Greece applies virtual net metering

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Greece’s environment and energy ministry announced this week that the minister has signed the virtual net metering provisions into the law. The policy for virtual net metering was brought last year when the legislature approved Greece’s new renewable energy law.

The new virtual net metering provisions allows farmers and specific legal entities that undertake work of public value (e.g. schools, universities, hospitals, city and regional councils etc) to install solar photovoltaic systems far from the point(s) of electricity consumption.

An example is the 10 KW PV system installed recently at the rooftop of a school in the Northern city of Thessaloniki. Power generated via this installation will be fed in the distribution grid. However, the amount of electricity injected into the grid will be claimed by a hostel for women and children who are victims of violence, managed by Thessaloniki’s city council and located far from the school. The 10 KW PV installation in Thessaloniki was funded by Greenpeace Greece.

Greenpeace Greece and other stakeholders have asked the government to extend the virtual net metering policy to every power consumer in Greece who wishes to install solar in locations far from the point of consumption (e.g. install PV on the rooftop of a summer house and gain electricity credit for an apartment in Athens).

Nevertheless, this week’s ministerial decision is not expected to affect the number of PV installations in the country soon. Greece’s city and regional councils have accumulated large sums of debt and struggle financially. Installing net metering PV would alleviate them from high electricity bills. However this way of thinking needs a long term strategy that most of the city councils do not have currently. Such a strategy does not appear to come from the top (e.g. the ministry) down either. Greece’s current government is asking local councils to employ more, often unnecessary, staff thus encouraging the regional administrations to spend their limited budget in short-term goals, not long-term investments.

Greece’s universities are also not in a good financial situation, while none of them moved to install rooftop PV at better times, when the state was providing lavish subsidies.

Greek farmers on the contrary have proved fast in adopting PV, however they did so when the country was providing irrationally high feed-in tariffs and in general, they tend to like direct subsidies.

Regular net metering, which Greece adopted in December 2014, is far more hopeful to add new PV installations, especially in 2018 onwards. The country’s electricity market is changing rapidly and electricity bills will most possibly increase further. Private investors with transparent investment plans will be far more efficient to adopt net metering PV. Last year, regular net metering systems added in Greece 4.2 MW of PV capacity.

Last but not least, the new policy provisions extend the amount of time the regular or virtual net metering installations can transfer the metered credit to the following electricity bills. This was a year and now becomes three years, providing a good reason for installing net metered PV. Overall, the net metering contract with an electricity supplier is valid for 25 years.

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