Greece applies generous net-metering

On Wednesday December 30, only a day after Greece’s government was forced to snap elections in the end of January, Greece’s deputy minister of environment, energy and climate change (YPEKA) Asimakis Papageorgiou signed the net-metering bill. Rumors suggesting Papageorgiou would sign the bill had been circulating for a number of days before the official announcement, however few paid the rumors much attention as the ministry had often spoken of net-metering, at least since July 2013.

Greek net-metering law

The Greek net-metering scheme is applicable only to solar PV systems and refers to all photovoltaic installations that aim for self-consumption, thus expands to both rooftop and ground-mounted systems.

The upper limit for net-metering PV installations in Greece’s mainland grid is set at 20 kW. However, in cases where the required load exceeds 20 kW, the new law allows for net-metering for installations that exceed the 20 kW limit and reach up to half the power consumption of the consumer. In this case, net-metering systems can reach up to 500 kW, YPEKA said.

Moreover, for either governmental or non-governmental not-for-profit organizations (e.g. universities and hospitals), the net-metering law allows for PV installations that cover an organization’s electricity needs fully. In this case too, a net-metering PV installation cannot exceed 500 kW of capacity.

Regarding Greece’s autonomous electricity grids (e.g. islands that are not interconnected to Greece’s mainland grid) the upper limit for net-metering installations is set at 20 kW. An exemption to this rule is the island of Crete, where consumers can install systems up to 50 kW.

Energy compensation for net-metering owners will be taking place on an annual basis.

Some vital details

Greece’s PV lobby had been pushing for the net-metering law for at least the last two years. Areas for debate regarding the policy with the ministry included the upper limit of net-metering installations, the time period covering the net-metering compensation and a fee that all electricity consumers pay for subsidizing the country’s electricity production from renewables.

Rather surprisingly, the government appears to have bowed to all the PV industry demands. Thus, it set the upper limit at 20 kW (initial proposals were talking of a 10 kW upper limit). It furthermore allowed for the energy compensation to be made annually on the electricity bills (the ministry had initially talked of monthly energy compensation). And finally, it also allowed net-metering system owners to pay the special renewable energy subsidy fee only for the part of the electricity they source from the grid and not for the total of the electricity they consume.

Greek groups representing PV stakeholders appear pleased with the net metering regulations. Most came out publicly thanking the ministry and praising its policy. This can be seen as a somewhat rare happening in Greece, where many industry stakeholders refuse to co-operate meaningfully with the government and rather stick to repeating their demands monotonously.

On the contrary, the ministry didn’t agree to provide for net-metering installations in buildings other than the ones where the power will be consumed (this is often referred to as ‘virtual net-metering’).

Greek PV lobby victory or the need to create jobs?

So, what explains the Greek government’s about face? An obvious answer is the upcoming national elections on January 25. The Greek photovoltaic sector has vastly shrunk in 2014 installing only about 10 MW, where in 2013 the country had installed a record 1 GW of new PV. The sharp drop in new installations was mainly the result of a freeze on the receiving and processing of new applications for PV systems until the end of 2014. As a result, Greece’s solar PV sector has been well displeased, while also maintaining its objections to recent tariff cuts. After Greece’s snap elections were called in late December, the ministry hurried to sign a bill that can demonstrate to the photovoltaic sector that it takes seriously its future.

However, the sharp drop in new installations also led to the disappearing of thousands of jobs at a time when Greece needed them most. Greece is not an industrial powerhouse nor a great technological innovator, therefore of all the PV installations it mostly benefits from small ones or distributed generation.

It is thus possible that rather belatedly the government understood what kind of jobs are better associated with Greece’s service-based economy and brought a generous net-metering scheme that has the potential to restart this economic segment.

There is hope that the net-metering scheme has not come too late for PV in Greece. There are concerns that the public has lost faith in the technology, making it difficult for that trust be regained. Secondly, Greece’s political gridlock might this year lead to the so-called ‘Grexit.’ – or Greece’s the withdrawal from EU monetary union.

January’s elections are critical for the country remaining in the Eurozone. Should the country decide to return to its national currency, Greeks would find it difficult to buy the basics, let alone solar arrays.