Bitter disappointment over draft regulation -- Progress and frustration in Greece

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Greek wind power continues to make steady progress with 100.70 MW added in 2005, bringing the national total capacity to 573.29 MW. Much of the growth came from French renewables producer EDF Energies Nouvelles, which brought 45.35 MW on line last year through its majority-owned Greek subsidiary.

Local developer-operator Terna Energy contributed 26 MW, while the country's leading developer and owner, Rokas, built only 3.6 MW. Nevertheless, Rokas made news in December when Spain's Iberdrola increased its stake in the company to 49.9%. Vestas supplied over 80% of the megawatts installed in 2005, giving the turbine manufacturer an overall market share of 42%.

Fully permitted projects totalling some 550 MW are waiting to be built and a further 3100 MW have been granted production licences, the first stage in the approval process. Historically, less than 30% of wind plant with production licences make it to completion, but generous purchase prices and capital subsidies combined with strong winds mean that investors are queuing up for a slice of the action. According to the Hellenic Wind Energy Association (HWEA), applications for production licences exceed 15,000 MW -- the country's total installed energy production is 14,000 MW.

The biggest obstacle to faster growth remains lack of transmission capacity in the windiest areas, but an extensive program of grid expansion is under way (Windpower Monthly, February 2006). Slow licensing procedures are also a barrier.

Wind industry members had been optimistic about the potential for a new renewable energy law, due this spring, to simplify the permitting process. But a recent consultative document failed to live up to expectations. One major disappointment is that licensing will remain with the regional authorities. "Centralisation is essential to speed up and coordinate the permitting process," argues Panagiotis Chaviaropoulos of the Centre for Renewable Energy Sources.


The industry is also unhappy that the draft law no longer states the country's EU renewables target: 20.1% of energy from renewables by 2010, of which wind power would provide an estimated 2500-3500 MW. "If the target is not backed up by law, the government will have removed an important political tool," laments HWEA president Ioannis Tsipouridis. "The draft law solves some practical problems," says Chaviaropoulos, "but is disappointing because we were expecting so much."

To complicate things further, the deputy minister of development, who was a strong supporter of renewables, was replaced in a cabinet shuffle mid-February; the development ministry overseas national energy policy. The question now is what effect, if any, this will have on the passage of the law and the subsequent development of renewables in Greece.

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