EC announcing plan to end EU dependence on Russian gas, oil

The European Commission will today present a new energy plan for the EU-27 that will aim to end Europe’s dependence on Russian natural gas imports, amounting to roughly 155 billion cubic meters per year, as well as Russian oil.

Tools to be used for an end of this energy dependence will include LNG imports from the US and Qatar, further LNG terminal investments throughout Europe, accelerated development of RES projects, and emphasis on biogas and hydrogen.

A preliminary announcement of the EU’s new energy doctrine was made yesterday by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen following a meeting with Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi.

She also spoke of the need to protect consumers, especially lower-income groups, as well as enterprises, against skyrocketing energy prices as the continent braces for even higher electricity prices next month.

If natural gas prices remain at levels of over 300 euros per MW/h, wholesale electricity prices in Greece could soon exceed 700 euros per MWh. The wholesale electricity price in Greece today is at 462.90 euros per MWh, up 52 percent in a day.

The energy market turbulence is expected to persist until at least early next year.


RES producer certificate applications wave sustained

The increased wave of RES producer certificate applications submitted of late continued with February’s round, attracting 477 applications representing a total of 8.8 GW, energypress sources have informed. This latest round’s deadline expired on February 10.

Applications for solar energy projects were dominant, both numerically and in terms of capacity, totaling 226 applications and 6 GW, respectively.

A total of 167 applications representing 2.65 GW were submitted for wind energy projects.

The remainder of applications concerned a variety of other RES technologies such as small-scale hydropower plants, combined cooling, heat and power (CCHP) facilities, as well as biogas-biomass units.

The supervising body, RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, is soon expected to begin processing applications submitted for the preceding December round and complete this procedure by late March or early April.

Successful applicants of the December round will then be requested to pay required fees for their producer certificates.

A total of 864 applications representing a capacity of 45.55 GW were lodged by prospective investors for the December round.

New Peloponnese RES project applications deferred to 2021

Distribution network operator DEDDIE/HEDNO and power grid operator IPTO have written off any possibility of accepting new RES connection applications in 2020 for new solar and wind energy projects, as well as other technologies, but application procedures could recommence in 2021, energypress has been informed.

Authorities face the challenging task of managing an enormous level of RES investment interest, especially for solar energy projects, before procedures for new-project applications can restart.

In the Peloponnese, where RES development has been held back by system saturation for seven years, a new IPTO study is still needed on the capacity to become available once two transmission networks, the west and east corridors, are completed.

Once IPTO has delivered this study, RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, should lift its saturation-related ban on new RES projects in the Peloponnese and also set capacities available for each technology – wind, solar, small-scale hydropower, biomass-biogas.

However, IPTO’s delivery of the west and east corridors in the Peloponnese does not promise a complete solution as these lines, limited to 400-KV capacities, are well below capacities represented by the level of investment interest.

A fair and effective competitive procedure serving as a selection process will need to be established.

RES plan official processing prioritized in 5 categories

A ministerial decision prioritizing RES investment plan processing by authorities has just been signed by deputy energy minister Gerassimos Thomas.

The decision prioritizes processing of RES investment plans – applications and provision of connection terms – in five categories. Priority levels are determined by EU regulations and the contribution potential of investment plans to the National Energy and Climate Plan.

Green energy investments facilitating network utilization, such as self production, are promised top-priority categorization. This also applies for investments concerning energy efficiency, waste management and biogas.

Energy community investment applications will be given a one-month advantage in the waiting line. In other words, such applications will be examined as if submitted a month earlier.

Energy community plans involving local government organizations or over 60 members are promised an even bigger time advantage of four months.

Priority processing will also be offered to investment plans in northern Greece’s west Macedonia region, whose lignite-dependent local economy must be restructured as a result of the government’s decarbonization effort.

Reference prices for auction-free RES categories lowered

The energy ministry is set to sign a decision adjusting downwards reference prices for renewable energy stations not obliged to participate in competitive procedures.

This category includes small-scale hydropower stations, biomass, biogas and geothermal stations, wind energy facilities under 3 MW (6 MW for energy communities), as well as yet-to-be-launched wind energy facilities over 3 MW for which agreements were signed in 2016.

The new reference prices will apply for projects scheduled for launch and actual price settings following January 1, 2022.

Existing reference prices are based on legislation passed in 2016 and have not been adjusted since, except for wind energy facilities, which were subject to a price reduction following a related decision last year.

The forthcoming ministerial decision will seek to rationalize RES prices compensating the aforementioned RES categories, which, as a result of unique factors, are not required to participate in competitive procedures, as is the case for bigger wind energy projects as well as solar energy projects.

Energy community bids to lose priority, biogas plans supported

A ministerial decision revising RES application processing priorities for various categories is set to be finalized, possibly even today, a key feature being the cancellation of priority rights for new applications concerning energy communities.

The number of energy community applications has snowballed as a result of this prioritization, leaving unattended thousands of applications submitted by investors pursuing individual renewable energy projects.

Besides the termination of priority processing rights for energy communities – some cases will be exempted – the ministerial decision will also introduce a transitional formula for older energy community applications and offer priority status to certain technologies that have been neglected until now.

Investment plans are being prioritized according to their potential to contribute to the country’s updated and more ambitious National Energy and Climate Plan.

Green energy investments facilitating network utilization, such as self production, will be grouped into a priority-status category.

Biogas investments will also be supported under the new plan.

RES installation licenses end to shorten processing by 6 months

A plan to scrap RES project installation licenses, included in a development-focused multi-bill presented last night for public consultation, promises to reduce the overall processing time for renewable energy investments by six months.

This revision will positively impact thousands of mid-scale RES investments in the wind and solar energy domains as well as geothermal, biofuel, biogas and biomass projects, industry experts explained to energypress.

The move is seen as a first step by the government towards simplifying laws for the renewable energy sector, as it has promised, and shortening the time needed for project maturity from seven years, as is the case in Greece at present, to two years, the European benchmark.

The decision to end the need for installation licenses will accelerate procedures for various RES project categories, including wind energy projects below 60 MW with line connections up to 20km; solar energy projects with capacities of at least 2 MW; geothermal projects under 5 MW; biofuel stations under 10 MW; biogas stations under 3 MW; and biomass power stations under 10 MW.

Surge of RES investments expected in the Peloponnese

A decision by RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, to make available over 400 MW for wind, solar and other RES installations in the Peloponnese is expected to generate heightened RES investment activity for the region.

The power grid operator IPTO is expected to have completed a 400-KV transmission line linking Megalopoli, Patras and Acheloos by the end of the year.

This stretch, from Megalopoli to Acheloos, along with a submarine grid interconnection linking the mainland with the Peloponnese, from Rio to Antirrio, makes up the western corridor of a grid expansion towards the Peloponnese.

These links will enable the development of new wind, solar, small-scale hydropower, biomass and biomass units following a seven-year period of complete stagnancy.

According to sources, the RAE decision is expected to offer 100 MW for wind energy installations; 100 MW for solar projects, not including roof-mounted PV systems, which are not subject to limits; 100 MW for small-scale hydropower units; 80 MW for biomass, biogas and combined heat and power (CHP) units; and 30 MW for energy community projects.



RES measures needed now to avoid issues, association warns

A series of RES sector measures must urgently be legislated and not held back by any pre-election obstacles, otherwise the sector faces a serious risk of devastation, ESIAPE, the Greek Association of Renewable Energy Source Electricity Producers, has warned.

The revisions required include granting deadline extensions for grid connections concerning new RES stations that have submitted installation license applications, the association noted.

Also, connection agreements need to be signed for RES projects that have been completed but whose agreements have remained pending as a result of procedural delays at power grid operator IPTO, ESIAPE noted.

Legislative revisions are also needed to enable the induction of RES producers into the Day Ahead Schedule; permit biomass and biogas electricity production; and to extend work contracts of scientists employed at RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, set to expire on June 30, to ensure the authority’s ability to function properly, crucial for the RES sector, ESIAPE pointed out.

Energy communities draft bill submitted to parliament

An energy ministry draft bill for the establishment of energy communities, promising decentralized, locally generated energy solutions, was submitted to Greek Parliament for ratification last night.

The initiative is intended to encourage enterprises, agencies, local administrations as well as private users to rely on renewable energy sources as it will enable electricity consumers to also become producers. Their output could either be sold to the grid or offset with electricity drawn from the grid.

Energy communities are made possible by the ability of renewable energy sources to provide decentralized electricity production, as well as by tools such as net metering and virtual net metering.

Net metering enables electricity consumers who generate their own power from an eligible on-site facility and deliver it to local distribution facilities to offset the electric energy provided by the utility during an applicable billing period. Virtual net metering links scattered enterprises to just one electricity power meter to offset the cost of electricity supplied by the power utility with electricity produced by these various enterprises for the grid.

Small and medium-sized enterprises will be able to reduce their energy costs while private consumers will also be in a position to cut their energy costs.

The bill for energy communities also promises to enable municipalities and regional governments to establish localized energy policies for independent management of issues such as energy poverty or promotion of electric vehicle usage.

Energy communities will, according to the draft bill, be permitted to operate as both profit-seeking enterprises and non-profit organizations. In the case of the latter category, any resulting profits will not be distributed to energy community members but utilized to fund new projects approved by respective community councils.

Energy communities will be able to produce, sell or self-consume electricity and thermal energy produced by RES facilities such as wind and PV unitsm or biogas and biomass units.

The establishment of energy communities will require at least five members, three members if concerning local government agencies, and just two members if these agencies are located on islands. Collaborations between two local government agencies will require require an additional member.

Locality will also be factored in. At least 51 percent of an energy community’s members will need to be associated with the community’s base. A term limiting the control of each energy community member to 20 percent has also been included in the draft bill to avoid centralization issues. In the case of local government agencies, this upper limit has been set at 40 percent.

Energy communities, also known as energy cooperatives, are already established in countries such as Belgium, Germany, Spain and Denmark.

Ten turbines contributing to Coopenhagen’s Middelgrunden wind park belong to the 8,552-member Middelgrunden energy community.

Greece’s energy ministry has already received positive feedback on the local energy community prospects. Potential participants such as hoteliers have already expressed a strong interest to make the most of the set-up’s benefits. Highlighting the positive outlook, a regional government council in the Peloponnese recently – well ahead of last night’s tabling of the related draft bill – voted overwhelmingly in favor of the establishment of what could become Greece’s first energy community.


PPC Renewables planning 7 subsidiaries to cover RES field

PPC Renewables, a wholly owned subsidiary of main power utility PPC, plans to establish seven new specialized subsidiaries with the aim of developing various types of RES projects. Private investors will be given the opportunity to acquire stakes of as much as 51 percent in these ventures.

The seven new subsidiaries, or Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs), will each focus on specific categories such as projects abroad, wind farm installations, biomass and geothermal electricity production, the board at PPC has decided. The plan is expected to be approved at an upcoming PPC Renewables shareholders’ meeting.

Through these SPVs, PPC Renewables will seek to benefit from the greater capacity enjoyed by private-sector enterprises in financing, construction and exploitation of energy project opportunities.

Depending on the nature of each project, PPC Renewables will – when it deems necessary –  establish joint ventures with private-sector partners to be offered stakes of as much as 51 percent.

Business prospects being considered by PPC Renewables through the prospective subsidiaries include development of RES projects in Kosovo and and Turkey; wind farms with, for example, firms already holding licenses; construction of a major 100-MW wind farm – budgeted at 160 million euros – in the Rodopi area, northeastern Greece; as well as the development of biomass, biogas and geothermal faciilities.


Unreasonable demands affecting biogas investments

Biogas unit investments in Greece are being affected, even put on hold, as a result of  unreasonable demands set by regional authorities in certain parts of the country, yet again highlighting the crippling effect of bureaucratic procedures on local business practices.

Regional authorities in some parts of Greece are demanding that biogas investors install pasteurization facilities for animal by-products at their units. This demand could derail various biogas unit development plans as investment costs are sure to rise sharply, making the investments unsustainable.

Vioenergia Sohou, one local biogas investor being affected by the demands, has recruited the support of SPEV, a biogas producers and project support association, as well as Kiefer, which conducted a related study for the enterprise, and urged for logic to prevail in a request forwarded to regional authorities in central Macedonian, northern Greece. The biogas producer has also appealed to the energy ministry for legal framework amendments.

Installation of pasteurization facilities at biogas units is not required in any advanced EU member state, as is made clear in a related EU directive also distributed to Greece.

Interestingly, previous biogas units operating in other Greece regions, including Karditsa and Kozani, gained their operating licenses without needing to maintain pasteurization facilities.

Market officials specialized in the sector told energypress that demands being imposed on biogas investors for the installation of pasteurization facilities by some of the country’s regional authorities, including those of central Macedonia, represent a misinterpretation of the legal framework.


Biogas growth below full potential, Brussels study finds

A European Commission study has found that biogas use has not been fully developed in Europe despite offering potential as a sustainable energy source.

The study notes that certain EU member states are not doing enough in terms of policies to support biogas development. Regulatory and technical obstacles, including ones concerning transboundary trade, are also cited.

Commenting on Greece, the Brussels study notes that a total of 18 biogas units operated in the country in 2015 for a total installed capacity of 52 MW plus 30 MW of thermal capacity. The study notes Greek biogass production in 2015 reached 168 cubic meters.

RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, has issued 83 licenses for units with respective capacities of at least one MW. These licenses represent a total capacity of 441.4 MW, the study points out. HEDNO, the Hellenic Electricity Distribution Network Operator, has given priority to a further 127 licenses representing 132 MW, while 21 projects with a total capacity of 33 MW have signed connection agreements, the study notes.

The Brussels study also points out that biomethane production is non-existent in Greece.


Biomass-biogas development working group assembled

The energy ministry has assembled a working group to prepare the institutional framework for development of biomass and biogas electricity production, it announced today.

The objective will be to maximize social benefits and environmental protection through the domain’s development and also improve licensing procedures in order to swiften investments in the biomass and biogas domain, the ministry noted in a statement.

Development of the biomass and biogas electricity production sector will also contribute to job creation in provincial areas, the ministry noted.