With installed wind capacity currently at 1.2GW, it must add around 600MW each year to meet reach 7.5GW by 2020, 300MW of which will be from offshore. Given that over the past five years an average of only 122MW went up, it is clear that achieving the target will require considerable effort, as the country’s action plan points out. With this in mind, the government introduced a new law last year aimed at boosting deployment.
A crucial part of the new strategy is to accelerate the licensing process, and the authorities must now meet mandatory deadlines, there is just one environmental impact assessment and certain applications can be submitted in parallel. The process should take less than ten months, rather than up to seven years as before, says energy minister Tina Birbili. Large projects that attract substantial capital and create many jobs may even get consent within six months. This is yet to be proven, but the industry says there are already signs of a speed-up.
The new law also seeks to rationalise the guaranteed premium purchase price to support investors willing to extend the grid to non-interconnected islands. This will unlock much potential capacity and allow many old conventional power stations on the islands to close.
The tariff now stands at €87.85/MWh for plant on the mainland and €99.45/MWh on the non-interconnected Greek islands, for a 20-year term. If the island is then connected to the grid, the producer continues to receive the higher tariff, and can earn 10-25% more if it pays for the interconnection itself, depending on the length of the connection and the installed capacity.
In an effort to phase out government subsidies, producers can also earn an additional 20% if they forgo state aid. Finally, the energy minister can grant higher tariffs for low-wind-speed sites, which often tend to have good grid coverage.
Another important innovation, aimed at reducing local opposition, sees one-third of the 3% levy that is retained by the system operator redirected from the local authorities to individual citizens as a discount on their electricity bills. However, the energy minister recognises that more work needs to be done to improve public acceptance of wind energy.
Spatial planning is another area the government needs to tackle, says Achilles Plitharas, wind energy spokesman for conservation organisation WWF Greece. "There is a lot of conflicting legislation about where wind plant can be installed, making it easy for opponents to lodge an appeal," he argues.
Despite its great potential, offshore wind will play only a modest role in meeting the 2020 target. In order to kick start the process, Greece has opted for competitive tenders. The government is currently carrying out strategic environmental assessments in promising areas, with a view to launching the tenders in 2012 and bringing the first 50MW on line in 2016.