After that you could start making a profit, with an average estimated annual financial return of 12 percent.

With solar panels lasting an average of 25-30 years, there are considerable savings to be made – if you plan on living in that property long-term.

If you plan to sell, the system is likely to be seen as a plus point by future buyers as the popularity of solar power continues to rise.

Can you install solar panels in any location?

There are regulations on where solar panels can be mounted, which could exclude some property owners from using this source of energy.

Owners of properties within condominiums are able to install a photovoltaic system without having to ask for prior authorisation, except for those in a listed area, according to legal accounts.

As long as the works don’t “prejudice the aesthetic decorum of the condominium”, solar panels are okay in these types of buildings.

The good news about installing solar panels is that it’s one less complex area of bureaucracy – you can proceed without having to ask for prior authorisation.

The full list of works that can be carried out without permission can be found in this government document.

However, if the building you want to add solar panels to is located in a historic area of a town centre (centro storico), you would have to ask for authorisation from an appropriate body, such as the local municipality or the Management for Architectural Heritage (Soprintendenza per i Beni Architettonici).

If you’re not sure whether your property falls under this remit, the authorities would check that the installation of the solar-powered system does not compromise the aesthetics of the landscape.

Outside of these historic areas though, it’s not important whether the panels are visible or not.

See more in The Local’s Italian property section.

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For members

ENERGY

What are the rules on using wood-burning stoves in Italy?

Sales of wood burners have increased since the start of the energy crisis, but some Italian regions have rules regulating their use.

What are the rules on using wood-burning stoves in Italy?

As the European energy crisis shows no sign of abating and Italian gas bills are once again expected to climb in the coming weeks, many families across the boot are considering switching to alternative (and more affordable) heating systems to keep their houses warm over the winter.

For some, the best option might be using a wood-burning stove, a heating system which seems to have undergone somewhat of a resurgence since the start of the energy crisis. 

READ ALSO: Electricity bills in Italy to rise by 59 percent, says energy regulator

According to energy group AIEL (Italian Association for Forestry Energy, or Associazione Italiana Energie Agroforestali), sales of wood- or pellet-burning stoves in the first five months of 2022 registered an impressive +28 percent against the same period of time last year. 

But those who are looking to turn to wood burners to keep warm over winter should be mindful of regional rules regulating the use of stoves and fireplaces. 

In fact, as many as five Italian regions – Lombardy, Veneto, Piedmont, Emilia-Romagna and Tuscany – currently have laws banning residents from using low-efficiency wood burners, with fines up to €5000 for those flouting the rules. 

What’s the point of these rules?

Regional laws banning the use of low-performance wood burners were introduced well before the current energy crisis to reduce CO2 (carbon dioxide) and PM (particulate matter) emissions across the country.

Fireplace with burning fire.

Bans on low-efficiency wood burners were introduced long before the European energy crisis to reduce CO2 and PM (particulate matter) emissions across the country. Photo by Stephane DE SAKUTIN / AFP

All relevant rulings on the subject use the national ‘five-star’ energy rating as their system of reference.

Briefly, in 2017, the Italian government established five different energy classes for wood-burning heating systems and allocated a set number of ‘stars’ to each category. The lower the number of stars, the greater the ecological impact (i.e. the amount of pollutants released into the atmosphere) of the wood burner in question, with ratings going from a minimum of one star to a maximum of five stars.

For a full breakdown of the five energy classes recognised by the Italian government and to know what types of stoves and fireplaces belong in each category, please consult this extract from the 2017 Gazzetta Ufficiale (the official government gazette).

What rules are in place and where?

Laws on wood burners vary from region to region, so here’s a brief overview of the rules enforced by each of the five above-mentioned regions.

Lombardy – As of January 1st, 2020, all Lombardy residents are banned from using wood stoves or fireplaces with an energy rating lower than four stars. 

Fines for those breaking the rules range from €500 to €5000.

Furthermore, only pellets of the A1 type (i.e. with residual ash lower than 0.7 percent) can be used for pellet-burning stoves with a maximum heat output (potenza termica nominale) lower than 35 kW (kilowatt). 

Wood pellets at a plant belonging to Graanul Invest, Europe’s biggest wood pellet producer.

In Lombardy, only pellets of the A1 type can be used for pellet-burning stoves with a maximum heat output lower than 35 kW. Photo by Ivo PANASYUK / AFP

Veneto – Veneto forbids the use of wood stoves or fireplaces with an energy rating lower than three stars. 

Also, people looking to install a new wood burner must ensure that the stove or fireplace in question has an energy rating of at least four stars. 

Piedmont – As of October 1st, 2019, Piedmont residents are banned from using wood-burning heating systems with a maximum heat output (potenza termica nominale) lower than 35 kW and an energy rating lower than three stars. 

Also, residents can only install new wood burners with a maximum heat output of 35 kW or more and an energy rating of at least four stars.

For additional details on the rules currently enforced in Piedmont, refer to the following website.

Emilia-Romagna – Things get slightly more complicated in Emilia-Romagna, where residents are banned from using wood stoves or fireplaces with an energy rating lower than three stars if their homes have an alternative heating system and they live in municipalities (comuni) whose elevation is less than 300 metres above sea level.

Emilia-Romagna also currently offers financial incentives for those who reside in one of the following comuni and choose to replace their old stoves or fireplaces with latest-generation heating systems with a five-star energy rating.

A retired farmer lights his wood stove.

Emilia-Romagna currently offers financial incentives for those who choose to replace their old stoves or fireplaces with new wood burners with a five-star energy rating. Photo by Jean-Francois MONIER / AFP

For further information about the rules currently in place in Emilia-Romagna, please consult energy regulator ARPAE’s website.

Tuscany – In Tuscany, rules on the use of wood burners are tethered to the individual PM10 (particulate matter less than 10 micrometres in diameter) emissions of each comune

That means that, in municipalities that have exceeded the permitted amount of daily PM10 emissions, residents are banned from using stoves or fireplaces with an energy rating lower than three stars, unless wood burners are their only available source of heating or they live in comuni with an elevation of 200 metres above sea level or more.

At the present time, the above ban only applies to the municipalities located in the so-called ‘Piana Lucchese’.

For further details, please see the following regional decree.

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