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.

Wind energy investments seen reaching €1.3bn over next 5 yrs

ELETAEN, the Greek Wind Energy Association, has prepared three scenarios for wind energy project development between 2019 and 2023, the likeliest version foreseeing 1,310 MW in installations at an overall investment cost of 1.3 billion euros.

The association’s less optimistic scenario sees installations of 1,170 MW during this five-year period, an overall investment estimated at 1.2 billion euros, while its best-case scenario sees  installations totaling 1,490 MW at an investment cost of 1.5 billion euros.

The total cost of installing wind energy projects is estimated at one million euros per MW.

The wind energy association’s projections take into account the maturity levels of various projects. An eagerly expected simplification of RES licensing procedures, along with improved business conditions, overall, as promised by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, have not been taken into account.

Simplification of RES licensing procedures is needed if renewable energy is to capture a 35 percent share of the country’s energy mix by 2030, as promised by the country’s leader.

Acquiring a RES license in Greece takes between 8 and 10 years, compared to the European average of two years. A total of 29 agencies become involved in Greece’s current licensing procedure for wind energy projects.

“Investors cannot be heroes and have to wait ten years for a wind energy license,” Mitsotakis noted earlier this week during a speech at the opening ceremony for a wind energy complex, Greece’s largest and one of Europe’s biggest, developed by Italy’s Enel Green Power on the island Evia, in the Kafireas region.


RAE maintaining positions on disputed RES license rules

RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, intends to reiterate its positions on two key RES license concerns raised by market players in a report to be forwarded by the authority to the energy ministry, looking to simplify RES licensing procedures.

Renewable energy investors, in recent public consultation, widely opposed an existing regulation automatically cancelling RES licenses if development of projects has not begun within a certain time period, citing public sector bureaucracy for delays.

Wind energy projects currently have between eight and ten years to commence projects, while the solar energy project limit ranges between four to five years.

RAE does not agree with this objection raised by market players, insisting the current time limits are fair and sufficient. Otherwise, unused grid and installation capacities would not be freed, depriving other investors from entering the picture to help Greece achieve its ambitious renewable energy targets, the authority believes.

As for the other key issue, RAE, in its upcoming report for the ministry, will insist on the cancellation of a current rule requiring wind energy investors to provide wind intensity measurement certificates with their production license applications.

Some RES market players do not agree. They believe this wind-measurement requirement is preventing an overflow of license applications by investors without serious intentions to follow up.

The RAE report is expected to be forwarded to the energy ministry by the end of this month.


RES license simplification proposals forwarded by RAE

RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, has delivered, for public consultation, a set of proposals aiming to simplify licensing procedures for renewable energy production.

The authority’s proposals focus on the simplification of assessment criteria used for RES production applications, primarily wind and solar energy facilities, as well as immediate processing of applications through transparent and objective means.

The recently elected conservative New Democracy government’s energy ministry has pledged it will take action to simplify licensing procedures in the RES sector. Current delays, which can take years, are affecting investment activity.

RAE proposals for RES license simplification this month

A comprehensive package of proposals aiming to simplify licensing procedures in the RES sector is being prepared by RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, in association with a legal consultant hired for the task.

These proposals, primarily concerning production licenses, are expected to be forwarded to the energy ministry within September.

The package will include proposals on rule changes, for which a ministerial decision is needed, as well as all the required legislative amendments.

The energy ministry is also working on a new legal framework concerning the installation of RES facilities, including spatial matters, to be delivered at a latter date.

RAE is striving to establish a digital RES production license issuing system that will enable investors to make online applications and track their progress.

Ultimately, the effort will aim for a reduction of the amount of time needed for RES production licenses to be issued – this can currently take as long as two-and-a-half years – as well as objectivity and transparency in the licensing procedure.



RAE seeking expert proposals for simpler RES license procedure

RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, has approved expenditure for the provision of legal services intended to revise and simplify the  country’s RES licensing procedures.

The authority deems that the simplification of licensing procedures is absolutely necessary given the enormous number of RES production permit applications that have accumulated at RAE, the authority’s understaffing problem, and the need for swifter processing.

The authority wants legal consultants to put forth legislative and regulatory proposals that will lead to the simplification of licensing procedures, improve transparency and RAE’s effectiveness. These intended improvements ultimately promise to benefit the energy market, consumers and the Greek economy.

Highlighting the growing investment interest in the RES sector, 215 RES production applications for projects with a total capacity of 2.5 GW were submitted during the country’s most recent licensing round.

RES sector companies have repeatedly asked for a simplification of licensing procedures.