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Greece

Greece

Special Report Europe 2020 - New member ambition - Investors move into emerging markets - Greek authorities promise to unleash full potential

To meet its EU renewable energy directive obligation to source 18% of its energy from renewables by 2020, up from 11% today, Greece needs the same determination it showed four years ago, when it defied world expectations and completed its Olympic stadium in time for the start of the 2004 Games in Athens. The target will require at least 30% of total electricity demand in 2020, forecast at 80-90 TWh, to be met by green energy.

New planning framework is just the start of things to come, says the government.

To meet its EU renewable energy directive obligation to source 18% of its energy from renewables by 2020, up from 11% today, Greece needs the same determination it showed four years ago, when it defied world expectations and completed its Olympic stadium in time for the start of the 2004 Games in Athens. The target will require at least 30% of total electricity demand in 2020, forecast at 80-90 TWh, to be met by green energy.

Wind power could potentially provide the lot. It would, however, require a ten-fold increase in annual capacity additions, currently hovering around 100 MW, for the necessary level of 10 GW of operating plant to be reached.

With the country's favourable wind resource and attractive market structure, the problem is not one of investors - they are queuing up around the block to build the required capacity. The country's wind power purchase prices, set at EUR91.74/MWh for plant on islands not connected to the grid and EUR80.14 elsewhere, are guaranteed for 20 years. "If developers just get one wind plant built it is a very good investment," says Vassilis Spiliotopoulos of Spanish turbine manufacturer Gamesa. Meanwhile, plans have been announced to expand network transmission capacity, currently limited to accommodating 5.5 GW of wind at most. The Public Power Corporation, the Greek utility, is investing more than EUR4 million over the next five years to boost the network.

Patience required

The only thing that has held development activity back is the planning system. Progressing through Greece's complex licensing procedures has taken some developers up to seven years to complete. Over 4 GW of projects are still waiting on the national regulatory authority, RAE, to grant initial production licences. Many more have been languishing in the courts, victims of the absence of a long-promised planning framework to define exactly where renewable plant can be built.

The framework finally became law last November. If environment minister George Souflias is to be believed, it will unleash countless projects currently clogged in the system. It identifies three "wind priority areas" where plant totalling around 5 GW could be built: northern Greece, central Greece, and the Peloponnese. If the full potential were exploited in these three areas, Greek wind capacity would rise to 6 GW, generating around 13 TWh of electricity a year, or 15% of total electricity. With other areas on the mainland also deemed suitable for wind development (, March 2009), Souflias is confident: "Greece will meet its renewables target well before 2020."

The industry is less convinced. While agreeing the framework is better than nothing, some fear the rules are not sufficiently clear, leaving developers potentially facing more legal battles with local opposition. Meanwhile, it also demands that a minimum distance between turbines of 2.5 times the diameter of the rotor be ensured.

"It is a technical issue and has no place in urban planning regulations," comments Spiliotopoulos. And with new restrictions on distances from roads, villages, tourist sites, and monasteries, among other things, included, many project design documents have been sent back to the drawing board.

Jan Dodd, Windpower Monthly.

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