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Greece

Greece

All down to efficiency of two committees -- Greek boom hinges on permit solution

It was another steady year for the Greek wind market with 155.7 MW coming online in 2006, bringing the country's installed capacity to 745.5 MW. Around half the growth came from local developer-operator Terna Energy, which added 53.15 MW. Terna, with an overall market share of 16%, is Greece's second leading wind plant developer and owner after Rokas, now 49.9% owned by Iberdrola. It failed to complete any new projects last year, but its developments still make up over 24% of the market.

French developer EDF Energies Nouvelles contributed 30 MW to the year's total, while Spain's Acciona burst onto the scene with one of the largest installations in Greece to date, a 34.85 MW plant on Mt Panachaiko in the Peloponnese. Inaugurated in July, it is owned 72% by Acciona and 28% by its local partners. As for turbines, Vestas supplied over 75% of the megawatts installed in 2006 and retains its position as overall market leader with 52%. Siemens comes second with 25%, even though it did not install any during the year.

According to the Hellenic Wind Energy Association, fully permitted projects totalling some 750 MW are waiting to be built and a further 4500 MW have been either granted or given a positive recommendation for a production licence, the first stage in the approval process. Based on past experience, only about one-third of these will get built, but there is plenty more on the way. Applications for licences have increased by 10,000 MW since 2005 to reach a staggering 25,000 MW. The administrative authorities are finding it hard to cope.

New law

The outstanding Greek wind resource has long made it popular with developers, but the recent surge in activity is partly due to the new renewable energy law, passed early June, which has simplified and hastened the licensing procedure. Deadlines have been introduced at every stage: on receiving an application for a licence, independent energy regulator RAE must make its recommendation to the development ministry within four months, after which the minister has 15 days to make a decision. Next, the regional authorities, which handle installation permits, have just eight months to decide an application. If they fail to do so, projects over 40 MW and those in protected areas can be referred to the development minister, who has 30 days in which to rule. Finally, the utility buying the electricity has 15 days after "various final checks are completed" to issue the operation licence.

If the system works, the permitting process should take around one year, as against up to three years in the past. Much depends, however, on how the authorities interpret the law, parts of which remain vague. Furthermore, there is no provision for enforcing the deadlines. Instead, any problems will be dealt with by two committees under the development ministry. The minister will chair a committee handling projects over 30 MW, while a lower-level committee will deal with smaller projects.

In addition, Greece's EU target for 20.1% of energy to come from renewables by 2010 -- of which wind power will need to provide at least 3000 MW -- and 29% by 2020 is enshrined in national law for the first time. The law also introduced a purchase price for offshore wind, fixing it at EUR 90/MWh, and gave hybrid systems, particularly wind coupled with hydro generation in islands, a boost, with tariffs now calculated on a case-by-case basis according to local costs. This will allow greater penetration of wind in island grids. Otherwise, tariffs were left unchanged at EUR 84.6/MWh for installations on islands not connected to the grid and EUR 72.9 elsewhere. Purchase contracts are guaranteed for ten years with an option to renew for a further ten.

Bottlenecks

One small spanner in the works is that the new law introduced more stringent requirements for a production licence. The application must now include a preliminary environmental impact study and wind measurements made by a certified company over a period of six months for sites with mean annual wind speeds above 7.5 m/s. While this means the production licence now carries more value, it all takes time. The need for certified wind measurements in particular has created yet another bottleneck since the only bodies able to certify the measurements are the Centre for Renewable Energy Sources and two private companies.

Loopholes in the site permitting regulations are causing even greater problems. The government this month published a proposal for its long promised national land use plan which will outline where wind plant can be built. Until the plan is in force, anyone opposed to a project can take the case to court on the grounds that there is no such plan. Most judgements go against the developer. "There is a priority to get this resolved and release the log jam," comments Emmanuel Perakis of wind energy developer Mytileneos, a big company of diversified interests. The wind association's Ioannis Tsipouridis says the government is to be commended for getting the plan on the table for discussion, but it will be a "hot potato."

Land use issues apart, the Greek wind industry is reasonably positive about the new energy law. "A few details need clarifying, but the basic framework is in place," says Terna's Emmanuel Maragoudakis. Tsipouridis is not so sure. "The law solves some problems, leaves others unsolved and creates some new ones," he says.

Plenty of interest

Nevertheless, the combination of the new law, a good wind regime and favourable guaranteed purchase prices means that "investors are queuing up," Tsipouridis says. Following Acciona, Iberdrola and EDF Energies Nouvelles, Germany's Ostwind is developing a 25 MW project in northern Greece together with its local partners, while Italian renewables group Maestrale Green Energy is eyeing 250 MW. Terna expects to have 450 MW installed by 2009 and EDF is aiming at 500 MW by the same date. And there are some mammoth projects in waiting.

Last year, Rokas submitted initial applications for 1636 MW divided among 44 wind stations on the Aegean islands of Chios, Lesvos, and Limnos. The proposal, which includes building the power transmission system connecting the islands with the mainland, will cost an estimated EUR 2.4 billion. To help finance the project, Rokas offered the Public Power Corporation a minority share option and is also considering requesting a capital increase from investors. Meanwhile, Mytilenos has drawn up a business plan for integrating 700 MW of wind and 100 MW of geothermal energy on the islands of Milos, Kimolos, Poliegos and Serifos and linking them to the mainland grid at Lavrio. The company has submitted the first application, for around 290 MW of wind power on Serifos. The others will follow. Finally, the Kopelouzos Group, another of Greece's major developers, will submit an application shortly to build 400 MW on the islands of Andros, Tinos, Paros and Naxos. Again the proposal also includes an underwater link to the mainland, at a total investment of some EUR 700 million. The company has already received a production licence for 188 MW on Evia island, including a submarine connection, and is optimistic about securing initial approval for 100 MW in the southern Peloponnese.

Transmission news

While developers are taking matters into their own hands and building grid connections, one issue that is slowly being tackled is the lack of transmission capacity in the windiest areas. The upgrade of the south Peloponnese grid, unlocking a potential additional wind capacity of 280 MW, was completed in December. This will be followed early in 2008 by a new line connecting southern Evia, where an extra 530 MW is waiting to be unlocked, to the mainland. At the same time a new 400 kV line linking Greece and Turkey and a super-high voltage centre should be in place, allowing the absorption of an extra 350 MW of wind energy in Macedonia and Thrace.

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