(Bloomberg) -- Italy wants the European Union to allow farmers to sell surplus electricity they generate on their land, a measure that could help soften a bloc-wide energy crunch.
“Italian agricultural companies have huge surfaces available that should be filled with solar panels,” Agriculture Minister Stefano Patuanelli said in an interview Monday, referring to the roofs of stables, granaries and sheds. “It is unbelievable that selling what they produce and do not need is not allowed.”
Under EU rules set in 2014, agricultural companies are allowed to produce energy only to cover their own consumption if they want to receive public incentives. That directive should be changed as the bloc tries to cut energy ties with Russia while keeping its climate change goals in place, according to the minister.
“This is due to fear of competition with energy companies,” Patuanelli said. “Italy will formally ask for this limit to be removed.”
The Ministry of Agriculture plans to allocate 1.5 billion euros ($1.6 billion) to install up to 375 megawatts of power via photovoltaic systems smaller than 500kW on the rooftops of agricultural buildings, through 2026.
Solar sharing -- which involves using farmland for producing crops as well as generating power -- has gained traction in recent years, as farmers have sought to cash in on a renewable project boom. It is also not uncommon for them to lease their land and be paid indirectly, without owning the project.
Earlier this month, the EU unveiled a 210 billion-euro plan to boost LNG imports and capacity for renewable energy, which the bloc wants to account for 45% of its needs by 2030. The strategy centers on cutting red tape for wind and solar farms.
Patuanelli will discuss his request with EU Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni in a meeting set for Tuesday, and expects other countries well placed to produce energy from the sun -- such as Spain, Portugal, Greece and France -- to support it.
“We have a new law ready to be announced as soon as the EU will give us the green light to overcome the own consumption rule,” Patuanelli said.
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