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Engineer Marco Anfuso launches an appeal to companies in the sector to counter the foreign monopoly in the management of photovoltaic plants in Sicily: 'Let's pool our capital to benefit from energy production for life'

Sicily is facing a paradox: in Italy's sunniest region, photovoltaic energy risks not being sustainable. The rush of foreign capital towards the appropriation of installations seems to take away all benefits from the territory, becoming a problem rather than a development opportunity.

Sicily, however, is also facing an opportunity, that of changing the dynamics of investment in the sector in order to remain masters of its own resources and their productivity: sun, land, entrepreneurship, including photovoltaic plants. Launching the challenge is Marco Anfuso, CEO of Regran, who together with the consulting firm Futurea is developing an evolved marketplace project to revolutionise the meeting between supply and demand in the Italian renewables market.

In order to fully understand what it is, how it will work and what its value to the PV market chain is, it is necessary to start with the context and the need that generated the idea.

Ing. Anfuso, recently launched an appeal to Sicilian entrepreneurs and landowners through the Facebook page of Regran, the renewable energy design and installation company that she leads together with her partner Paolo Grande. Hers is a heartfelt invitation to team up to avert the colonisation of foreign companies. What is happening?

"What happens is that we local entrepreneurs set up large photovoltaic plants in our land to capture the energy of our sun, we take care of the whole chain, we develop everything from start to finish, but the economic and environmental benefits fly abroad. So, in my opinion, there is a huge waste of opportunities and resources. Ever since I started working in photovoltaics, i.e. in the pioneering era of the second half of the 1990s, there was an immediate need for customers to have a turnkey system, hence my idea to create a company that would take care of the entire process, from locating the land to maintaining the solar panels.

Regran designs and installs off-the-shelf systems for both residential and business buildings: we follow the land authorisation process, design and install the systems, but we can retain ownership of one, at most two, or at any rate very few systems otherwise we risk going out of business financially. This happens to Regran as well as to other local companies. For most of the projects that have been realised, therefore, the alternative is to develop third parties for those who have large cash flows. And in 90% of cases the owners of the plants are always foreign investment funds.

It is clear that there are substantial and important earnings for this activity as well, but the fact is that the amount earned from the sale of land, as well as from engineering and development, are and will always be less than what is earned over time by maintaining ownership of the plants. Because the real added value of photovoltaics comes after the plant is switched on, i.e. from the revenues derived from the production of electricity. Let me clarify with an example: let's say a landowner earns 70,000 euros per hectare for the sale of a plot of land on which to install the solar plant. It is a significant income, but if the owner invests a share in the construction of the plant, thus participating in the company that owns the plant itself, he will earn that 70,000 euros in a few years and then continue to have significant income for decades thanks to the sale of the energy produced. The real economic value lies in the long-term financial return. Thus, at the present time, local businesses and owners pocket a 'one-off' amount, while the larger, long-term gain ends up in foreign capital. That is why I speak of a waste of resources'.

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