By Svetlana Kovalyova
VERONA, Italy (Reuters) - Italy's total installed photovoltaic capacity may reach 7,000 megawatts by the end of June due to a rush to sign up for expiring incentives, a senior official at Italy's state energy services agency GSE said.
"I think we can arrive at 7,000 megawatts at the end of June," Gerardo Montanino, director of GSE's operating division told Reuters on the sidelines of a photovoltaic conference in northern Italy on Monday.
Under a special decree passed last year, Italy extended generous incentives, which expired at the end of 2010, to about 4,000 MW of capacity reported as installed by the end of last year if it is connected to the grid by the end of June 2011.
"Some 200 MW out of these 4,000 MW became operative in December, and I believe that at least another 3,000 MW will be connected by the end of June," Montanino said.
He said it was difficult to forecast capacity growth at the end of 2011 because of uncertainty over a new incentive scheme which is yet to be approved by the government.
Italy's solar market has boomed since 2007, when the government boosted production incentives, attracting the world's biggest photovoltaic module makers such as China's Suntech Power Holdings Co, Trina, Yingli Green Energy and U.S. firm First Solar.
The government wants to cut the generous support to ease the burden on consumers, who pay for the incentives in power bills. Rome was due to approve a new incentive decree by the end of April but the government is still ironing out its details.
Montanino said he hoped Italy's Industry and Environment ministers would sign the decree on Monday or Tuesday.
Delays with the much-awaited new support plan have forced many sector operators and investors to review their business strategies for Italy and some have started cutting jobs, Valerio Natalizia, chairman of Italy's biggest photovoltaic energy body, GIFI, told Reuters at the conference.
"Uncertainty is devastating, every day of delay (with the new decree) creates greater damage to the sector," Natalizia said.
Italy was the world's second-biggest solar market in terms of new installed photovoltaic capacity -- that turns sunlight into power -- in 2010.
Italy added about 2,300 MW of photovoltaic capacity in 2010 to reach a total of about 3,400 MW total capacity at the end of last year, according to GSE.
(Editing by Anthony Barker)