ECONOMY

Expanding uses of solar energy

Solar energy is still a fairly untapped asset for Greece, and the Institute of Energy for Southeast Europe (IENE) has suggested measures to make the most of it. These institutional and practical proposals are the outcome of scientific studies, observations and arguments discussed at IENE’s event last July for the use of solar energy. The conclusions were presented this week and sent to the competent authorities, to provide the blueprint for the appropriate legislation and state action. Regarding the development of photovoltaic systems, which turn solar energy into electricity, IENE notes that the recent (November 2004) ministerial decision on the development of Renewable Energy Sources (RES) is a step in the right direction, but that a complete legal framework is needed, with simplified procedures. A realistic target for the period until 2010 would be the operation of photovoltaic units with a capacity of 120 megawatts (MW) on islands and of 80 MW on the mainland. Proposals include: the abolition of permits issued by the Development Ministry mainly for decentralized RES, with the Regulatory Authority for Energy deciding on units over 50MW in the mainland grid and 10MW on islands; the institutionalization of the Distribution System Manager, a body independent from the Public Power Corporation, like the Electric Power Transmission System Operator (DESMHE), for the effective handling of issues of access and connection with the photovoltaic units system; extension of decisions and regulations for solar applications and water heaters to photovoltaic installations in inhabited areas and a simple permit process for units over 0.5MW. In the domain of solar thermal applications (for water and central heating), IENE proposes: the obligatory installation of solar thermal systems in all public buildings under construction or renovation, starting with a pilot scheme; the addition to the building regulations of clauses encouraging and facilitating solar installations in buildings; reduction of VAT from 18 to 8 percent for equipment and installation; tax exemption for domestic applications; and financial support of investments covering 30-40 percent of the total costs for large central applications in the production sector, tourism, etc. The institute’s report records a considerable delay in Greece in the number of «solar» buildings, since the EU directive on Rational Use and Energy Saving, completed in 2001, has not yet been applied; it will have to be applied by January 2006, when Greece must have complied with the relevant EU directive. «The institute is at the state’s disposal to contribute to the next steps for the elaboration of the essential technical standards for the legislative regulation of the proposed measures,» IENE President Costis Stambolis said. Presenting the proposals, the institute’s RES committee chairman, Yiannis Hadzivassiliadis, expressed his belief that they are in harmony with EU directives and will be adopted by the state to contribute toward the best possible use of solar energy in Greece, with multiple benefits. In its report, IENE emphasizes that «Greece, compared with other European countries, has high solar radiation through long periods of sunshine, and therefore possesses a significant advantage for efficient solar applications, particularly on the islands, with considerable social, economic and growth advantages. As a result, apart from the private sector, the participation of the broader public sector and local authorities is required in solar applications.»