Changes in the domestic energy market will require an investment of up to -4.5 billion euros during the period up to 2010, Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas told the Council of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in Paris yesterday. Following an overview of Greece’s economic policy under the present center-right government, Sioufas focused on Greece’s energy policy priorities for the near future. The top priority, he said, was to ensure Greece’s uninterrupted supply of energy sources. However, he avoided mentioning the government’s choice to favor the continuing exploitation of lignite – a cheap, but highly polluting energy source – that will require using the plentiful but inferior – in terms of energy efficiency – lignite reserves in eastern Macedonia. Instead, Sioufas focused on the deregulation of the electricity and natural gas markets and the more extensive use of renewable energy sources, which is mandated by the European Union. By 2010, Greece must more than quadruple its use of renewable energy sources so that they account for 20.1 percent of total energy production. This, Sioufas said, entails the building of plants producing a total of 3 gigawatts (GW) of energy. Sioufas also referred to the need to boost the transport and distribution capacity of the electricity grid in order to avoid power outages and said that the increase in the use of natural gas by industries and households would contribute significantly toward this goal while helping to reduce pollution. Sioufas emphasized Greece’s role as a transit hub for oil and natural gas from Russia and the Caspian Sea area, through a variety of projects, such as the natural pipeline that will link Turkey, Greece and Italy and the Burgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline that will transport oil from Russia and, probably, Kazakhstan, while bypassing the heavy traffic of the Bosporus. These two projects, he said, will help ensure Europe’s secure provision of oil and natural gas. «Greece is being transformed to a great transit hub between production and distribution points. It is also becoming a major commercial, logistics and financial center. It is an attractive tourist destination. It is also the gateway linking the Middle East and Asia to Europe,» Sioufas said. Development Ministry General Secretary Dimitris Stefanou later told reporters that Greece had agreed to supply Albania with electricity because the shutdown of two nuclear reactors at Bulgaria’s Kozloduy plant and lack of rain in Albania, which impacted power generation from hydroelectric plants, threatened the latter with severe electricity shortages. «We are continually working on upgrading our electricity system. Last summer we managed, with great effort, to tackle peak demand of 10 GW. This peak demand will increase this year. We hope that we will make do without temporary local outages. If they happen, they will affect mines as well as farm irrigation in peak hours, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.,» Stefanou said.