© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni holds her end-of-year news conference in Rome, Italy, December 29, 2022. REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane/File Photo
ROME (Reuters) – Italy will invest in Enel (BIT:)’s photovoltaic panel factory in Sicily, supporting its plan to boost production and become Europe’s main site for solar panels, Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said on Saturday.
“There are 90 million euros ($97 million) for this project from the National Recovery and Resilience Plan (NRRP)… which will allow the current factory to strengthen itself and for a further new production line to be established,” Meloni said at the end of her visit to the 3Sun plant, in the city of Catania.
“Our bet is for Catania to become one of the most important hubs in solar panel production,” she added.
The factory’s existing production capacity of approximately 200 megawatts (MW) a year is set to expand to 3 gigawatts (GW) by the end of this year, with a six month delay compared with what was initially announced by Enel in 2022.
Meloni said the aim was to create 700 new jobs by the end of 2024, and a further 1,000 indirectly, in companies working with the 3Sun plant.
The project to boost the factory’s capacity comes as the European Union is seeking to speed up the switch to renewables and end its dependence on gas imported from Russia.
Meloni, who took charge in October 2022, has pledged to boost renewables in the south to try to tackle decades of under-development.
“We want and we need to be competitive in this sector compared to Asian players,” Meloni said on Saturday.
In January Enel secured a 560 million euro financial package from the European Investment Bank (EIB) and a group of Italian banks, led by UniCredit, to expand the site.
Further funds for the plant will come from the European Union’s innovation fund for green technology projects.
The energy group is also in talks with potential investors over possibly selling up to 50% in the factory, sources have said.
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