Greek hopes dashed

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The last remaining vestiges of hope among Greek delegates that the staging of the European Wind Energy Conference (EWEC) in Athens could stimulate a political breakthrough for the country's much beleaguered wind market dwindled to nothing in the Megatron auditorium last month. Development minister Dimitris Sioufas, who overseas national energy policy, said little of what they wanted to hear when he spoke as an invited guest at the conference opening.

The Helenic Wind Energy Association (HWEA) had hoped a long awaited new law on renewable energy would be announced at EWEC 2006 and that it would solve, once and for all, the problem of an overcomplicated and time consuming permitting process. But it was not to be. Instead of announcing a new law, Sioufas released a consultative document prior to the conference, which falls far short of industry expectations (Windpower Monthly, March 2006). His EWEC speech was a further disappointment. While he reiterated that the government's "top priority is to reinforce the penetration of renewables in the energy balance" and recognised the importance of the new legislative framework, Sioufas failed to reassure Greek delegates.

"The industry gave comments on the proposed law and the original draft seemed good," said one delegate. But then the consultation document was nothing like we were expecting and now we don't know where we are."

Sioufas, however, did reveal some details of the proposed market framework. All being well, deadlines will be introduced to speed up the permitting process. A decision on the production licence must be made within 90 days, on the installation licence within the following eight months and on the operation licence 15 days after various "final procedures have been completed," leaving this final stage rather vague. The minister also proposed setting up a special committee at ministerial level to smooth out any problems in the permitting process -- and the size limit will be raised for wind development that can proceed without a licence. Sioufas gave no information, however, on where the limit might be set, nor on revised power purchase rates. There was no indication either of when the amended bill will be put before parliament, though observers believe it could be in the next couple of months.

While noting that it all depends on the actual wording of the law, HWEA's Ioannis Tsipouridis remains optimistic. He believes the authorities have taken on board the very strong reaction from the renewables industry to the consultative document. He is also encouraged by the minister saying he is open to comments and suggestions. "We live in hope," says Tsipouridis.

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