Big push for energy investments

Foreign and domestic investors have expressed interest for investments in renewable energy sources (RES) totaling more than 30 billion euros. Official data by the Regulatory Authority for Energy (RAE) showed that until the end of 2005 a total of 2,060 investment proposals had been submitted for the production of 24,988 megawatts. This does not include the applications by the Kopelouzos, Mytilineos and Rokas-Iberdrola groups for the production of an additional 2,800 MW on the Aegean islands. The rich investment interest is mainly attracted by the huge renewable potential of this country. The entry of new major groups in the growing RES market is expected to give the sector a significant push forward, bringing the country closer to the target of 20.1 percent of electricity being produced by RES in 2010. The strengthening and promotion of RES is a priority for the Development Ministry, which aims to reduce Greece’s dependence on oil, which is imported and expensive. Today the total installed power from RES comes to 747 MW. Their contribution in the energy balance stands at 5 percent of the total supply of primary energy and at 13-14 percent of local production of primary energy. In recent years power production from RES is growing significantly, standing at 2-2.5 percent of the gross domestic electricity consumption. The positive regulations in the new framework (such as deadlines for licensing, reducing time from three years to just one, the increase in the sale price of RES-produced power etc.) are expected to help both the realization of the existing investment plans and the luring of fresh investment interest. Investors maintain some reservations, as key parameters for realizing such plans have not been settled yet. Of them, the most important, are zoning plans. Another important problem discouraging investors is the need for a network capable of transmitting the power produced. Local opposition is the biggest threat to RES investments, since these investments do not create new jobs. European Union member states far from reaching renewable energy use targets Most EU member-states are still a long way from the target set by the Kyoto Protocol for increasing the share of renewable energy sources (RES) in the primary consumption of energy. Though the EU has been a pioneer in this area – its total installed power of RES systems is at 160,000 megawatts, or 32 percent of global production – the bloc lags considerably in reaching the target of 12 percent of RES share in the primary production of energy by 2010. The European Commission predicts that the share of RES will increase from 5.61 percent today across the EU to 9 percent in 2010, rendering the 12 percent target non-feasible. According to the Commission’s fifth «RES Barometer,» only five EU countries (Latvia, Sweden, Finland, Austria and Portugal) have already met the 12 percent target, while 14 states stand below 5 percent and seven below 2 percent. In Greece the RES share came to 5.28 percent in 2004. Greece boasts wind parks that totalled 465 MW in 2004, from 375 MW in 2003, taking the ninth spot among EU states. The list is topped by Germany (16,629 MW) with Spain in second (8,263 MW). Europe produces as much as 73 percent of global wind energy. The European Union registered a new record in solar water heaters installed in 2004, mainly due to the entry of new member states. A total of 1,693,004 square meters were installed, though the EU accounts for just 10 percent of the global market. Greece is second in the EU with 2,826,700 square meters installed. In the domain of small hydroelectric plants, Greece recorded the biggest rise among member states. The installed power of such plants grew by 57.3 percent, reaching 70 MW. Still, in absolute numbers, Greece is far behind other countries in electricity production from small hydroelectric units (not including the major ones of the Public Power Corporation). When the EU adopted the Kyoto Protocol through a directive, it set a target of 21 percent of total electricity consumption to come from RES power production by 2010. Today this share stands at just 14 percent, so this lag has toughened the European Commission’s stance. «Member states have to determine national targets and to introduce the appropriate measures in order for the European goal to be met,» recommended the European Commissioner responsible for Energy, Andris Piebalgs. The commissioner has referred Greece and seven other EU members to the European Court of Justice for violating that directive. Greece is accused of having insufficient measures for the promotion of RES.