Ministry to impose stricter RES project ownership inspection

The energy ministry is preparing to enforce a stricter ownership inspection procedure for RES projects, following many property overlapping cases, to be included in a second round of measures intended to further simplify RES project licensing.

The ministry intends to include this second round of RES licensing simplification measures, including the stricter project ownership checks, to a draft bill covering energy storage matters, expected to be submitted to Parliament towards the end of the year following its presentation to the cabinet and public consultation.

The second round of measures for RES licensing simplification is expected to  include interventions at many stages of the overall procedure for swifter processing and outcomes.


RES simplification, energy storage bills in September

The energy ministry plans to submit a draft bill to Parliament in September, following public consultation, for a second round of RES licensing simplifications concerning new projects.

During this time, the ministry intends to have also finalized and forwarded its legislative framework for the emerging energy storage sector, to play a crucial role in the country’s ambitious RES output targets.

The energy ministry plans to jointly submit the RES licensing simplification and energy storage bills to Parliament.

The new RES licensing simplification revisions will be based on a key proposal made by the energy ministry’s secretary-general Alexandra Sdoukou, heading the ministry’s RES licensing committee, entailing the termination of non-binding connection offers.

Instead, investors behind new RES projects will directly proceed to applications for finalized connection offers, once environmental permits have been issued.

Also, RES investors will be set time limits to submit installation permit applications for projects. Time will begin counting as soon as the investors have accepted finalized connection offers. If the time limit is not met, RES production certificates for corresponding projects will automatically expire.

According to the ministry plan, PV projects, land-installed wind turbines and hybrid stations will be given 12-month periods, while all other RES technologies and combined cooling, heat and power (CCHP) units will have 18 months.

Licensing authorities will also be set time limits, according to the plan. They will be given 20-day limits to request any additional information or clarification from investors. Also, authorities will have 20 days to issue RES licenses once applications are deemed complete.

Abolition of non-binding grid connection offers proposed

The abolition of non-binding (preliminary) grid connection offers is among a list of legislative proposals made by the energy ministry’s RES licensing committee, the objective being to further simplify the RES licensing process.

As part of the overall effort, RES production licenses have been replaced by RES producer certificates, obtained through a simpler online process.

The proposal to abolish non-binding (preliminary) grid connection offers means that RES investors will be able to apply to the distribution network operator DEDDIE/HEDNO (if projects are up to 8 MW) or the power grid operator IPTO for finalized grid connection offers once they have obtained producer certificates and environmental permits.

In another committee proposal, DEDDIE/HEDNO, during its examination of grid connection offers, will no longer be responsible for land title audits in cases where land to be used for RES project installations is privately owned. This task, according to the proposal, will be taken on by external lawyers.

Legislative proposals for further streamlining of RES licensing process

By Dimitris Assimakis

Partner, Reed Smith LLP

Overview of the main legislative proposals for the further streamlining of the process for the licensing of renewable energy projects that are under consideration by the Greek Ministry of Environment and Energy: 

  • Establishment of a single point of contact for RES investors and digitalisation of the whole licensing process up to the award of the Operation Licence.
  • Limitation of the requested documentation and data for the granting of the Grid Connection Offer, the conclusion of the Grid Connection Agreement and the award of the Installation Licence and the Operation Licence. Abolition of the non-binding (preliminary) Grid Connection Offer licensing step.
  • Submission of a bank guarantee upon the application for the granting of the Grid Connection Offer and not upon the acceptance of the offer, as it is the case now.
  • Limitation of the cases necessitating the modification of the Grid Connection Offer, the Grid Connection Agreement, the Installation Licence and the Operation Licence.
  • Introduction of a more flexible application framework for the granting of the Gird Connection Offer and a more flexible process for the energisation of the connection of new power plants to the grid.
  • Land titles audit from external lawyers in case the land wherein a project is going to be installed is owned by a private party.
  • Breaking up of the Grid Connection Agreement in two distinct parts i.e. the Main Part and the (project specific technical) Supplement; and partial disassociation of this agreement from the Installation Licence.
  • Introduction of exclusive deadlines for the filing of an application for the award of the Installation Licence as from the time of issuance of the Grid Connection Offer.
  • Possibility to extend the term of the Grid Connection Offer and the period within which the developer has to apply for the award of the Installation Licence against the payment of a relevant fee.
  • Periodic publication of data from the competent grid operators (TSO /DSO) on the status of the applications for the granting of Grid Connection Offers, as well as of the status of the Grid Connection Offers granted and the Grid Connection Agreements signed, together with adequate info relating to the local grid and the development of the grid connection works associated with any such offers and agreements.
  • Introduction of a special framework for the licensing of energy storage units.
  • Addressing various issues relating to forestry legislation and their interface with the RES licensing process (e.g. intervention permit, reforestation process, forestry road network).
  • Introduction of a simple notification scheme for the licensing of micro power generating facilities that are connected to the distribution network.

RES installation permit deadline for producer certificate validity

The energy ministry’s RES licensing committee has proposed an additional deadline, for installation permit applications, as part of a second wave of interventions in the licensing simplification effort for new RES projects.

According to the proposal, if investors miss their installation permit application deadline, then producer certificates obtained for related projects would automatically expire.

Investors would be given a twelve-month period to submit their installation permit applications once connection offers have been accepted for solar energy projects, onshore wind farms and hybrid units, and 18 months for all other RES technologies and combined cooling, heart and power (CCHP) facilities, according to the committee’s proposal.

Prioritization for RES projects with producer certificates proposed

The energy ministry’s RES licensing committee has recommended a four-month prioritization period by power grid operator IPTO in its processing of connection term applications submitted by investors already holding producer certificates. This prioritization would be implemented at the expense of small-scale RES unit applications, which have swamped licensing system and caused problems.

The proposal, presented at a committee meeting yesterday, would effectively push forward, by four months, connection term applications submitted for projects already issued producer certificates.

The main topic of yesterday’s committee meeting concerned a presentation of this body’s proposal for RES licensing simplification procedures, during the latter stages, such as when finalized connection terms are offered and operating licenses are issued.


Extra RES measures to simplify installation, operating permits

The energy ministry is preparing to include simplification measures it appears to have settled on for the second stage of RES licensing procedures, concerning installation and operating permits, into the one draft bill to also incorporate EU energy efficiency directives being adopted.

The draft bill is expected to be forwarded for public consultation within the next few weeks, prior to Greek Orthodox Easter, in early May.

Public consultation on the energy efficiency EU directives being adopted has already been completed.

The imminent draft bill is not expected to bring about any fundamental changes to the second stage of the RES licensing procedure, as had been the case with a major first-stage change abolishing production licenses, sources have informed.

Instead, a series of revisions will be introduced to remove various obstacles encountered by investors in the maturity process of their projects, the objective being to significantly reduce the time needed for project maturity.

The second-stage RES licensing simplification plan promises to lessen both the number of steps and supporting documents needed for RES installation and operating permits.

The energy ministry also intends to revisit the first stage to implement further improvements, needed to counter the flood of producer certificate applications being submitted to RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy.

The government has declared its objective is to reduce the overall RES licensing procedure in Greece to two years, the EU average.

New minister, just appointed, has issues to resolve in 2021

Kostas Skrekas, just appointed new energy minister as part of the government’s cabinet reshuffle, in place of Costis Hatzidakis, who has headed the ministry for a constructive year and a half, faces a series of pending energy-sector matters that remained unresolved in 2020. They need to be addressed as soon as possible. Developments and conditions this year will be pivotal for these matters.

Skrekas was previously deputy minister for agricultural development and food.

Also in 2021, a year during which takeovers and mergers are seen occurring in the retail electricity and gas markets, rivals will continue battling for market share gains. The target model’s launch two months ago has brought about new conditions, strengthening the positions of vertically integrated suppliers.

The need for a normalization of the target model’s new markets stands as the energy ministry’s most pressing task at present. A sharp rise in wholesale electricity prices as a result of soaring balancing market costs has deeply unsettled the market, impacting the standings of non-vertically integrated suppliers, as well as industrial enterprises and consumers, who face rising bills.

Market coupling with Bulgaria’s day-ahead market, scheduled to take place within the first three months of the new year, is the next step of the target model, a procedure designed to harmonize EU energy markets and promote competition.

New energy-intensive industrial tariffs also need to be set soon. Though essentially a matter concerning state-controlled power utility PPC and Greece’s industrial players, the cost of industrial energy is crucial for Greek industry, carrying particular political and economic weight.

Also, Greece has little time left in its negotiations with Brussels for a framework to offer third parties access to PPC’s lignite-based generation. This issue is no longer as crucial as it once was because the country’s lignite output has been drastically reduced. Even so, it remains important for independent suppliers.

A number of energy-sector privatizations could be completed this year. Gas utility DEPA’s two new entities, DEPA Infrastructure and DEPA Commercial, electricity distribution network operator DEDDIE/HEDNO, and a tender for a tender for the development of an underground natural gas storage facility (UGS) in the almost depleted natural gas field of “South Kavala” in northern Greece are all on this year’s privatization list.

In renewable energy, the ministry needs to take decisions within the first few months to clarify terms regulating the sector. RES investment interest is currently high. Steps still need to be taken in an ongoing effort to simplify RES licensing procedures, while a legal framework must be established for energy storage, offshore wind farms and hydrogen use.


Producer certificate rule soon, financing OK for RES license one-stop shop

A new regulation facilitating the issuance of electricity producer certificates for RES and CCHP (Combined Cool Heat and Power) projects, in place of production licenses, as part of a wider RES licensing simplification effort, will be implemented within the next few days, the energy ministry’s secretary-general Alexandra Sdoukou noted during a presentation of a new online platform developed by RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, for the producer certificate procedure.

The new regulation will come into effect on time to enable a new round of RES license applications staged by RAE to proceed as planned between December 1 and 10, the ministry official reiterated.

In addition, various RES sector criteria, including ones concerning project spatial coverage matters, have been fine-tuned, the intention being to promote, not reject, project plans, Sdoukou noted.

Rule revisions have also been made to further protect RES project ownership, she added.

The new RAE platform, the result of a sustained effort, promises to serve as an investor-friendly tool, Sdoukou said.

The energy ministry official also informed that green-fund financing has been approved for an integrated information system to be co-developed by the ministry as a one-stop shop covering all RES project licensing procedures.

New round for RES producer certificates to open December 1

The energy ministry is expected to introduce, within the next few days, a new regulation enabling the issuance of electricity producer certificates for RES and CCHP (Combined Cool Heat and Power) projects, in accordance with recent legislation that has eliminated production licenses as part of an effort to simplify the RES licensing procedure.

The new rule will come into effect on time to enable a new round of RES license applications staged by RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, to proceed as planned between December 1 and 10, energy ministry officials have informed.

The upcoming round for new RES license applications, via an online platform developed by RAE, will be the first in over a year following a freeze imposed by the authority so that it can process a backlog of older applications.

RAE has now worked through the older applications and issued production certificates to eligible applicants.

Processing of the new applications will be based on the new rules, designed to improve and simplify licensing procedures and help the country attain its renewable energy objectives.

RAE will present its new online application system today through a virtual event. The system, described as user-friendly, is expected to boost transparency and drastically reduce previous bureaucracy.

PPC Renewables, Germany’s RWE aim for business deal by end of year

PPC Renewables, a power utility PPC subsidiary, and RWE, Germany’s biggest power producer, have set an objective to develop a Memorandum of Understanding signed by the two sides last March into a realistic business agreement by the end of this year.

A team of RWE officials, completing a three-day working visit to Greece today, visited northern Greece’s west Macedonia region, a lignite-dependent area, for on-site inspections of areas offering investment interest to the German company.

Besides new projects, RWE is also keen to take on projects already being developed by other companies.

Details seen fostering the development of the MoU into a business plan, including project financing prospects and the establishment of working groups, were addressed by the two sides.

The visiting German team also held a meeting, yesterday, with the leadership of the development and investment ministry and the energy ministry’s secretary-general Alexandra Sdoukou.

The length of time required in Greece for RES licenses was discussed, as were financial incentives promised through the fair transition fund, an EU plan to support green economy transitions.

New rule soon for RES producer certificates, swifter licensing promised

A new rule concerning the introduction of RES producer certificates, to replace electricity production permits – a measure taken to help quicken licensing procedures – is expected to be announced within the next few days.

The replacement of RES electricity production permits with RES producer certificates, to be issued by RAE, represents the first step of a new RES licensing simplification framework presented by the energy ministry last April.

This plan will aim to drastically reduce the duration of RES licensing procedures to two years from the current average of seven years.

Procedures leading to new licensing rules have been slightly delayed by administration changes at RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy. The authority was originally scheduled to deliver its plan on August 7 for immediate approval by the energy ministry.

This deadline date was set to offer RAE sufficient time to inform RES investors of the supporting documents required as a result of the new rules ahead of a planned early-October launch for application submissions.

RAE will issue RES producer certificates once applicants have presented proof of payment for related fees.

These fees have been set as follows: 3,000 euros per MW for capacities up to 1 MW; 2,500 euros for capacities between 1 MW and 10 MW; 2,000 euros per MW for 10 MW to 50 MW; 1,500 euros per MW for 50 MW to 100 MW; and 1,000 euros per MW for over 100 MW.

Authority issues new wave of RES licenses for 27 projects, 491 MW

RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, has just issued 27 RES producer certificates for as many projects, taking the tally of this new certificate, part of the government’s RES licensing simplification process, to 33.

The authority issued a first wave of new producer certificates towards the end of last month.

The 27 new producer certificates, issued by RAE yesterday, concern eight wind energy parks offering a total capacity of 171.15 MW, 17 solar energy projects with a total capacity of 318.48 MW, and two small-scale hydropower projects offering 2.1 MW, their overall capacity being 491.73 MW.

Four photovoltaic facilities planned by Consortium Solar Power in central Greece’s Fthiotida and Larissa areas, totaling 284 MW, are standout projects in terms of scale.

Enel Green Power was also well presented in this licensing round with a total of six projects, all solar, three of these in Xanthi, northeastern Greece, totaling 7.07 MW, and one each in Rodopi (2.72 MW), Kozani (3.6 MW) and Ioannina (1.99 MW).

As for the two small-scale hydropower projects just issued licenses, one, offering a capacity of 1.54 MW, belongs to the Koryfi K2 Energiaki company, the other, 0.6 MW, to Hydroilektriki.

RES project completion, without connection, to suffice for tariffs

The energy ministry is working to revise a rule that determines when development of RES projects is considered complete, which enables them to secure their tariff prices for output, either through competitive procedures or not.

Under the current rules, RES projects are considered ready once they have been connected to networks, not when their development has been completed.

This has proven to be a major problem for investors behind wind and solar energy projects completed on time but unable to secure tariff prices as a result of the inability of power grid IPTO or distribution network operator DEDDIE/HEDNO to offer connections when needed.

The matter is being worked on, the energy ministry’s secretary-general Alexandra Sdoukou noted during a virtual conference staged by the Hellenic-French Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Final decisions have not been reached but the plan is to have authorities inspect and certify the completion of RES projects regardless of whether they have been connected, in order to secure tariff levels available at the time, sources informed.

The energy ministry is also striving to further simplify RES licensing procedures by merging or even eliminating certain steps or permits currently required, according to Sdoukou.



RAE close to launching first stage of RES online registry

RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, is nearing the launch of the first stage of an online system appraising RES production license applications lodged up to June, 2018.

This step represents the first of three stages towards the establishment of a fully developed online platform for license application appraisals.

Applications grouped into the first category (dated up to June, 2018) will be appraised on the basis of an older regulation awarding production licenses, not producer certificates as foreseen by a new law ratified to help simplify RES licensing procedures.

This dividing line has been drawn to keep conditions fair for all as applicants as appraisals of license applications lodged up to June, 2018 had already commenced prior to the new law’s introduction.

The online tool’s imminent first step will offer a basic version of a system that will be upgraded into a more sophisticated tool for appraisals of a second group of applications submitted between September, 2018 and December, 2019.

Applications grouped into this second category will be appraised in accordance with  new and simpler rules offering producer certificates via an instant – if all requirements are met – online process.

Overall, the task of examining all older RES license applications (first and second category) is challenging as 1,750 applications with a total capacity of 29 GW will need to be appraised by September, when a new round of applications is set to commence under the new system.

A third stage of the online tool will be developed at a latter date for a fully developed online RES registry offering automatic processing of newer applications and issuance of producer certificates.


First stage of RES licensing simplification done, rest on way

A day after Greek Parliament’s ratification of a bill radically simplifying the first stage of the RES licensing procedure by granting project developers production licenses online and instantly if all requirements are met, authorities have begun work to simplify the rest of the licensing procedure, all the way to the issuance of RES unit operating licenses, energypress sources have informed.

The energy ministry’s secretary-general Alexandra Sdoukou, heading a special committee tasked with this project, has asked agencies representing various green energy technologies to forward updated proposals by Monday.

Then, days later, on Friday week, the committee, comprised of energy ministry officials, licensing authorities and market representatives, will stage a teleconference to discuss a number of issues, simplification of all other RES licensing procedures – beyond the first step now ratified – being at the top of the agenda.

Energy ministry officials are expected to table a groundbreaking proposal that would abolish installation licenses but maintain operating licenses. This proposal will be examined by the committee and implemented if deemed feasible.

The committee will shoot for the delivery of an initial plan before summer. Once ready, it will be forwarded for consultation. Any revisions during this process will make up the content of a draft bill finalizing the RES licensing simplifications.

Greece is striving to align with an EU directive requiring a RES licensing procedure time limit of two years for most projects and three years for special projects by June next year, deputy energy minister Gerassimos Thomas told parliament.

RES revisions supporting installations head to parliament

Large and small-scale solar and wind energy projects stand to benefit from a series of revisions included in a draft bill on RES and environmental matters set to be discussed by parliamentary committees ahead of ratification.

Besides introducing a simpler RES licensing procedure that replaces production licenses with producer certificates obtained instantly online as long as all criteria are met, the environmental draft bill also includes a series of other favorable measures.

Projects not required to participate in RES auctions, such as solar energy projects of up to 500 KW, will be given four-month extensions – from the most recent RES auction – for tariff prices determined through a previous formula offering, as the tariff price, the average level of three preceding auctions. Therefore, if the next RES auction were to be staged in July, for example, current tariffs for projects not required to participate in RES auctions would remain valid until November.

The draft bill also features a revision broadening a “special projects” category to include wind energy projects of over 150 MW as well as RES projects with underwater cable interconnections. Projects in this category will have six years for completion.

Also, a withholding tax concerning licenses issued in 2017, 2018 and 2019 will be reduced to one third of the current level, this being 1,000 euros per megawatt, annually.

The revisions also offer landowners protection from investors seeking to utilize property for RES projects without providing property titles or land lease agreements to authorities. This matter has caused confusion.


Wind energy investors concerned about RES licensing revision aspects

An energy ministry draft bill for the simplification of RES licensing procedures, now undergoing public consultation, has been generally well received, but wind energy project investors have pointed out some concerns.

These include a deadline automatically terminating licenses. Once investors have obtained producer certificates – through a swift online process planned to replace production licenses – they will have three years to obtain and accept finalized connection offers. This three-year deadline period begins ticking as of June 1, 2020 for existing licenses.

A retention fee will be limited to 50 percent of levels concerning 2017, 2018 and 2019. According to the draft bill, this term also applies for special projects such as interconnected wind energy facilities and hybrid projects combining RES output and storage, as well as projects for which letters of guarantee concerning connection terms have already been issued.

In addition, wind energy capacity measurements will not be needed unless projects are categorized as special-case projects, according to the new licensing regulations. This term, it is feared by critics, could prompt investors to occupy grid capacities without sufficient preparations.

Ministry planning support for low-growth RES sub-sectors

The energy ministry is looking to improve RES investment conditions for sub-sectors such as offshore wind energy parks and hybrid power stations, domains with little or no growth to show despite solid interest expressed by local and foreign investors.

Like other RES technologies, these sub-sectors are also expected to benefit from measures included in a ministry draft bill currently being prepared that promises to simplify licensing procedures.

RES production licenses for older categories will be replaced by certificates to be obtained via a swift online process.

The draft bill is scheduled to be discussed at a cabinet meeting tomorrow.

Production licenses will be required for a series of new RES categories, which, besides offshore wind energy parks and hybrid stations, also include biomass, geothermal, hydropower stations with a capacity of at least 15 MW.


Combined RES auction to be dominated by solar energy projects

Solar energy projects are expected to dominate a combined RES auction planned for April 2 by RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, reflecting heightened investment interest in the PV sector of late. The April session’s application deadline expires tomorrow.

The level of investor interest for solar projects had overshadowed that of wind projects at a recent inaugural combined auction.

The total capacity for solar energy project applications is expected to be big, especially if PPC Renewables submits an application for a 200-MW solar energy park plan in Kozani, northern Greece, as the firm had also done in the previous combined RES auction.

PPC Renewables is expected to submit an application for another of its project plans, a 50-MW solar energy plant in Megalopoli, Peloponnese.

RES project investors will be offered a total of 600 MW at April’s combined RES auction following a 100-MW capacity increase granted by the energy ministry.

However, this 600-MW will only be offered in full if application capacities exceed the tally by 40 percent for a total of 840 MW.

The April auction’s starting price has been set at 61.32 euros per MWh.

A number of combined RES auctions have been staged in various parts of Europe over the past couple of years, the objective being to cover energy needs at the lowest possible price.

The cost of PV equipment has fallen sharply and is continuing to fall, enabling PV auction participants to bid more competitively.

However, license procedure bureaucracy remains a problem, especially for wind projects, slowing down maturity. Greek market investors are waiting for the government to deliver on a promise to simplify RES licensing procedures.




Foreign funds to invest €2bn in RES sector over next 5 years

An accumulating number of major foreign funds with portfolios worth billions are preparing to enter Greece’s renewable energy market with investments expected to reach more than two billion euros over the next five years, deputy energy minister Gerassimos Thomas has told local media.

US funds Blackstone and Quantum, the UK’s Cubico, Denmark’s CIP and the UAE’s Masdar each plan to invest between 250 and 500 million euros in Greece’s RES market over the next five years, according to the deputy minister.

If these investment plans are actualized along with others, including a major-scale solar park project planned by power utility PPC for northern Greece’s west Macedonia region, then the government’s green energy investment target of between 8 and 9 billion euros by 2030 could be achieved well ahead of schedule.

The latest developments highlight how much of an attraction Greece’s renewable energy sector has become for both domestic and foreign investors. The completion of work being conducted by local authorities to simplify the country’s RES licensing procedures should provide further impetus.




Officials face time pressure for launch of RES licensing system

The energy ministry is pushing to launch a faster and simpler RES licensing procedure for renewable energy producers by June, when a new three-month licensing cycle begins, but it remains unclear if a digital registry needed for the new system will be ready on time.

The energy ministry is currently preparing a draft bill intended to replace the current RES production licensing procedure – requiring the submission of applications to RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, for processing and issuance – with registration on a digital platform for instant certification, if all prerequisites are met.

Officials are looking at constructing an initial platform as a temporary solution that would cover a transitional period before eventually delivering the full-scale system.

A second, even more crucial, challenge faced by officials concerns the enormous accumulation of RES license applications submitted to RAE over previous periods. These applications, numbering thousands, represent a capacity of nearly 28 GW.

RAE will continue using the old processing system to work its way through these applications, sources informed.

Simpler RES license revision procedure sought by authorities

A special committee tasked with simplifying RES licensing procedures is working on a measure that would enable revisions to renewable investment project plans already granted production licenses. A solution enabling quick online revisions is being considered.

The committee, formed recently by the energy ministry, has already taken action on other RES project licensing fronts, including replacing production licenses with far swifter online certification.

The latest move, to enable revisions to existing production licenses, is particularly crucial for the wind energy sub-sector as considerable delays in the investment maturity process often lead to a need for revisions to existing permits so that technological developments can be fully utilized.

This is a vital detail for investors who, for example, may want to install fewer wind turbines of upgraded technology and performance for the same capacity level.

Flexibility on such issues would lower electricity production costs and support the government’s RES objectives, investors have noted.

The energy ministry appears determined to promote a solution – for revisions to existing production licenses – that is far more drastic than a related proposal made by RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy.

Ministry may abolish environmental permits for 500 kw-1 MW solar parks

Solar energy projects with capacities of between 500 kw and 1 MW could be exempted from environmental permits as part of a wider effort aiming to simplify RES licensing procedures for investors, energypress sources have informed.

This prospect essentially represents the implementation of an energy and environment ministry measure announced this week to drastically hasten the processing time of environmental permits for projects in highly protected areas.

Projects included in high-protection categories A1 and A2 are planned to be downgraded to category B, featuring less demanding environmental permit rules.

Under current regulations, investors are exempted from environmental permits only for solar projects of up to 500 kW.

Also this week, the ministry announced a decision to abolish the need for production licenses, replacing them with simpler online certification through a single information system. Ministry officials are striving for a launch of the new information system towards the end of 2020.

Swifter environmental permits latest RES simplification step

A plan to scrap renewable energy production licenses for all RES technologies, announced yesterday by the energy ministry, is being followed up by an addition measure, through legislation expected next month, promising to drastically hasten the processing time of environmental permits for projects in highly protected areas.

The current time needed to obtain environmental permits may be cut by as much as half, sector officials informed.

Solar energy project environmental permits, for example, now take between four and six months to be issued but this period may be slashed to two months.

Projects seeking environmental permits are graded, the environmental sensitivity of areas envisioned being a key factor. The A1 category, including wind energy projects in NATURA zones, is the strictest. A2 is a medium category, while category B offers fewer obstacles for environmental permits.

The upcoming legislation will be designed to shift a number of RES projects from the A1 and A2 categories to the less demanding category B.

Though solar projects are typically graded as A2 and category B projects, hundreds stand to benefit from the upcoming legislative revision, sector sources supported.

However, it should be noted, production licenses and environmental permits represent just part of the bureaucratic procedure for RES projects.

The energy ministry, seeking to simplify RES licensing procedures, aims to reduce the overall licensing time needed to two years, the EU average.

A ministry decision to abolish the need for production licenses and replace them with simpler online confirmation through a single information system was disclosed yesterday.

Wind, solar production licenses replaced by online procedure

The need to obtain RES production licenses for wind and solar energy projects, currently a lengthy process, is being abolished and replaced by online confirmation to be delivered swiftly, possibly within a day, following the successful entry of related data into a single information system being created, the energy ministry has decided, energypress sources have informed.

The revised system, an online one-stop shop enabling tracking of applications, will permit investors to proceed with plans as long as their data submitted into the system is not blocked.

The government, which recently presented a new National Energy and Climate Plan featuring more ambitious targets, has pledged to simplify renewable energy licensing procedures, currently time-consuming.

The information system will be programmed to instantly reject investment applications submitted for areas where networks are saturated, previous applications have been submitted, or capacity limits have been exhausted.

Energy ministry officials are expected to present the new plan today to a special committee established recently and tasked with revising the regulatory framework for the renewable energy sector.

Besides drastically reducing time requirements for investors, the new system is also intended to spare RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, of related workload. Applications are believed to have  piled up at its headquarters.

Additional revisions to further simplify procedures for investors are also being currently examined.


RES licensing simplification to face environmental resistance

The head official of a special committee assembled by the government to simplify RES licensing procedures is seeking bold steps leading to major progress but the body’s task could be troubled by firm resistance from environmental groups.

The energy and environment ministry’s secretary-general Alexandra Sdoukou, who heads the special committee, is expected to push for decisive action and real results at the group’s second meeting, planned for next Monday.

Sdoukou wants more than just a reduction of supporting documents and digitization of existing procedures, her objective being to truly revolutionize licensing procedures for swift results and an increase in green energy investments.

Simpler RES licensing procedures are crucially important if ambitious targets included in the new National Energy and Climate Plan are to be achieved. A large number of RES projects will need to be developed over the next decade if NECP targets are to be met.

However, the path is not expected to be obstacle-free. Energy ministry officials are very much aware of the constant threat of amendments being legally challenged at the Council of State, Greece’s supreme administrative court, over environmental concerns.

Signs of resistance have already begun emerging within the ministry’s environmental division as a result of conflicting views on matters such as avifauna, biodiversity and NATURA-area protection.

The country’s new spatial plan for the renewable energy sector, currently being prepared, will play an instrumental role in generating sufficient RES growth for the achievement of NECP targets. Two leading figures at the ministry’s environmental section hold key positions for the spatial plan’s shaping.


Major changes to RES licensing procedure sought by ministry

Ambitious renewable energy targets included in Greece’s new National Energy and Climate Plan (NECP) have energy ministry officials looking to overhaul current RES licensing procedures for a swifter, simplified process, currently far too slow and detrimental for investors.

A big number of RES project installations will need to be made over the next decade if the lofty NECP targets are to be achieved.

The installed RES capacity will need to be more than doubled, meaning emphasis will need to be placed on simplifying current licensing procedures, slowed down by bureaucracy and excessive laws, the energy ministry’s secretary-general Alexandra Sdoukou noted during yesterday’s presentation of the new National Energy and Climate Plan (NECP).

The energy ministry is looking for radical solutions that stretch beyond just cutting back on the excessive number of documents and procedures now needed, or digitizing procedures.

On the contrary, the ministry believes the entire RES licensing process needs to be reexamined and revamped. Some sub-permits that are currently needed amid the overall procedure, taking years to cover, may be scrapped if their elimination would not cause any dangers.

Any revisions deemed extremely urgent could be rushed into an energy ministry draft bill on the environment, now being prepared for parliament in January.

Other ministry priorities include developing legal framework for energy storage; a pricing framework for hybrid stations on the islands; further support for RES installations at buildings through net metering; as well as the establishment of legal framework for alternative RES systems, such as offshore wind farms, Sdoukou told the NECP event.

Sector response to RES licensing simplification proposals awaited

A proposal by RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, that would require RES license applications to be accompanied by letters of guarantee is expected to prompt a reaction from renewable energy sector officials.

RAE, following up on its public consultation procedure, has forwarded to the energy ministry proposals aiming for a simplification of RES licensing procedures.

Current procedures drag on for years. Investors have called for simpler licensing procedures, while the government has pledged full decarbonization by 2028.

The RAE plan, as is, would shorten various procedures, it is believed.

The energy ministry has relayed the RAE proposals to all interested parties and is awaiting their feedback.