ECONOMY

Tailwind powers RES

Fresh momentum is building in the renewable energy sources (RES) sector, as investment seems poised to return and hopes for new schemes are born. It may be a developing market, but in the past it has missed the boat, not because it could not attract foreign capital but mainly because it turned investors away due to the lack of any integrated development policy. One such case was EDF ENSA, a subsidiary of the Electricite De France giant, which three years ago expressed an interest in creating wind parks in Greece but did not proceed, faced with a number of obstacles. «The bad old image is the biggest problem the government faces in trying to attract investment,» says Deputy Development Minister Giorgos Salagoudis, adding, «All our efforts focus on luring those foreign investors back.» Indeed, interest by the French company, one of the largest in Europe in RES, has recently returned to the Greek market, a first positive sign for the Development Ministry’s efforts to exploit the renewable potential of the country immediately and effectively with the biggest possible participation of foreign capital. The investment plan of EDF ENSA includes creating and operating wind parks with total capacity of 230 megawatts in Viotia, Fokida and Thrace, and it has already submitted applications for production permits to the ministry and the Regulatory Energy Authority. EDF’s renewed interest is primarily the result of a complete strategy, for the first time, to promote RES by Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas and his deputy, Salagoudis. They have made this particular sector a priority and from the moment of assuming their duties have been bent on solving the various well-known problems hampering investment: court decisions canceling permits due to lack of zoning, reactions by local communities, insufficient power networks, and an insufficient and faulty permit framework. Serving several aims RES, Salagoudis explains, serve a range of crucial political objectives for Greece: «First of all, they serve the aim of protecting the environment according to Greece’s international commitments. They contribute to regional development and local employment through their decentralizing character and act as a medium for foreign investors’ penetration.» To meet all these objectives, he stresses, «we need a complete and reasoned policy of interventions and incentives with clear targets and priorities.» Sioufas has repeatedly declared, «the country now requires an aggressive RES policy» to exploit its resources, meet its commitments to reduce pollution and apply a policy for substituting imported liquid fuel, which limits the country’s energy dependence. Countries such as Germany, Denmark and Spain have almost fully developed their wind potential, while Sweden, Austria and Finland have a large portion of their energy requirements covered by RES. Greece is a long way behind due to the ineffective – and at times criminally wrong – policy followed until this year. The government, using funds of 260 million euros from the Enterprising Program «Competitiveness,» now has a unique opportunity to intervene effectively in the RES market. The completion and tabling in Parliament of the new institutional framework should further improve the climate for investments. A major issue for the ministry, apart from drafting a new RES policy, has been to bolster the interest of companies that had come to Greece and either walked away disappointed or were in the process of departing. Regular contacts with representatives of companies from Europe and beyond managed to stem the flow of departing investors and salvage the country’s investment prestige. A case in point is Salagoudis’s efforts not to cancel an appointment with EDF despite having a commitment to chair the tripartite meeting (Greece, Bulgaria and Russia) on the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline; he found time to meet with EDF’s representatives and discuss the their investment plan. This gave the French company a green light to fulfill its plans in Greece. Moreover, Salagoudis was the catalyst for the investment by Gamesa in Viotia, which had stalled for some three years, bringing the Spanish firm to the brink of leaving Greece. Gamesa makes wind generators and invests in wind parks. In Greece, it cooperates with specialized firm ENTEKA and has total production permits for about 240 megawatts. Of this, 100MW are for Evia and will materialize after the scheduled bolstering of the local electricity network. They have already installed 17MW in Magnesia prefecture and have an installation permit for another 25MW in the prefecture of Viotia. Settlement promoted Another example is EURUS: The Japanese company has a five-year presence in the Greek market without materializing a single project, owing to successive run-ins with the Council of State. EURUS, which recently started a 50-50 partnership with Elliniki Technodomiki, has permits for production of 72MW with wind parks. The sole permit the firm has obtained, to install a wind park in Laconia of 24MW, was recently canceled by the Council of State for insufficient zoning. «The state’s delay in meeting the provisions of Law 2742/1999 and the continuous wrong messages the previous government sent to the Council of State brought this decision, says Salagoudis, who later persuaded the Japanese firm not to leave the country. The complete settlement of the issue of RES zoning frameworks, outstanding since 1999, is being promoted in cooperation with the Environment and Public Works Ministry. Through this, EURUS’s court problems will be resolved, keeping the Japanese in Greece with the prospect of finally seeing their investment realized. Among other foreign companies with an interest in Greece are German Umwelkontor and Danish power company E2-Energie, both with permits for wind power projects. EON, the German power giant, had also expressed interest but a number of problems turned it away.