JTF plan includes 16 post-lignite projects budgeted at €2.5bn

The total cost of sixteen investment proposals concerning the decarbonization of Greece’s lignite-dependent areas included in the country’s Just Transition Fund plan, just released by the energy ministry for public consultation until October 31, is estimated between 2.3 and 2.5 billion euros.

The plan, offering project description and cost details, includes eleven proposals for west Macedonia, in northern Greece, and five proposals for Megalopoli, in the Peloponnese.

The proposals for west Macedonia include 2-GW solar farm projects by power utility PPC.

The power utility is currently developing a 230-MW solar farm budgeted at 133 million euros.

A Solaris Bus & Coach project for a RES-based hydrogen unit budgeted at one billion euros is also among the eleven proposals for west Macedonia, as is a 250-MW energy storage project by Eunice, to cost 280 million euros.

The five Megalopoli proposals included in Greece’s JTF plan include PPC solar farms with a capacity of 50 MW and budgeted at 250 million euros; a pharmaceutical production facility to cost 90 million euros and create 400 jobs; a smart-technology livestock and animal feed farm budgeted at 40 million euros; a theme park for entertainment and educational purposes to cost 40 million euros; as well as other public-sector investments worth 30 million euros.

 

 

 

Government’s post-lignite master plan set for one-month consultation

The government’s post-lignite master plan for the west Macedonia region in the country’s north, and Megalopoli in the Peloponnese, both lignite-dependent economies, is set to be forwarded for public consultation, possibly within the day, to enable observations and comments for a one-month period.

Power utility PPC plans to phase out its lignite-fired power stations and mines over the next three years as part of Greece’s decarbonization strategy.

The master plan’s draft will feature specific targets, studies conducted to reach conclusions, and the government plan prepared by a special decarbonization committee headed by government official Constantinos Mousouroulis.

The availability of funds necessary to support the development of this strategic plan will be pivotal.

Energy minister Costis Hatzidakis has announced that funds totaling over 5 billion euros will be made available for the post-lignite master plan through the EU’s National Strategic Reference Framework; national sources; the Just Transition Fund; European Investment Bank; and the European Fund for Strategic Investments, commonly referred to as the Juncker Plan.

Nearly 70 investment proposals have been submitted to the special decarbonization committee headed by Mousouroulis, while 16 major investment plans are now regarded as mature plans possessing the ability to create new jobs in west Macedonia and Megalopoli and reform the economies of these regions.

 

JTF aid for 6 islands closing polluting local power stations

The government plans to provide financial support to six Greek islands through the Just Transition Fund in order to tackle issues expected following planned withdrawals of local petrol-fueled power stations.

JTF support for these islands will be used to tackle sector unemployment, retrain personnel and also offer other support.

Further RES installations on islands, plus the completion of grid interconnection projects, will enable the closure of local petrol-fueled power stations in four parts of Crete – Heraklion, Lasithi, Hania, Rethymnos – plus Lesvos, Samos, Chios, Rhodes and Mykonos.

This step will help align Greece with clean-energy EU initiatives for European islands. The RES potential of Crete and the Aegean islands is extremely high.

Greece produces greenhouse gas emissions of 9.2 tons per capita, annually, compared to the EU average of 8.8 tons, according to an official JTF report.

This has been mainly attributed to Greece’s dependence on fossil fuels, still providing over 30 percent of overall electricity generation through production at the country’s two lignite mining centers of west Macedonia, in the country’s north, and Megalopoli, in the Peloponnese; and close to 10 percent through diesel-based generation on the islands.

The government has committed to closing high-polluting diesel-fueled power stations, the JTF report noted.

The production of every KWh on non-interconnected islands costs the Greek power utility PPC between 1.5 and 16 times more than the utility’s average generation cost nationwide, according to recent company data.

 

EU recovery fund compromise cuts into JTF for lignite end

A significant contraction of the Just Transition Fund that has resulted from a major compromise deal just reached between the EU’s north and south for a huge post-coronavirus recovery package has raised questions about the decarbonization effort’s financing and ability to progress smoothly.

A sum of 30 billion euros initially planned by the European Commission to be offered to lignite-dependent EU members states for their transition to cleaner energy will be cut to 10 billion euros.

A variety of post-coronavirus recovery sub-funds have been reduced in size, including the JTF, established to support Europe’s decarbonization process.

Prior to the compromise deal, a European Commission proposal had been made to increase the JTF amount for the EU’s lignite-dependent members to 40 billion euros from an initial sum of 7.5 billion euros.

Subsequently, Greece now stands to receive a few hundred million euros for its  decarbonization policy following an earlier estimate for a sum of 1.7 billion euros. The loss for Greece is worth approximately one billion euros.

The recovery package talks over the past few days saw a split between nations hardest hit by the virus and “frugal” members who were concerned about costs.

The deal centers on a 390 billion-euro program of grants to member states hardest hit by the pandemic. Italy and Spain are expected to be the main recipients.

It is the biggest joint borrowing ever agreed by the EU. Summit chairman Charles Michel described it as a “pivotal moment” for Europe.

 

Just Transition Fund excludes support for all gas projects

The EU’s Just Transition Fund, takings its cue from the European Investment Bank, has left natural gas projects of its funding list, noting it will not provide financial support for any investments concerning production, processing, distribution, storage or consumption of fossil fuels.

This exclusion creates issues for all the country’s natural gas projects, big or small, which authorities would have wanted to be supported by the Just Transition Fund.

They include a power utility PPC plan for a combined gas-fueled cooling, heat and power plant in Kardia, northern Greece, for coverage of the west Macedonia region’s telethermal needs, announced by the energy minister Costis Hatzidakis just days ago.

Other Greek project plans such as the Alexandroupoli FSRU and the development of an underground natural gas storage (UGS) facility at a virtually depleted offshore gas field south of Kavala have already been rejected by the EIB, unless hydrogen is incorporated into their plans to convert them into eco-friendly projects.

Natural gas, emitting approximately half the amount of CO2 produced by coal, also spills out methane, an undesired greenhouse gas.

Climate protection advocates insist new natural gas units could end up operating for decades, which would threaten the EU objective for zero emissions by 2050.

Lignite end’s socioeconomic hurdles stressed in EC report

Greece will face socioeconomic challenges as a result of the government’s decision to gradually shut down the country’s lignite units in the northern region of west Macedonia and Megolopoli, in the Peloponnese, for a climate-neutral economy by 2050, the European Commission has noted in a report delivered as an addition to its post-bailout report on the Greek economy.

Some 27,000 jobs could be lost in both areas, according to the report, delivered as an additional chapter intended to serve as basis for talks between Brussels and Athens on Greece’s transition towards a lignite-free era.

The two sides are already negotiating funding details from the Just Transition Fund, expected to financially support a new growth plan for west Macedonia and Megolopoli between 2021 and 2027.

Also, the Greek government has assembled an interministerial committee tasked with shaping a post-lignite plan for the west Macedonia and Megolopoli areas, both lignite-dependent local economies. The committee will deliver a plan by June, according to the energy ministry.

In its latest report, Brussels highlights the significance of lignite for the local economy and community of west Macedonia, whose population numbers 280,000, especially Kozani, representing more than half this figure with a population of 150,000.

“The [country’s] biggest mines and most lignite-fired power stations are located in this area. Lignite-based electricity generation is its most significant economic sector, representing over one-third of the area’s GDP,” the report notes.

An estimated 5,500 jobs at the lignite mines and power stations are directly threatened, while a further 20,000 jobs are indirectly threatened, the report’s authors added.

The west Macedonia region is already burdened by one of the highest unemployment rates (31% according to 2016 data) of all the EU’s lignite areas, the report notes. The region’s GDP per capita fell from 86 percent to 59 percent of the EU average between 2009 and 2017, it adds.

Over 100,000 residents are linked to telethermal systems for lignite power station-based domestic heating, the report also highlights. The replacement of lignite units in the area is one of the challenges that must be dealth with, it adds.

As for Megalopoli, the lignite sector is by far the most significant economic activity in this Peloponnesian region of 6,000 residents, the report notes. Some 1,600 jobs are at risk of being lost here, it adds, which takes the overall tally of jobs on the line, including in west Macedonia, to just over 27,000.

 

 

Gov’t Council being assembled for support to lignite-dependent areas

The country’s administration is assembling a government council to be tasked with preparing a Just Transition Plan for Greece’s lignite-dependent areas needing support to offset the effects of the government’s planned withdrawal of all coal generators by 2028, including all existing units by 2023.

A Council of Ministers Act enabling the establishment and operation of the government council, to be headed by energy minister Costis Hatzidakis, has just been approved.

The west Macedonia region in Greece’s north as well as the Megalopoli area in the Peloponnese, both lignite-dependent local economies, will need support while adjusting to the post-lignite era.

The government council to work on the Just Transition Plan will be comprised of top officials from a number of ministries, which, besides the environment and energy ministry, include the finance, interior, development and investments, as well as agricultural development and food ministries.

“Ending the economy’s dependence on polluting lignite fuel is a key energy policy priority,” noted energy minister Costis Hatzidakis. “However, the withdrawal of all lignite units by 2028 must be done in a coordinated and responsible manner. The government’s top priority is to make the transition to the post-lignite era a fair one for western Macedonia and Megalopoli with claims of all necessary funds from Brussels,” he added.

A comprehensive, multidimensional and forward-looking plan will be presented by the new government council in mid-2020, the minister said.

Besides national and private funding, Greece will also seek EU support funds, including from the Just Transition Fund.

 

 

Decarbonization body top post the focus of cabinet meeting

Talks on the appointment of a chief official who will coordinate an inter-ministerial body tasked with managing the government’s ambitious decarbonization plan, primarily concerning west Macedonia, Greece’s main lignite area, will figure at the top of the agenda of a cabinet meeting today.

It is unclear if this new body’s chief coordinator will be announced today or following the Christmas break.

One thing for certain, the official to be chosen for the inter-ministerial body’s chief coordinating role will be a high-profile figure, as has been the case with appointments of head officials for other ambitious projects, including a campaign to phase out single-use plastic bags.

Energy minister Costis Hatzidakis will head this new inter-ministerial body.

Details concerning the master plan for the decarbonization drive remain at a preliminary stage. Their shape will much depend on EU funds expected from a Just Transition Fund.

This fund’s current balance, believed to be under 10 billion euros, is nowhere near enough to cover the decarbonization needs of more than 40 EU regions looking to terminate lignite as an electricity generation source.

The new European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen has pledged far stronger support for this fund. Otherwise, the European Green Deal will remain an unfulfilled prospect.

Tough competition is expected between EU member states in their efforts to draw amounts from the Just Transition Fund. Besides Greece, Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic, Romania and other EU members will be vying for decarbonization support from this fund.

Not unintentionally, Greek Prime Minister Costis Mitsotakis pointed out Greece’s high lignite dependence at a recent EU summit meeting. Just days ago, Hatzidakis, the energy minister, noted Greece will need further support to decarbonize.