Greece adds only 8 MW in 2015; solar remains victim of politics

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According to data published last week by Greece’s electricity market operator LAGIE, Greece installed a desultory 8 MW of new PV capacity last year. Specifically, Greece installed 7 MW of new PV in January and February, which were all previously licensed, ground-mounted projects. An extra 1 MW of ground-mounted systems were connected the grid in November and are largely net-metered PV systems.

The figures confirm that while Greece’s previous Samaras-led government suspended the sector, the new government elected in January 2015 has killed it off.

In 2014, Greece installed a mere 13 MW of new PV systems following the installation of 1,047 MW and 890 MW of solar PV capacity in 2013 and 2012 respectively.

A series of retroactive and other policy measures suspended the solar activity in 2014 but hopes had emerged at the end of December 2014 when the Samaras government had legislated a rather generous net metering scheme. The scheme, which was introduced the Samaras government in the very last days before it dissolved, was expected to drive the PV installations in 2015.

Net metering applications

The country commenced accepting net metering applications for photovoltaic systems to connect to the low voltage grid in May 2015 and a second round of applications for PV systems to connect directly to the medium voltage grid started in October. The application procedure excludes the island of Crete, where net metering will commence slightly later due to network issues.

According to Greece’s Electricity Distribution Network Operator (HEDNO), the institution responsible for dealing with the net metering applications, HEDNO accepted 433 applications corresponding to a cumulative 8.16 MW of PV capacity by January 2016.

Of these, 359 concern residential, commercial and industrial rooftop systems. The rest of the applications regard ground-mounted systems. Furthermore, only 1.46 MW of applications concern systems to connect directly to the medium voltage grid.

Finally, HEDNO says it has offered a connection agreement to 390 applications (90% of total applications). Of these offers, 274 systems have signed connection contracts, and 126 net metering systems have already been connected to the grid. The speed of approval and processing indicates that the net metering licensing process is proceeding quickly and that HEDNO has not been caught up in red tape.

New installations in 2016

Stelios Psomas, policy advisor at the Hellenic Association of Photovoltaic Companies (HELAPCO) told pv magazine that “because the political situation remains fluid, a figure around 10 to 15 MW of new PV installations [via net metering] in 2016 is considered realistic.” However, Psomas added, perhaps a further 30 MW of PV installations can be added through a new auction-based policy scheme, which is anticipated to be introduced by the government this year.

Installations are a victim of the government’s economic policy though. Greece’s left-wing government elected in January 2015 followed a predominately incoherent negotiation strategy to deal with its European Union counterparts that led the country to a series of very serious policy and economic reactions. The most significant of them is that Greece closed its banks in the summer and reopened them only after imposing capital controls. Business activity is strictly limited by the control of capital, which still remains in place today and with little indication as to when it will be lifted.

The days of the current administration are also considered numbered with the government being transformed from a hero to zero in only one year. The political and economic chaos that befell Greece in 2015 and continues well in 2016 is the primary barrier to the solar sector’s revival.