Greek land use plan good in parts -- Something to fight over

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The Greek wind industry has given a cautious welcome to the government's proposal for a long awaited national land use plan for renewable energy which will outline where wind plant can be built. "It is the right strategy to follow and will solve a lot of problems," says Emmanuel Maragoudakis, managing director of Greek developer-operator Terna Energy. At present, anyone objecting to a project can take the case to court on the grounds that no land use plan exists. Despite the general welcome afforded to the plan, however, the industry believes some of the proposed measures are too restrictive and that several grey areas still need to be resolved.

The broad aim of the plan, published in February, is to ensure wind plant are located in the best resource areas while at the same time taking into account environmental concerns and those of other land users. It identifies priority areas with a high wind potential, such as Evros and Rodopi prefectures in north-east Greece, but also establishes tough limits on exactly how much can be built in any one place, regardless of the wind resource.

The maximum land which wind plant can occupy is set at 8% of the area of a municipality on the mainland and Evia island, and 4% on islands not connected to the main grid. The lower limit for islands reflects the greater need for environmental protection and the importance of tourism in island economies. In addition, no more than 30% of an island's electricity needs can be met from renewable sources to ensure the stability of the local grid. Also on islands, turbines cannot be built within 1.5 kilometres of a "traditional settlement" or archaeological site or within one kilometre of "small settlements" and tourist locations. On the other hand, they must be within 20 kilometres of an existing road.

According to Maragoudakis, one of the main problems with the proposals is that capping development at a municipal level is too restrictive. "The wind does not recognise administrative boundaries," he says, arguing that the 8% limit should be applied to a larger area, such as a region, which would allow developers to build where the wind is.

Another concern is that the proposals are not always consistent with existing laws and local planning decisions drawn up before wind power arrived. It should be clearly stated that the national plan takes precedence, Maragoudakis notes.

Athanasios Tsantilas of Rokas, Greece's dominant wind plant owner and operator, also worries that the proposed measures will introduce a new set of obstacles which could stifle investment. Some clauses are not clearly defined, such as what constitutes a traditional settlement or a tourist sight, while others will be very difficult to monitor, he argues. As the plan stands, "It is not designed to further wind development in Greece," he says.

All is not lost, however. The industry is now awaiting the final decree, which should be published in the next few months. And everyone agrees that simply having a national land use plan will be a step in the right direction. "It may not help wind energy take off in Greece, but it is good to have something on the table to fight about," says Ioannis Tsipouridis, president of the Hellenic Wind Energy Association.

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