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Brussels, 5 April 2011

State aid: Commission clears €49.06 million aid for 3Sun’s photovoltaic modules plant in Catania, Italy

The European Commission has authorised under EU state aid rules €49.06 million of regional investment aid for the company 3Sun Srl, a joint venture between STMicroelectronics NV, Sharp Corporation and Enel Green Power SpA, for the production of photovoltaic modules in Catania (Sicily), Italy. The project involves an investment of €358.68 million. The Commission found the measure to be compatible with EU rules, and in particular with the requirements of the Regional Aid Guidelines 2007-2013 (see IP/05/1653), because, on balance, the positive effects of the investment on regional development outweigh potential distortions of competition induced by the aid.

3Sun, a jointly controlled subsidiary of STMicroelectronics, Sharp and Enel Green Power, will produce thin-film photovoltaic modules on the basis of multiple-junction technology. The investment will lead to the creation of 240 megawatts per year of production capacity. Works on the plant started in July 2010 and are planned to be completed in by the end of 2012.

The investment project takes place in Catania (Sicily), Italy, an area eligible for aid under Article 107(3)(a) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) as a region with an abnormally low standard of living and high unemployment.

The Commission assessed the project under its Regional Aid Guidelines and, in particular, their specific provisions for large investment projects which foresee a reduced aid intensity and specific thresholds regarding the beneficiary’s market share and production capacity.

The Commission's investigation found that the aid to be granted would be within the thresholds of the Regional Aid Guidelines. The Commission also calculated that 3Sun's and Sharp’s market shares on the worldwide market for photovoltaic products are well below the 25% threshold before and after the investment. As the market for photovoltaic products has a double-digit growth rate (based on 2004 and 2009 figures), which is well above that of overall economic growth for the European Economic Area (EEA) for the same period, the Commission found that the additional production capacity created by the project would raise no concerns either. As these two thresholds on market shares and market growth are not exceeded, the Commission concluded that the positive impact of the investment on regional development outweighs the potential distortions of competition.

The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number N405/2010 in the State Aid Register on the DG Competition website once any confidentiality issues have been resolved. New publications of state aid decisions on the internet and in the Official Journal are listed in the State Aid Weekly e-News.

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