Post-lignite transition plan for west Macedonia in three parts

Greece’s post-lignite transition plan for west Macedonia in the country’s north, concerning land owned by power utility PPC estimated to measure between 15,000 and 20,000 hectares, will be carried out through three concurrent cycles, authorities have announced.

The first of these three cycles will purely concern development of energy projects such as solar parks, waste-to-energy plants to be operated by power utility PPC, biomass facilities at Ptolemaida V following 2028, as well as hydrogen infrastructure.

This part of the overall effort will require a total expanse of between 4,000 and 5,000 hectares according to early estimates. Thousands of jobs are expected to be created during the next five years, it is believed.

“This obviously is not enough. The area needs a holistic development plan,” energy minister Costis Hatzidakis noted during a weekend visit to the lignite-dependent area.

The second cycle, expected to require 15 years, until 2035, to fully develop, entails land reinstatement of huge areas, including plantations.

“Workers who, until now, have been digging the land will now cover it for reinstatement, paving the way for its utilization in new ways,” energy minister Costis Hatzidakis noted.

The overall effort’s third section concerns National Transition Plan investments in the primary, secondary and tertiary sectors. This could include alternative farming, wine production, marble processing and agritourism. This third cycle is expected to require at least ten years to complete.

The land needed for the overall effort is owned by PPC, according to a series of decisions delivered by the Council of State, Greece’s supreme administrative court, meaning the project should not face  obstruction issues, as is often the case in Greece with major projects. However, the threat of resistance by local authorities cannot be ruled out.

Also, the absorption rate of EU development funds in this area, one of the EU’s poorest, will need to drastically improve from a level of just 20.35 percent, according to most recent data.