Greece’s net metering: success or failure?

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The Hellenic Association of Photovoltaic Companies (HELAPCO) has published a report concerning Greece’s net metering installations. The report is based on data published by the country’s Electricity Distribution Network Operator (HEDNO), which is the Greek institution responsible for processing the net metering applications.

According to HELAPCO’s report, HEDNO has received 574 applications for net metering systems since May 2015, when application for net-metered PV systems to connect to the low voltage grid commenced. These applications correspond to 11.3 MW of PV capacity to be connected to Greece’s mainland electricity network. An additional number of applications were submitted but later withdrawn, says HELAPCO.

Of the 11.3 MW of capacity, 17 systems (or about 3.16 MW of capacity) concern net metering systems to be connected directly to the medium voltage grid, for which the application process opened slightly later, in October 2015.

Overall, HELAPCO says, the vast majority of net metering applications concern commercial and household rooftops. Furthermore, 59% of applications regard PV systems up to 10 KW each, and 26% of applications are for systems between 10 KW to 20 KW each. Applications for PV systems larger than 20 KW are submitted exclusively from businesses.

Up to the beginning of August, 3.96 MW of capacity dispersed among 292 net metering systems were installed in Greece’s mainland. Another 170 systems (or 2.48 MW of capacity) have signed a grid connection agreement with HEDNO.

Greece’s islands

Applications for net metering PV systems to be installed in Greece’s non-interconnected islands networks began in April. Overall, 380 applications have been submitted, corresponding to 5.985 MW of capacity. The majority of applications concern large islands like Crete, Samos and Rhodes.

Up to the end of July, 15 net metering systems (or 139.4 KW of capacity) have been installed in Greece’s standalone islands grids.

Net metering installations on the Greek islands bear great significance due to their being predominantly powered by diesel at extraordinary costs. Development of renewable energies in the standalone electricity networks can reduce Greek consumers’ electricity bills.

Success or failure?

It is rather difficult to reach a definite conclusion regarding Greece’s net metering policy and market. There are some very positive signals, which include HEDNO’s relatively fast administrative response to net metering applications; the commencement of applications for the islands, and the recent policy decision to allow virtual net metering, albeit for specific installations only.

Stelios Psomas, policy advisor at the Hellenic Association of Photovoltaic Companies (HELAPCO) told pv magazine a few months ago that “a figure of around 10 to 15 MW of new PV installations [via net metering] in 2016 is considered realistic.” Until the end of July, only 4.1 MW of net-metered systems were installed.

Of course, Greece’s financial situation remains critical and the banks continue to apply restrictions on the flow of capital. The latter is a policy imposed by Greece’s government in July 2015 and was meant to last for a few months only. Even today, the Greek government is unable to provide a valid answer as to when capital controls will be lifted.

Apart from the urgent capital issues, broader energy market concerns are also important. Greece’s electricity market is changing rapidly and the government appears unable to control or grasp the shifting market landscape. Over the following months, the liberalization of Greece’s electricity market will bring new dynamics. Net metering solutions for large electricity consumers are then expected to make even more economic sense.

Earlier in September, Reload Greece, which brands itself as “the hub of youth entrepreneurship in London, aiming to ensure that young people will develop skills in entrepreneurship and social innovation”, ran the Reload Greece Bootcamp 2016 in Athens.

Christina Garidi, a partner of Reload Greece, told pv magazine that the event also hosted presentations that support sustainability in business and entrepreneurship including renewable energy (such as solar panels), trying to instill in the younger generations of Greeks the message of green enterprising.

However, of all the start-up companies the Athens business event examined, none regarded the energy sector. This is not by accident. Greece’s electricity market is very traditional and the move to the digitization era has only very slowly made its appearance, mainly through the net metering scheme. In the coming months, the liberalization of the market will alter the electricity dynamics fundamentally and, first of all, Greek businesses will seek alternative business models. Net metering will be the obvious solution for a great portion of them. The Reload Greece Bootcamp 2017 and 2018 will most possibly examine startups of Greeks aiming for the digitization market.