Contrary to popular opinion, recently ratified environmental impact licensing rules remain strict for renewable energy investors despite upper-limit capacity increases for wind and solar energy installations, sector officials have pointed out in comments to energypress.
Last August, the energy ministry increased the upper-limit capacity for Category B wind energy installations from 5 MW to 10 MW and Category B solar energy installations from 2 MW to 10 MW.
Investors behind Category B projects do not need to provide environmental impact studies but must meet predetermined environmental terms and all related terms included in a ministerial decision implemented back in January, 2013.
“It is not true that investors merely submit statements declaring that their projects do not have environmental impact, as has been generally said,” a sector official explained. “Investors must observe specific environmental terms and submit studies and data required by the ministerial decision from 2013,” the official added.
Special Ecological Assessments must be conducted for projects planned for protected Natura areas. Also, bird fauna studies must be included in investment applications for Special Protection Zones.
Furthermore, the ministry has advised licensing authorities to be particularly careful when examining project applications slicing big RES projects into a series of smaller projects as a means of simplifying licensing procedures. Such practices need to be stopped, the ministry has stressed.
The main power utility PPC’s chief official has admitted the corporation has begun conducting new environmental impact studies concerning lignite units included in a bailout-required sale package, as well as unts not for sale, as their temporary licenses are based on results of older and outdated environmental studies featuring looser terms.
PPC’s boss Manolis Panagiotakis was responding to related MP questions in parliament yesterday, as well as preceding remarks by a WWF representative, Nikos Mantzaris, who pointed out the existence of a licensing problem.
Older environmental impact studies, needed for licenses, do not take into account latest emission limits adopted by EU law, the WWF official had noted before PPC’s Panagiotakis admitted the problem has prompted the need for new studies, now being carried out. Fast action is needed to meet the sale’s strict schedule.
PPC’s new environmental studies will be completed within the next few weeks, meaning new licenses will be issued based on the results of these studies, the power utility head informed. These studies will cover PPC units included and not included in the sale package. A draft bill for the sale, represnting 40 percent of PPC’s lignite capacity, is being discussed in parliament.
Questions concerning the validity of environmental permits recently issued by the energy ministry for the main power utility PPC’s lignite units, raised by the main opposition New Democracy party in parliament, could impact the power utility’s ability to proceed with a bailout-required sale of lignite units.
It appears that most of the power utility’s lignite units operated with temporary licenses for over a decade as final environmental approval of seven lignite-fired and two diesel-fueled power stations with an overall production capacity of 4,389 MW, along with three lignite mines, remained pending during this prolonged period.
The energy ministry eventually issued licenses fully endorsing the environmental standards of these units in September, 2017. However, almost a year earlier, in December, 2016, the Council of State, Greece’s supreme administrative court, essentially rendered the terms applied for these permits as void because of the extended time period – over ten years – that had elapsed since PPC originally submitted its license applications.
The court assumed that environmental standards have changed during this period, meaning that a new study concerning the environmental footprint of PPC’s lignite units would be needed.
The New Democracy party MPs, in their questions submitted to parliament, enquired how PPC’s sale package of lignite units can proceed given the murky status of their environmental permits.
WWF Hellas has filed a case to the Counicl of State challenging the energy ministry’s move to isssue full environmental permits for PPC’s lignite units last September. The case is scheduled to be heard on May 25.