Greece adds just 41 MW of solar in 2018

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The Hellenic Association of Photovoltaic Companies (Helapco) has reported Greece added just 41 MW of new PV capacity last year.

The figure comprises all the projects tendered in 2016 via a pilot renewable energy tender, and 7.2 MW of net metering installations.

Tendered projects

The Greek government has announced an intent to add more than 1 GW of new PV capacity from 2018-20, under its renewable energy master plan.

However obstacles to project development such as lengthy waits for grid permits and the requirement for tenders to be oversubscribed, make that lofty aim appear impossible under the current regime.

Additional solar capacity was tendered last year in two procurement exercises. A first tender, in July, awarded 106.4 MW of new capacity contracts and the second – in December – a further 62 MW.

There would have been 86 MW more but Greece’s energy regulator, RAE, cancelled that amount of capacity in the December exercise due to what it argued were the efforts of some participants to manipulate the competitive character of the auction.

RAE has said that by the end of this month it will announce a date for a new PV tender to make up for the cancelled capacity.

Net metering installations

The 7.2 MW of new net metering systems installed last year marks a steady rise for the segment, which posted a figure of 6.5 MW the previous year, following rates of 5.7 MW in 2016 and 1.8 MW in 2015.

Challenges

The most significant challenge to tendered projects in Greece is the requirement for bidding projects to possess either a grid connection agreement or an offer from the nation’s distribution network operator to connect a project.

Grid connection licenses are rare and acquiring one is a lengthy process. With the requirement acting as a brake on the number of eligible bidders, tenders are even less likely to meet competitiveness requirements which stipulate such exercises must be oversubscribed by 75% of the total capacity for contracts to be awarded.

Financing remains another challenge for domestic developers. Greek banks are short of capital so credit comes at high interest rates, opening an opportunity for foreign investors, as was seen in July’s tender, when Germany’s ABO secured 45 MW of contracts by offering the lowest energy tariff.

By contrast to the tendering regime’s limitations, Greece’s net metering scheme is innovative. The main hurdles for small-scale solar are the nation’s wounded economy, low retail electricity prices, the chain of social costs incorporated in electricity bills and, above all, the country’s political environment. This year is election year and if the populist left Syriza party is ousted, the solar industry could be boosted by reducing cripplingly high rates of consumption tax on the purchase of PV equipment and business tax applied to installers.

Greece’s installed PV capacity is around 2,665 MW, most of which was installed under a previous FIT regime in 2012 and 2013.

This article has been modified on 15/01/19 to reflect a reduction in the consumption tax levied on the purchase of PV equipment and the corporate rate applied to installers, rather than an electricity consumption tax, would benefit Greece’s PV industry.