Some projects benefit from fast-track licensing

Most investment projects for which licensing applications have been submitted under the fast-track procedure much heralded by previous governments remain on paper, as uncertainties regarding the Greek economy and the lack of sources of finance are leading investors to adopt a wait-and-see stance.

One of the better-faring projects, however, which is expected to move to an implementation phase in September, is that planned by Spes Solaris – Solar Concept SA, owned by Dimitris Panagakos. It provides for the construction of 12 photovoltaic parks, with a total capacity of 166,142 megawatts and budgeted at 332.28 million euros, in Thessaly and central and western Greece.

According to the Invest in Greece agency, the realization of the project is expected to safeguard the 360 jobs at the group?s existing plants in Patra and Thiva, which produce photovoltaic elements, and create 126 more in the operation and maintenance of photovoltaic parks. The state is expected to earn some 137 billion euros in tax revenues in the next 20 years, while the power that will be produced will avert the emission of some 253,000 tons of carbon dioxide annually.

Another investment which has been made possible under the fast-track procedure is a gold-mining project in Perama, in the northeastern region of Evros, largely thanks to the availability of funding and the fact that reactions from the local community on environmental grounds have not been particularly vocal. The Municipality of Alexandroupoli has reportedly decided to file a suit with the Council of State, the country?s highest administrative court, appealing against the approval of the environmental effects study for the project, but has not yet done so.

The investor is Thrace Gold Mines, a wholly owned subsidiary of Canada?s Eldorado Gold Corporation, which will meet the entire budgeted cost of 128.96 million euros without resorting to borrowing. The project will employ some 200 workers during the construction stage and as many again as permanent staff when in operation.

One project reportedly expected to be moved to the fast-track process shortly is the UK-based Minoan Group?s large tourist investment in Cavo Sidero, on the northeastern tip of Crete. Invest in Greece is about to complete the evaluation of the 300-million-euro project, which will include luxury hotels with a total capacity of some 2,000 beds.

Last week?s decision by the Environment and Energy Ministry to temporarily suspend the licensing of new photovoltaic projects and reduce the guaranteed tariffs for power produced is considered a crucial factor as regards the prospects of solar energy projects. However, projects which have already filed applications for the fast-track procedure have been exempted.

The Development Ministry is reported to be considering favorable changes in the fast-track law which will be ready by early September. One change provides that if a department fails to grant a license within a certain period, the minister will be entitled to do so himself.