Mafia-busting Italian magistrates have launched a major investigation into crooked windfarm projects in Sicily, according to reports. It is suggested that large sums in government support have been collected for wind power stations which in many cases produce no electricity.
The Financial Times reported (subscription required) on the green energy scandals in Sicily over the weekend. Italy has a very strong system of incentives for wind power, in which guaranteed prices of €180 ($240, £160) per kilowatt-hour are offered to producers. A normal European retail price for electricity is in the region of 10p.
These highly lucrative prices must often be paid even if no electricity is actually being produced - as when a wind farm exists but has no grid connection, or (in the case of Sicily) when power cannot be sold on the Italian mainland owing to limited capacity on undersea cables.
Meanwhile, with large sums of money at stake, no need in some cases to build a genuinely functional plant to qualify for the cash - and every project heavily dependent on local-government permits and votes - wind power is seen as a perfect Mafia opportunity.
“It is a refined system of connections to business and politicians. A handful of people control the wind sector. Many companies exist but it is the same people behind them,” Palermo anti-corruption prosecutor Roberto Scarpinato told the FT. "Developers got public money to build wind farms which did not produce electricity.”
“Enough!” adds Rossana Interlandi, head of the Sicilian environment department. “Many speculators [have] made money on the backs of the government.”
The FT reports that the Mafia have ways of ensuring that nobody else gets in on the green-power bonanza in their territory. It appears that two wind towers were mysteriously destroyed after being shipped into the Sicilian port of Trapani from Northern Europe.
Along with Cosa Nostra in Sicily, equivalent groups such as the 'Ndrangheta in neighbouring Calabria are though to have achieved a similar grip on the wind industry across the Italian south.
The situation is now perceived as being so corrupt that there is a freeze on all new wind farms in Sicily, Calabria and Basilicata, and now a major Sicilian investigation is under way.
“Sicily is blessed with sun and wind," a nameless local official told the pink 'un, "but it is also cursed by the Mafia.”
Local businessman Salvatore Moncada put it differently: “The south has wind and sun but no proper rules.". ®