The energy transition in Europe: 3Sun, the symbol of ‘Made in Italy’

The energy transition in Europe: 3Sun, the symbol of ‘Made in Italy’

3Sun, our photovoltaic Gigafactory in Catania, is becoming the symbol of European recovery in the clean energy supply chain. Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has signed a development contract allocating NRRP funds to the factory. Enel CEO Cattaneo: European industry must take the lead with its own renewables production chain.


Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s February 3 visit to the 3Sun factory in Catania, was a particularly significant one. In fact, the Gigafactory we’re building in the Etna Valley production district, which already produces about 200 MW per year, will increase to a production capacity of 3GW, or about 15,000 solar modules per day. This project is a important part of the European strategy to build an increasingly autonomous renewables supply chain.

At the 3Sun factory the Italian premier signed the development contract for the use of the nearly €90 million allocated by Italy’s National Recovery and Resilience Plan (NRRP) for this project.

The factory also recently secured a €560 million financing package from the European Investment Bank (EIB) and a consortium of Italian lenders. This follows the signing of a €118 million grant deal with the European Union in 2022.


Decarbonization and energy independence

The transition to decarbonization – that is, abandoning fossil fuels in favor of renewable energy – not only serves to combat global warming, but is also a tool for energy independence. Today, however, the renewables supply chain, especially for photovoltaics, is highly concentrated in Asia, and in China in particular. As a study conducted by Enel Foundation and The European House - Ambrosetti also indicates, Beijing provides on average 65% of the key components for decarbonization on a global scale. And according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the global solar panel supply chain is more than 80% controlled by Chinese companies.

As a result, the European renewables industry is facing a number of bottlenecks that are limiting its autonomous production capacity. However, these difficulties are surmountable, starting with an effective reshaping of the allocation of existing funds in individual countries and in the European Union, with the acceleration of materials recycling, the development of cooperation and innovation processes within the EU itself, and the definition of a transparent and stable fiscal and regulatory framework.

Currently, the EU produces less than 3% of the panels needed to meet its 2030 solar energy targets internally. The target set by the European Commission is for the EU to install 320 gigawatts of photovoltaics by 2025.

"The Catania project is this: we must be able to produce the technology that is fundamental to our strategic choices," Meloni said during her visit to 3Sun.

"We’re betting that we can make Catania one of the most important industrial hubs in Europe in the production of latest generation, ultra-high performance photovoltaic panels," she explained. "We’re talking about a sector that’s in strong economic expansion, for which a market growth capacity of about 50% is expected in five years. In 2028, an estimated turnover of about €150 billion is predicted. Italy, the South, Sicily, Catania – have decided to believe in this bet. I’m here today personally because the government intends to do its part."


The energy transition is the driver of a new industrialization

"The energy transition cannot be an element of deindustrialization, but a starting point for a new supply chain," emphasized Enel CEO Flavio Cattaneo during Giorgia Meloni's visit.

Europe's dependence on outside countries in the main renewable sectors, at the industrial level, is a threat to its "technological autonomy", but at the same time, it’s also a unique opportunity for the development of local supply chains capable of producing important economic and social benefits.

"Today, our Gigafactory in Catania is the only remaining photovoltaic panel production Gigafactory in Europe. It’s a factory that will see the production of a brand new technology (the bifacial panel, ed.) that allows it to produce more energy than standard panels," Cattaneo further explained. 3Sun is "an important enterprise that will see production in the heart of Europe, in a context in which the other companies are non-European and most of them benefit from state aid in the area of the energy transition, which is often necessarily subsidized by public funds."

Our CEO thanked the EU "for granting the funds and for the attention it’s bestowing. Thanks to the Italian government, too, which (as part of the so-called “Energy Decree”, ed.) was the first European government to recognize the need to consider quality as a determining factor in the energy transition." To obtain the industry incentive, in fact, photovoltaic panels must be evaluated and approved by ENEA, the Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development.

"The Energy Decree is a first step; we’re hoping that the EU will accept and extend this kind of approach. European industry can and must be a leader in the energy transition with its own supply chain, and Italy can be just as much of a leader thanks to the quality of its industries and the ‘Made in Italy’ guarantee of quality that represents us in the world."

The EU, therefore, now faces a crucial issue in terms of rapidly deploying essential technologies to counter the climate crisis. These challenges, however, can turn into opportunities if addressed with a strategic perspective, targeted investments and innovative policies. This kind of development will help Europe achieve its pollution reduction goals, and also secure long-term economic and employment benefits.