NSRF possibilities considered for power line undergrounding

Energy ministry officials intend to examine National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF) funding possibilities for power line network undergrounding, triple the cost of overhead power lines, following the recent destructive fires around the country.

The country has specific EU Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) money, totaling 187 million euros, at its disposal for power line projects.

Given the average cost for power line network undergrounding, at 85,000 euros per kilometer, factoring in low and medium-voltage prices, the aforementioned RRF amount would be enough to develop about 2,200 kilometers, just a tiny fraction of distribution network operator DEDDIE/HEDNO’s total network. Undergrounding the country’s entire network would require an estimated 18.3 billion euros.

The high cost has limited the country’s power line undergrounding plans for the next five years to approximately 2,150 kilometers.

The operator has already undergrounded 10 percent of its 240,000-kilometer network, leaving a further 216,000 kilometers for potential undergrounding.

Overhead medium-voltage power line development costs approximately 30,000 euros per kilometer. Overhead low-voltage lines cost 25,000 euros per kilometer, compared to 70,000 euros for undergrounding.

Given the increased threat of forest fires brought about by hotter temperatures attributed to the climate change crisis, power line network undergrounding would provide protection to the network.

Fires, UN climate change report to raise NECP objectives

Not long after the European Green Deal and the European Commission’s decision to reduce greenhouse emissions by 55 percent, compared to 1990 levels, the National Energy and Climate Plan will, once again, need to be revised into an even more ambitious strategy following the extensive wildfires around Greece over the past week or so that have scorched over 90,000 hectares of land in Evia, the northern section of the wider Athens area, as well as the Peloponnese.

The climate change crisis and faster ascent to a global temperature limit set by scientists, as highlighted in a UN report released yesterday, increases the sense of urgency for an even more ambitious NECP, a challenge of paramount importance for the government, as it is  expected to made clear in coming days.

New NECP figures have yet to emerge, but a government committee has already delivered a gap analysis with new policies and measures that need to be tabled. A deeper analysis of the data, in association with external scientific associates, will soon follow before revised targets are set.

The RES sector, according to the country’s latest NECP, is expected to constitute at least 35 percent of energy consumption by 2030, but this goal will now surely be raised.


Network damages estimated at €25m, operator well stocked

Damages to electricity infrastructure caused by extensive fires in various parts of the country have, according to an initial estimate, reached between 20 and 25 million euros, but the cost could rise as fires are still burning in northern Evia, one of the hardest hit areas, sources at DEDDIE/HEDNO, the distribution network operator, have noted.

The estimate includes sub-stations, utility poles and power lines. The operator is stocked with all the equipment needed to replace damaged infrastructure, the sources added.

The operator has been stocking up over the past year and a half, covering any equipment shortages, according to the sources.

Even so, the cost of the fire-related damages is not negligible. It represents approximately 14 percent of last year’s total investments at DEDDIE/HEDNO, which reached 175 million euros.

Up until Saturday, 2,150 utility poles, 120 sub-stations and 109 kilometers of low and medium-voltage power lines in the wider Athens area, Evia and the Peloponnese were reported to have been damaged, but these figures are expected to increase.

Athens, Peloponnese power supply reinstated after fire damage

Power supply to Athens and Peloponnese areas affected late last night by a fire that broke out at a key grid facility west of Athens, in the Aspropyrgos area, was swiftly reinstated after power grid operator IPTO technicians along with distribution network operator DEDDIE/HEDNO crews took action to repair damages at the grid facility.

Earlier today, the ministry assured that the environment had not been impacted after a team of environmental authorities visited the fire-damaged facility in Aspropyrgos to measure the amount of pollution in the air.

Electricity supply to Athens areas was mostly reinstated within 40 minutes while power transmission to the Peloponnese was back within 55 minutes.

The cause of the fire at the Aspropyrgos power facility is still being investigated.

Central Athens, suburbs in the west and south, as well as areas on the capital’s western outskirts, all experienced blackouts late Sunday night. In the Peloponnese, Corinth, Nafplio, Tripoli, Sparta and Kalamata were all affected. Three islands close to Athens, Aegina, Poros and Agistri, also had their electricity supply cut.

DEDDIE/HEDNO crews are still working intensively to reinstate medium-voltage supply at isolated locations in the areas that were affected.



Restoration of power supply in fire-ravaged areas promised soon

Electricity supply to a significant proportion of properties damaged by last week’s deadly fires northeast of Athens in the Mati, Rafina and Neos Voutzas areas, is expected to be restored within the next few days, personnel at DEDDIE/HEDNO, the Hellenic Electricity Distribution Network Operator, have told energypress, without specifying how long it would take for the repair work to be completed.

The death toll has risen to 91 as fire fighters continue their search for missing persons and are set to soon also start investigating the causes of the fires.

An energy ministry official update issued yesterday noted that repair work to 6,200 of 7,600 damaged power lines has been completed. However, electricity supply has yet to be reactivated.

According to data released on Friday, approximately 1,000 properties have been destroyed and ruled uninhabitable, 794 have been classified as salvageable and 1,713 have passed safety checks.

Also, a total of 40 of 51 damaged and destroyed main power utility PPC sub-stations have been repaired, according to the data.

The re-electrification process of properties is expected to be conducted gradually over the next few days. Electricians will first need to deem that system installations are safe to use. Electricity safety certificates need to be issued before connections are reactivated.

The Greek State has taken on the cost of all electrical work required for affected properties, energy minister Giorgos Stathakis informed yesterday. The Greek State has set aside a total of one million euros for electrical repair work. Electricians are expected to begin re-connection work at properties over the next few days. Difficulties that may be encountered remain unknown.

DEDDIE/HEDNO is expected to release an announcement today detailing procedures and a list of authorized electricians commissioned for the re-connection effort.

Individuals have already alleged the fire in the Neos Voutzas area was ignited by a snapped PPC power line. Lack of maintenance of 250,000 kilometers of power lines is believed to be a common cause behind fires in Greece. It remains unclear to what extent the annual grid maintenance budget, worth tens of millions of euros, is actualized.



Numerous fires not coincidental, World Economic Forum notes

Major blazes affecting areas traditionally not on the fire-danger map are prompting questions for answers to this unprecedented phenomenon. A total of 11 wildfires are currently blazing in the Arctic circle, an article published by the World Economic Forum, citing a related story run by The Guardian, has pointed out.

Fires are raging in Russia, Norway and Finland, while Sweden, experiencing the most extensive Arctic fires, has been forced to evacuate four communities, according to The Guardian.

Two Italian water-bombing planes that answered Sweden’s call for help are scheduled to begin operating today. Sweden has requested even more planes and helicopters from the EU.

“This is definitely the worst year in recent times for forest fires. Whilst we get them every year, 2018 is shaping up to be excessive,” noted Mike Peacock, a university researcher and Uppsula resident.

This year’s fires in Sweden cover a much larger area than fires in past years. The blazes are a consequence of a heat wave that is bringing unusually hot, dry weather to much of Europe, prompting major fire outbreaks far beyond Europe’s Mediterranean firezone, EU officials are pointing out.

The European Forest Fire Information System has warned that fire conditions will persist in central and northern Europe over the next few weeks.

Scientists say the increase in northern fires is another sign of climate change.

“What we’re seeing with this global heatwave is that these areas of fire susceptibility are now broadening, with the moors in northwest England and now these Swedish fires a consequence of that,” professor of global change ecology at the Open University Vincent Gauci commented.

“Both these areas are typically mild and wet which allows forests and peatlands to develop quite large carbon stores,” he said. “When such carbon-dense ecosystems experience aridity and heat and there is a source of ignition – lightning or people – fires will happen.”

The European Arctic is not the only part of the far north seeing increased fire activity.

Two recent fires brought the total number of fires in Alaska’s Galena Zone have burned 44,000 acres to date.

This year’s fires come a year after Europe had its worst fire season in recorded history, though 2017’s most devastating fires were in the more typically fire-susceptible countries of Italy, Portugal and Spain, where they burned thousands of hectares of agricultural land and forests into November.

In Greece, devastating wildfires that broke out on Monday west and northeast of Athens and have so far led to over 70 deaths, have emerged as the latest fire disaster to hit Europe’s south.