As an EU member, Greece has come up against its deadline to start to comply with the EU directive to get 20-30% renewable energy on the grid by 2020, so under the direction of glamorous physicist Tina Birbili, the new and savvy Minister of Environment, Energy & Climate Change, the coal-dependent nation is now actively seeking renewable energy.
Indeed, Greece has now pledged to raise renewable electricity to 40% by 2020 (which is quite the proposition. To me in the US, it is as if one of the coal-dependent red states in the US were to pass a 40% renewables by 2020 plan!)
And, just like our US red states, it would not have happened in Greece, if it wasn’t for the carrot and stick of regulations. Beginning in 2013, the EU will fine Greece high penalties for emissions, raising energy prices for consumers. In 2013, the allocation of free pollution permits under the ETS ends. So, under Tirbili, the red tape blocking development of solar and wind projects has been removed.
There is no shortage of willing renewable energy companies hoping to tap the sunny and windy nation’s potential, despite its past history of clean energy regulatory obstruction. More than $5.65 billion worth of renewable applications are awaiting approval by Greece’s energy regulator.
To make it possible to add so much renewable power in so little time, a now suddenly alert Greek government under Tirbili has simplified permitting procedures, reduced waiting times from 12 to 2 months, relieved small investors from the need to acquire permits, and established a one-stop shop within the Ministry to facilitate investment.
As a result the next few years should see a huge jump in investment in Greek renewables. To speed deployment of renewable projects to meet Greece’s new RES, the state will take the initiative to carry out strategic design and permit procedure to enable big projects like off-shore wind farms.
“RES is essential, not only because Greece has a natural abundance of sun, sea and air which she needs to invest in” says Tirbili, “but also because, beginning in 2013, we will need to start paying great penalties for emissions, which will also heavily impact energy prices for consumers”. Other than hydropower, Greece is heavily dependent on lignite coal.
So Greece is now asking for tenders for 2,200 MW of solar, (it has only 184 MW today), 7,200 MW of wind (1,327 MW today), and starting from zero MW today in each of the following, Greece is asking for 250 MW of solar thermal, 120 MW of geothermal, and 300 MW of off-shore wind.
Originally developed in Israel, BrightSource solar thermal technology is among those permits applied for. Local Mediterranean developer and Desertec member Nur Energie will use the same technology successfully deployed in California since the 80’s, as invented by Israel’s Luz, and now resurging in the US under a new administration that has cleverly deployed The Recovery Act to build in some 16 Gigawatts of clean power, completely changing the US grid.
Nur Energie spokeswoman Marleen Franke says that this is the first European project to use the proprietary BrightSource technology invented by Luz and pioneered in the Negev desert. It uses thousands of small mirrors to reflect sunlight directly onto a boiler, producing steam. After the steam is piped to a turbine, it is redirected back into the system, using 95 percent less water than traditional wet-cooled solar thermal technologies. Construction of the 38 MW project is funded by a 25 year Power Purchase Agreement with a local utility.
“The market support scheme, such as the current feed-in-tariff for solar thermal energy in Greece, is 264.85 €/MW, which is guaranteed for 25 years and is not linked to public funding, but consumer electricity bills,” said Franke.
But there’s still plenty of red tape Nur Energie and BrightSource have to go through.
“Following the Generation License, the developer must obtain Grid Connection Terms and the Environmental Permit,” said Franke. “Both of these milestones are the two major prerequisites to the Installation License, which precedes the PPA. Then a Construction Permit can be issued, and finally after construction is complete, an Operation License is granted for the plant to be commissioned.”