Status of Solar Heating/Cooling and Solar Buildings - 2014

Status of the Market for Solar Thermal Systems

Market Size and Trends

Throughout 2011, 273 MWth of solar thermal capacity were added (390,000 m2 of collector area), making Italy the 6th biggest market for solar collectors in that year. The newly installed collectors increased the total installed capacity of glazed collectors (flat plates and evacuated tubes) to 2,065 MWth. The total capacity of unglazed collectors remains very small, at 29 MWth.

On a per-capita basis, Italy's market is much smaller - at 4.5 kWth per 1,000 inhabitants, Italy reached only the 19th postion of the countries covered in IEA SHC's annual statistic Solar Heat Worldwide.

Typical Applications and Products

The most typical application is domestic hot water because it is mandatory for new buildings; typical products are flat plate and evacuated tube collectors.

Main Market Drivers

Building codes for energy efficiency support the adoption of solar thermal systems in new buildings. But the market for new construction performed weakly in recent years (0.5-0.7% growth p.a.). As a consequence the technology penetration remains low.

Financial incentive scheme are more efficient in driving such transformation. A national tax reduction scheme is active since 5 years and mainly addressed to physical persons. It successfully supports energy efficiency and solar measures, e.g. solar systems for DHW production and replacement of windows. A new incentive scheme started this year dedicated to private and public buildings. It supports other renewable technologies: solar cooling systems, installation of solar protection devices (including automation), heat pumps (including ground coupling). No data are yet available about the success of this mechanism.


The national industry is essentially consisting of installers and distributors. System producer industries are present on the market and most of them are historically operating in the heating equipment sector. The industry at component level does not show significant numbers, most of the products are imported.


In 2011, the solar thermal market accounted for 5,000 jobs.


Average costs are between 800-1.000€ per square meter for small applications in residential buildings. Materials account for about 70% of the overall costs.

Status of the Market for Solar Buildings


No specific actions exist on “solar buildings” and, as a consequence, no buildings are rated as solar buildings. The energy rating of a building is given on the basis of an energy certification scheme, based on the performance of a building (a function of both, solar and energy efficiency measures).

Solar technologies for building applications fall in the wide concept of energy efficiency in buildings, with a special accent on “nearly zero energy buildings”, according to the framework set by relevant EU Directives. In this framework relevant technologies and topics are: solar cooling, low energy buildings, solar protection and control in the building envelope.

Market Size and Trends

According to the above section, no data and trend can be derived for the solar building market.

Main Market Drivers

National and local energy codes are in force for new and renovated buildings in Italy. They fix performance targets mainly focused on space heating and domestic hot water consumption. Such codes have a very limited impact on the penetration of solar buildings or solar technologies in energy efficient buildings.

Current energy prices and consumer bills are not yet helping the market transformation.

Financial incentive schemes are more efficient in driving such transformation. A national tax break scheme has been in place for 5 years and mainly targets individual taxpayers. It successfully supports energy and solar measures, such as solar systems for DHW production and replacement of windows. A new incentive scheme started this year dedicated to private and public buildings supports other renewable technologies: solar cooling systems, installation of solar protection devices (including automation), heat pumps (including ground coupling). Data is not yet available on the success of this mechanism, which started in July 2013.


The building sector is one of the most important engines of the national industry and it is experiencing a significant contraction of investment (it is estimated to be about 30% between 2008 and 2013). Employment was reduced about t23% in the period of 2009-2011. No specific data about solar buildings can be extrapolated for the reasons explained above.


Extra costs for high energy performance buildings (including energy efficiency and renewables integration) are between 10%-30%, as a function of the investment effort for efficient and solar technology.

R&D Activities

R&D Programmes

R&D activities in solar heating and cooling technologies, including building integration and daylighting are funded by the Ministry of the Economic Development with the Framework Program established with ENEA (Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development). This is a broad program dealing with electricity generation, distribution and end use with a global budget of about 20M€. Specific actions are related to solar technologies at building and system levels, with a budget estimated around 2.5 M€. Information and technical reports produced over the years can be found at: Web pages and reports are in Italian. Some reports include the abstract in English.

Other actions can be implemented at local levels, but there is not a national monitoring of such activities.

R&D Infrastructure

R&D Institutions
Institution Type of Institution Relevant Research Areas IEA SHC Involvement Website
ENEA public solar technologies, energy efficiency in building, other T40, T41, T47, T48, T51
EURAC research body solar technologies, energy efficiency in building, other T40, T41, T44
University of Palermo solar technologies, energy efficiency in building, other T40, T42, T48
University of Milan Politecnico solar technologies, energy efficiency in building, other T40, T41, T44, T47m T51
University of Padova University solar technologies, energy efficiency in building, other T51

Actual Innovations

Solar cooling, eventually with thermal storage, as well as solar high temperature for industrial process, is gaining attention. Even if products are on the market, their penetration is not significant yet, and essentially limited to demonstration projects.

Basic and industrial research is also focusing on advanced transparent materials for building application (e.g., transparent PCM, transparent dye solar cells) with chances to enter the market in the short term.

Support Framework


As in many European countries, the key to exploiting the solar thermal potential is based on the 20-20-20 Strategy. The strategy aims at: 20% reduction in EU greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels; 20% of EU energy consumption produced from renewable resources; 20% improvement in the EU's energy efficiency.

The National Energy Efficiency Action Plan, issued every year by ENEA with the contribution of several stakeholders, stresses the relevance of the integration of renewable energies in the building sector to achieve national and EU targets.

Government Agencies Responsible for Solar Thermal, for Solar Building Activities

The main actors are:

  • Ministry of Economic Development;
  • ENEA, thorough the Technical Unit for Energy Efficiency, empowered as the national Energy Agency, and the technological units;
  • Gestore Servizi Energetici (GSE, state-owned company which promotes and supports renewable energy sources);
  • National Research Council (the main public body for the research at all levels in Italy).

Local energy agencies are also established by local authorities at different territorial levels (Municipalities, Provinces, Regions).

Most Important Public Support Measure(s) for Solar Thermal and for Solar Buildings

Cited above:

55% reduction of the personal tax for budget invested in the implementation of energy efficiency measures in existing building. The scheme started in 2008 with an impressive growth in applications, and it is considered by the industry as a major measure in these economically depressed phase. The schemes support energy efficiency measures, as well as the installation of solar thermal systems.

Conto Termico is a new scheme started in early 2013 that supports the adoption of energy efficiency and solar technologies for individuals and public buildings. Also innovative solutions, like solar cooling and ground coupled heat pumps, are funded within the scheme.

Calls for energy efficiency and renewable integration in buildings are published by the Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Economic Development and local authorities based on availability of funds. Specific funds are dedicated to the depressed area of southern Italy.

Information Resources

National Solar Associations (industry and non-industry)

National Associations on Green/Solar/Sustainable Buildings

No Italian Associations exist, but national branches of international organization for energy environmental buildings as IISBE and LEED.

Most Important Media for Solar Thermal and Solar Buildings