The European Commission has approved, under EU State aid rules, a €1.2 billion Italian scheme made available through the Recovery and Resilience Facility (‘RRF’) to support investments in photovoltaic panels in the agricultural sector. The scheme will also contribute to the EU’s strategic objectives relating to the EU Green Deal.
Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: “This €1.2 billion scheme approved today will contribute to reaching Italy’s climate objectives by encouraging operators in the agricultural sector, such as farmers and processing companies, to use renewable energy. Not only the measure will contribute to EU Green Deal objectives, but it will also support the economic development of rural areas in Italy, while limiting possible distortions of competition.”
The Italian measure
The measure notified by Italy, with a budget of €1.2 billion, will be entirely funded through the RRF, following the Commission’s positive assessment of Italy’s Recovery and Resilience Plan and its adoption by the Council.
The scheme, which will run until 30 June 2026, is aimed at supporting agricultural, breeding and agro-industrial companies to invest in the use of renewable energy. This will improve the competitiveness of the sector and have positive effects on climate.
Under the scheme, the support will take the form of direct grants covering up to 90 % of the eligible investment costs. Those costs are subject to ceilings depending on the capacity of the photovoltaic installation. The beneficiaries may only invest in photovoltaic capacities not exceeding their energy needs.
The Commission’s assessment
The Commission assessed the scheme under EU State aid rules, and in particular under the Guidelines for State aid in the agricultural and forestry sectors and in rural areas and Article 107(3)(c) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, which allows Member States to support the development of certain economic activities under certain conditions.
The Commission found that the scheme:
Facilitates the development of certain economic activities, in particular the investment in photovoltaic panels in the agricultural sector.
Has an ‘incentive effect’ as the beneficiaries would not carry out the investments to the same extent in the absence of the aid.
Has a limited impact on competition and trade within the EU. In particular:
It is necessary and appropriate to ensure a sustainable growth of the agricultural sector.
It is proportionate, as any negative effect on competition and trade in the EU will be limited in view of the size of the projects, the aid amounts and the characteristics of the sector.
Improves the competitiveness of the agricultural sector and has positive effects on climate, as it encourages operators to use renewable energy instead of fossil one. In addition, the measure is line with the EU’s rural development objectives and the EU’s strategic objectives relating to the green transition.
On this basis, the Commission approved the scheme under EU State aid rules.