Greece will spend 5 billion euros ($5.9 billion) to offset the impact of ditching coal in power generation by 2028 and cutting carbon emissions in line with European Union climate targets by 2050, a government official said on Wednesday.
Energy Minister Kostis Hatzidakis told reporters the total will include state money, funds from the European Union and loans from the European Investment Bank.
The funds will be spent on infrastructure projects, subsidies to new businesses, and training, to help western Macedonia and Megalopoli in Southern Peloponnese switch to green energy, agriculture and tourism.
Those regions are the main suppliers of the cheap and abundant lignite resources Greece has relied on for power generation for more than half a century.
Greece’s conservative government, which took over last year, has pledged to switch off 80% of state utility Public Power Corp’s coal capacity by 2023 to reduce its carbon footprint.
Hatzidakis also said that some 16 private investments in renewables and other activities are in the pipeline and are expected to help create more than 8,000 jobs in western Macedonia and Megalopoli.
Greece’s 17% unemployment rate is the highest in the euro zone.
“The number of jobs that will be created in Western Macedonia and Megalopoli will be more than those that will be lost”, Hatzidakis said.
Greece will also consider tax incentives to new businesses in the affected areas to support local communities, he said.
Investments include a plan by PPC to build solar parks in Western Macedonia with generating capacity of 2.3 gigawatts, and a 130 million euro solar power project by Hellenic Petroleum in the same region..
PPC has already shut two coal units with a total capacity of 550 megawatts in Macedonia and will switch off the remaining 10 by 2023.
Another plant it is building in Ptolemaida, northern Greece, will operate using coal until 2028, after which it will switch to a different fuel.
Hatzidakis said the plan will be placed under public consultation until Oct. 31 and will be submitted for approval to the Greek parliament and the European Union by the end of the year. [Reuters]