Licensing flurry jolts Greece into action -- Market overcomes grid deadlock

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Licensing announcements in Greece for 1159 MW of wind projects by the Energy Regulatory Authority (RAE) suggest that development is about to go ahead much faster than expected. Most sites are located in midland and western Greece where the power grid can cope with new wind plant -- avoiding the popular parts of Evia, Thrace and Peloponnisos where major grid extensions will be required before any new plant can be connected.

"It seems the market is finding a way to overcome the deadlock created by the grid problem," says Ioannis Tsipouridis, vice president of the Greek wind energy association.

Of the licenses granted, 336.7 MW are for Macedonia-Thrace, 282.01 MW on the Peloponnisos peninsula, 204.97 MW on Evvoia, 183.28 MW on Crete and other islands and 151.75 MW in the Greek midland. RAE has granted a "positive recommendation" for an additional 620 MW of projects. "Experience so far indicates that a positive recommendation is followed by license granting by the ministry," notes Tsipouridis.

He adds that wind in the west and in central Greece is not as easy to find as on Evvoia, the big island off the north east coast of the Athens peninsula. "All you have to do is find a site big enough for your project and you would have to be very unlucky not to have winds of seven metres a second."

PPC not to blame

Tsipouridis is anxious to stress that the Public Power Corporation SA (PPC) is not to blame for the otherwise slow progress with wind energy development in Greece (Windpower Monthly, March 2002). "PPC SA has the difficult task of electrifying a nation, consisting of numerous mountain villages and even more islands, and it has done so with success. PPC extends its grid or builds new where its customers are," he says. "PPC SA cannot build new grid on the assumption that there may be wind energy development. This is a national policy issue. It is not PPC's role to set national policy."

The lack of an integrated policy for renewables development is the main reason why the country's wind resource continues to go to waste -- two decades after PPC first demonstrated the enormous potential, adds Tsipouridis. Greece needs targets, siting and infrastructure regulations, and financial incentives, he says. "I also criticise public services for their bureaucratic attitude towards wind energy."

PPC installed 25 MW of wind power between 1982 and 1992, "taking the technological risk and in essence lending it market weight to the new industry. I wonder how many European utilities did the same at that time?" asks Tsipouridis. "My only criticism of PPC is that, having made such a good start by installing about 25 MW by 1992, it then slowed down and has added only 10 MW more in the next decade."

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