Greece: More details emerge for 10 GW Project Helios

Greece has been plagued with riots and an unsettled political position for some time now, due to its precarious economic situation. However, while the EU bailout details are still being hashed out, the country’s Minister of Environment, Energy and Climate Change has put forward his plans for Project Helios, during a conference concluding the stakeholder consultation on renewable energy strategy (RES) in Brussels.

In the presentation, "The ‘Helios Project’: a paradigm of strengthening Regional, European and International cooperation", Papaconstantinou criticized Europe’s energy systems for "adapting too slowly" and asked why, when oil and gas is imported, renewables are not exported.

"Now it’s time to bridge the existing legislative, infrastructure and policy gap and proceed forward," he said, adding that the project can be the "’paradigm’ of EU cooperation and serve as a point of reference for other initiatives of European and international interest."

Growth driver

In order to carry out management and administration tasks of the project, Helios S.A. has been established. Financial advisors have also been engaged, including the Greek and German governments and the European Commission.

The 10 GW project is being held up as a pinnacle of hope for Greece, with Papaconstantinou believing that it can become the "key driver" of the country’s green economic growth.

In addition to helping EU member states achieve their 2020 RES goals, said Papaconstantinou, the project will help to pave the way for exporting RES generated electricity. "The Helios Project presents a unique opportunity for the establishment of a mutually beneficial cooperation scheme as it can greatly facilitate the achievement of EU targets for 2020."

The Helios Project needs to address two major considerations, however: (i) "by which financial mechanism the ‘receiving’ Member State supports the Joint Project"; and (ii) "by which mechanism the host member state is compensated for providing investors with ‘turnkey’, fully licensed project SPVs in specific state-owned site locations, free of any administrative and bureaucratic barriers."

The need for trans-European energy infrastructure was also identified as being key. It has been estimated that the expansion of over 35,000 kilometers of high voltage line is necessary, at a cost of more than €25 billion. Papaconstantinou’s presentation outlined four different scenarios for the transfer of energy. They are summarized in the table below:

Route

Max. energy transfer potential

Interconnection type

Western Balkans

150 MW

Overhead

Eastern Balkans

800 MW

Overhead

Mainland Italy

500 MW

Sub-sea & overhead

Adriatic Sea

10 GW

Sub-sea & overhead

In terms of project implementation, Papaconstantinou is proposing to create an "all-inclusive" platform to "encourage and facilitate investments in the solar sector". He believes that 10 GW worth of photovoltaics systems will take up around 200 square kilometers. Already, he said, "significant research" has been undertaken with regards to the placement of the photovoltaic systems.

"The assessment conducted so far provides evidence that the land requirements can be met," he said. Overall, it has been worked out the 254 parcels of land will be needed for the project. "For the initial phases of the project, suitable public land parcels, with no pending legal impediments, which are readily available for the licensing process have already been identified."