Greece’s net metering installation figures disappoint

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Greece’s net metering policy was introduced in December 2014, with the country accepting applications a few months later. Last year, the scheme was expanded to allow virtual net metering for certain stakeholders, including farmers, and city and regional councils.

While it was conceived to boost the country’s renewables sector after the feed-in tariffs (FITs) were slashed in 2014, according to the latest official statistics published by Greece’s Electricity Distribution Network Operator (HEDNO), by the end of 2017, just 14 MW of solar PV had been installed. Of this, says HEDNO, 6.5 MW were installed in 2017, while the two years prior saw 5.7 MW and 1.8 MW added, respectively.

PV systems under virtual net metering, meanwhile, added 110 KW of capacity in 2017, which is also included in the official HEDNO data.

Commenting on the progress, Stelios Psomas, policy officer at Helapco, tells pv magazine that despite the generous net metering incentives, the scheme has not progressed as intended and is, consequently, a failure.

Net metering versus FITs

In comparison, the FIT scheme launched in 2010, saw 25 times more capacity installed, says Psomas, although since the 2014 cuts, rooftop solar installations under the FITs have ground to a halt.

Under the current FIT scheme, residential and commercial rooftop PV installations up to 10 KW receive a stable tariff for the amount of electricity they feed into the grid over a period of 25 years. This amounts to €0.09 per KWh for systems connected to the grid in August 2018, while systems connected to the grid in August 2019 will receive €0.085 per KWh.

The rationale behind the FIT cuts was to eliminate the escalating debt on the public fund for the remuneration of renewable energy systems. In the years before 2014, the Greek Government had offered unsustainably high FITs, which eventually created a high amount of debt.

Net metering was introduced to offer a fresh start and boost the Greek PV sector, but the installation data proves the effort did not deliver.

Points of friction

Stelios Psomas tells pv magazine that Greece’s economic crisis does not help net metering investments, adding that the country’s current electricity prices are amongst the lowest in the world, making the pay off of a small residential net metering PV system about 10 years. Should a residential consumer opt for the FIT, the pay off duration of the investment does not become shorter.

Therefore, Helapco proposes two urgent measures for boosting net metering: (i) the extension of the virtual net metering scheme to all net metering investors; and (ii) the elimination of fees for various social costs from the net metering electricity bills.

Presently, net metering investors pay such fees – termed ‘Services for Public Utility’ – even for the amount of electricity they produce for their own use.

The latter is a very big issue in Greece. ‘Services for Public Utility’ fees include subsidies for the electricity generation on the non-interconnected remote Greek isles, and funding for poorer households and households with many children.

Should Greece’s Government stop subsidizing the generation of electricity in the non-interconnected isles from expensive diesel machines, and instead turn to renewable energies and storage, it would lower such fees substantially for all consumers.

Another point of friction is that electricity consumers are punished in the fact they subsidize a very large pool of social costs. The government needs to find alternative solutions for poorer households, for instance, funding energy efficiency measures and the installation of PV, rather than disturbing the functioning of the electricity market.

In brief, the Greek electricity market has structural problems that keep the wholesale electricity price artificially low and jeopardize the retail prices. These problems do not help net metering.

Net metering needs better PR

A positive piece of news is that numerous Greek businesses have started engaging with net metering by installing commercial rooftop PV systems larger than 10 KW. For example, Greek industrial group, Exalco installed a 500 KW net metered PV array this summer at its premises in the city of Larisa, using Hanwha Q Cells modules. This is one of Greece’s largest net metering installations.

The aim behind these investments is to achieve stable and lower future electricity costs.

The domestic solar sector – including, associations and installers – need to reach the consumers, and promote both PV technology and the net metering scheme.

Overall, the move to change the electricity system from the bottom up needs to be discussed more in Greece, which generates the majority of its power from centralized coal power plants.