Just this week, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis inaugurated a 204 MW solar array – the country’s largest PV project. However, he also revealed the bad news that the country will not phase out coal until 2028.
The Renewable Energy Sources Operator and Guarantees of Origin (Dapeep) has published its statistics for 2021. However, its report did not cover net-metering systems, and it only counts solar arrays connected to the grid, but not those that are installed and waiting for a connection.
The Hellenic Association of Photovoltaic Companies (Helapco) told pv magazine that Greece installed 792 MW of new PV capacity last year. This capacity includes 384 MW of solar connected to the grid, 38 MW of net-metered systems also connected to the mainland or island grids, and 370 MW of new PV projects that were installed by the end of the year, but will only be electrified in 2022.
This problem is not new. It also happened in 2020 and pv magazine reported on it in detail. The problem concerns sub-500 kW solar projects that are operated with stable feed-in tariffs (FITs). These tariffs were lost if projects failed to connect to the grid on time. But many projects were ready to connect, and the local electricity network was often slow to process the rush of connection applications, resulting in some projects potentially losing the stable FITs.
The government therefore allowed such projects to retain the FITs as long as they were fully installed within the deadlines. Electrification can take place later.
In 2020, Greece had installed 913 MW of new PV. At present, sub-500 kW solar projects do not need to participate in Greece’s competitive tenders and can claim a stable tariff of €65.74 ($71.43)/MWh, as long as the projects are installed by the end of August 2022.
Dapeep said that by the end of 2021, Greece had connected 3.66 GW of ground-mounted solar farms and 375 MW of rooftop PV to the grid. The figures exclude net-metered arrays. Dapeep also said that Greece’s renewables fund had a surplus of about €250 million surplus in December 2021. It expects this surplus to reach about €2.45 billion in December 2022.
According to Helapco data, Greece’s cumulative net-metering capacity stands at 89 MW. Rather impressive is the fact that 98% of the net-metering installations last year were commercial systems.
The government introduced a number of policy changes a few months ago to support the net-metering sector. The success of these measures will only show up in this year’s installations, however.
Mitsotakis inaugurated the country's largest PV project this week in Kozani, a coal mining town. The 204 MW project was secured in country’s first joint competitive tender for solar and wind energy in April 2019.
Germany’s Juwi Group’s won a €0.05446/kWh premium tariff for the first 139.24 MW portion of the project. Two smaller project chunks (27.68 MW and 37.37 MW) were awarded a €0.06472 per kWh premium tariff.
The 204 MW project was later sold to Athens-based Hellenic Petroleum and is part of Greece’s goal to install 3 GW of solar power in the country’s lignite regions. Juwi said it is Europe's largest bifacial solar park and the largest utility-scale solar farm in southeastern Europe.
Delayed coal phase-out
However, Mitsotakis also bore bad news this week. He said that Greece will postpone its coal phase-out date to 2028, on top of plans to expand its lignite mining output by 50%. The prime minister claimed that the moves do not represent an energy policy shift and insisted that Greece remains committed to the green energy transition.
This latest embrace of lignite is a reaction to the war in Ukraine and efforts to reduce reliance on Russian gas. Mitsotakis has said that the decision is a temporary measure, with no impact on Greece’s climate emissions targets and net-zero goal.
pv magazine reported on Greece’s coal phase-out coal in December. The government said in September 2019 that the country would phase coal out of its electricity mix by 2028. However, a number of developments later brought this date down to 2025. This week, the lignite phase-out date was again pushed back to 2028.
A number of factors will affect Greece’s coal phase-out date. They include gas prices, carbon emissions prices, the speed at which Greece develops new renewables capacity, new electricity interconnections, and the European Union’s policy mandates.
Greece’s ministry of the environment and energy has said that a new bill is ready for faster licensing of renewable energy and policies for energy storage. The new bill will be Greece’s second serious overhaul of its energy policy since its first policy package in 2020. But the clock is ticking. There is not much time left.
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