Greece: Brave new renewable energy bill introduced by Greek government in parliament

The bill, which still remains to be scrutinised by the plenary in more detail with the proposition of amendments, is an important step towards a long-term vision for a sustainable energy policy and the surpassing of bureaucratic obstacles that deterred the development of RES in the past.

The aim set for RES in the Greek energy mix is indeed impressive, describing a ‘binding national goal’ of at least 40 per cent coverage of electricity, which translates to about 20 percent coverage of total energy needs, by 2020. This goal goes as far as to surpass the obligations of Greece under the EU Directive for RES (28/2009) (download PDF to right).

To achieve this brave target, the RES bill (download PDF in Greek to right) introduces novelties such as the simplification of the procedure to acquire permits for RES electricity production by limiting waiting times from 12 to 2 months; the exclusion of small investors from the need to acquire permits; and the establishment of a ‘one stop shop’ within the Ministry for the facilitation of investment. The state takes the initiative to carry out the strategic design and strenuous permit procedure needed for the development of big projects – mainly off-shore wind farms – in order to accelerate their realisation.

The RES bill is on the right track to lead Greece on a path of sustainable development and energy self-sufficiency. As the Minister of Environment, Energy & Climate Change, Tina Birbili declared during the Parliament’s plenary discussion on the bill that “RES is essential, not only because Greece has a natural abundance of sun, sea and air which we she needs to invest in but also because, beginning in 2013, we will need to start paying great penalties for emissions, which will also heavily impact energy prices for consumers”.

Yet, further action is needed to prepare Greece for the steep rise in the price of CO2 emissions expected in the coming decades. Two new lignite plants will have been built in Ptolemaida and Meliti by 2017. In addition, as a result of the replacement of old or over-polluting lignite units that breach EU standards, Greece will probably need to build further lignite units in the future in order to keep the lights on. 

The unfortunately heavy reliance on lignite may present Greece with a “carbon price time bomb” which the country at some point will need to come to terms with. The best way to be prepared is to build future lignite plants with crystal-clear conditions for capturing and storing CO2 emissions. The first crucial step would be to complement brave action in the field of RES with extensive CO2 storage research, financed by external EU funds, which would build the foundations for future CO2 capture and storage (CCS) application and the radical reduction of emissions from polluting lignite units.

Ilias Vazaios