Greece and its opportunities for renewable energy sources

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Greece is strategically located on the borders of Europe, facing east and south, with strong (and not always friendly) links with Asia and African countries. Its place, right at the crossroads of continents, combined with the strategic alliances that Greece has forged with Cyprus, Israel (and the recent close collaboration with Egypt) now has the opportunity to play a key role in several regional energy markets, like that of the Balkans or that, immensely important, of the south-eastern Mediterranean.


Greece is also blessed with a vast potential for renewable energies (solar, wind, geothermal and more) combined with many massive infrastructure projects underway involving Greece (TAP, EastMed Gas Pipelines, EuroAsia Interconnector, etc.) show that the Greeks can claim an important place within the EU decision-making table on its energy strategy.

Greece has become a key player in East-West energy transport through pipeline projects, power grid interconnection and other means of ensuring security of supply through offshore reserves. .

Greece’s energy system has been plagued by multiple factors, but it is undergoing a major transformation. A main feature of today is the effort to reduce the consumption of conventional (fossil) fuels, such as lignite. Greece has strategically chosen to invest in lignite and to consider it as fundamental for its energy mix, after the oil crisis of the 1970s. There is still a significant dependence on imports of crude oil (and other petroleum products) as well as natural gas. In recent years, we have witnessed an increasing penetration of natural gas into Greece’s energy mix, although its share of the pie is still small and well below European standards.

Greece is actively pursuing convergence with European standards, using national policies such as the introduction of the CO2 tax. The energy sector in this country has a higher contribution to gross value added in most EU countries and projections indicate further expansion due to a number of factors.

  • The pursuit of the necessary optimization of the energy mix, that is to say the reduction of electricity produced from fossil fuels and an increased contribution from RES. This will be driven both by the revised EU policy of 35% renewable energy sources by 2030, and by the preference for cheaper and cleaner energy sources such as natural gas.
  • The planned privatization by the Greek government of important energy assets such as the Public Power Corporation (PPC), the natural gas distributor (DEPA), the Hellenic Electricity Distribution Network Operator (HEDNO) and the Hellenic Petroleum.
  • The liberalization and total privatization of the electricity and natural gas markets and the further separation of the production and supply of transmission networks.
  • The potential to become a gateway for natural gas, electricity and oil resources through mega-infrastructure projects such as TAP-IGB-EastMed gas pipelines, EuroAsia interconnection or gas exploration and production and of oil.
  • New technological advancements such as smart meters, smart grid technologies, LED lighting, energy efficient buildings, etc.

Greek recovery plan and energy issues

Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the Greek Prime Minister, presented a national plan to change “the economic and institutional paradigm of the country” with the aim of modernizing it and making it more efficient.

Greece’s recovery strategy (referring to recovering from the impacts of Covid) which is in line with the EU recovery principles agreed in July, relies on deep reform efforts suggested and implemented by the Mitsotakis administration since its election in July 2019.

The end of the game for many of these policies has an epicenter of the energy and climate plan for 2030; it focuses on phasing out fossil fuels by 2028 as well as adopting a new digital RES licensing regime. The four pillars of the recovery plan suggest:

  1. The green energy transition and the digitization of the economy.
  2. The new social sector policy, for employment and education programs, and private sector reforms of taxes, export programs, R&D and others.
  3. The green energy transition offer aims to invest 6 billion euros in EU subsidies in clean energies, this sum to be supplemented by 4.4 billion euros in private investments.
  4. With the EU’s ‘Recovery and Resilience Facility’ also offering loans, total liquidity for green energy projects is expected to reach a few billion more.

The Greek plan aims to secure € 12.73 billion in EU funds on top of the € 18.2 billion in grants – and is expected to attract € 26.5 billion in private sector cash – the € 54.5 billion euros envisaged by Athens would increase Greek GDP by 7% by 2026..

The Greek energy sector is changing rapidly, continuing its transition from its dependence on lignite (up to a fifth of its energy production in 2019) towards renewable energy sources and gas production units at low carbon intensity. The objective of achieving a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of more than 55% by 2030 through:

  • Phasing out of 4 GW of lignite production capacity by 2028.
  • Employing 8.7 GW of new renewable power generation capacity to be added by 2030.
  • Addition of 2 GW of new gas production capacity added for system support and security.

Greece’s recovery program includes plans for up to 1.38 GW of hydraulic storage and batteries, with a dedicated team working on the energy storage regulatory framework this year. Smart energy systems and other photovoltaic installations are also important aspects of the program. Commercial vehicle infrastructure will also shift to electric vehicles, a movement funded (or at least publicly supported); there are also plans to expand a national electric vehicle charging network to support the transition to electric vehicles. The partially operational electricity interconnection between the mainland and the Cyclades island complex will also be extended.

The country’s evolution towards a more sustainable energy future and the fundamental transformations that will result from it will have challenges and major implications:

  • Reengineering of the country’s distribution network to support the large-scale adoption of intermittent renewables.
  • Address the social and economic impacts of transformation, possibly against the will of local interests and unions who depend on the ecosystems built around current infrastructure.

Large private Greek companies are leading the way with RES projects across Greece (and not only); these companies are among others GEK Terna, Mytilineos Group and HELPE.

Solar and wind projects

The government recently approved four new large investment projects in the production of electricity from renewable energy sources with a total budget of 2.02 billion euros. Projects approved by the Ministerial Committee for Strategic Investments total 2,810.3 megawatts.

One of the first projects concerns large photovoltaic parks with a capacity of 1.5 gigawatts divided into 12 regional units, which will be built by the Egnatia Group with a budget of 888.14 million euros.

Potential-photovoltaic-greece

GEK Terna Energy is responsible for another project, concerning the development of 18 wind farms with a capacity of 360 MW on the island of Evia, with a budget of 585 million euros.

The third project aims to set up five wind investments for a total amount of 121.28 million euros, with a combined capacity of 120.3 MW in Thrace, north-eastern Greece.

Another important initiative is the one led by Karatzis SA – the construction and operation of 37 photovoltaic plants of 830 MW in total in Larissa, Magnesia and Kilkis with an estimated budget of 421.6 million euros.

Of course, the challenges associated with such transformations are always vast; one of the main ministers of the Greek government mentioned: “There have recently been criticisms, both inside and outside Parliament, of the financial and structural interventions of the Ministry of Energy, in particular in projects of strategic importance; the answer today comes from investors themselves, who continue to have a very strong interest in investing. The response also came recently from US Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette, who underscored the investment-friendly nature of our policy and noted similar investor interest in UASs.”. Kostis Hatzidakis, the same minister, continued the number of applications for new SER projects in the latest call for applications.

Another major initiative is that of the Greek public electricity giant (not necessarily the right kind of giant), PPC and the German equivalent (a bit) RWE which are expected to sign for the joint development of renewable energy sources projects. in Greece. The agreement foresees that RWE and the Greek Public Power Corporation will launch a jointly supported project, with respective stakes of 51% and 49%, and achieve a combined total capacity of 1 gigawatt each over the next 5 years. PPC will contribute to the licensed projects and RWE will contribute accordingly to the licensed projects at the national level. The key is to develop the first projects early next year, with the West Macedonia region in Greece being prioritized as a prime location.

greece-wind-penetration

The epitome of such a project, located in Kozani (Western Macedonia), is the Kozani solar park. Such photovoltaic modules harness the energy of the sun on both sides (front and rear) of the module. This feature makes them much more efficient, and therefore more energy / electricity can be generated much more efficiently.

The idea was not new, but it is a recent technological advancement that has been developed and has proven not only to be more effective, but also less expensive. These modules can also exploit reflected and diffused light, achieving an additional efficiency of up to 10% compared to conventional modules.

The Kozani park achieves up to 5% additional yield. The project has achieved key milestones in becoming one of the largest bifacial solar parks in Europe. After innovating at the project site with racks and frames, Juwi Hellas installed the first rows of photovoltaic modules in the park in hundreds of thousands more.

Takis Sarris, CEO of Greek juwi said: “Solar energy is already the cheapest form of electricity generation in Greece. Bifacial module technology further reinforces this development. This way we can produce more electricity in less space at even lower costs. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic and the restrictions on the construction site, we are still on schedule. The plant should be connected to the grid by February 2022 “. Upon completion, the Kozani solar farm will be handed over to Hellenic Petroleum and will provide more than 300 million kWh of climate-friendly electricity per year, which can power up to 75,000 Greek homes.

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