Wind power plans delayed

The strong winds that often sweep across much of the Aegean have attracted the interest of big European power producers keen on investing in this renewable energy source. However, the implementation of many investment plans seems doubtful as problems related to infrastructure, red tape in handing out licenses, and reactions from local communities are creating a climate which investors interpret as hostile. Some of them have pointed out that merely collecting the required certificates from the various ministries and departments for the granting of the installation license can take up to a year. If one is lucky and does not meet with local reactions – which are not always related to environmental concerns but are simply the result of some kind of investment xenophobia – he must arm himself with new patience for collecting the certificates required for the operating license. In order to circumvent such negative factors, the prospecting investors usually find it appropriate to go into partnership with local businessmen. Obtaining the operating license does not signal the end of problems, as one might have thought; the lack of power transportation lines can put the installation on hold for at least two years – the time which relevant studies have shown to be required for the appropriation of the areas where the network will be installed. According to a joint study by the Management Agency of the Electric Power Transportation System (DESMHE), the Energy Regulatory Authority (RAE), the Public Power Corporation (PPC) and the Center for Renewable Energy Sources (KAPE), the operation of the investments that have already been licensed requires the construction of power lines costing close to 240 million euros. The project will be 50 percent funded through the Competitiveness Program of the European Union-subsidized Third Community Support Framework plan (CSF III). Recognizing the problem, Development Minister Akis Tsochadzopoulos has adopted RAE’s proposal for fast-track land appropriation procedures, along the lines of Olympics projects. The relevant amendment, which is projected to reduce the time required from two years to six months, has been drafted but not yet tabled in Parliament. Third-party claims Investors have also been known to have come up against tragicomic phenomena, such as third-party claims on land they have lawfully bought. Indeed, there have been cases of private individuals contesting ownership of mountain peaks which they claim to go back to Ottoman times! In all, foreign investors have applied to RAE for 294 projects budgeted at a total of 6.5 million euros and totaling a planned capacity of 6,400 MW. The applicants are companies in which foreign capital represents more than 50 percent. About 20 percent of the applications have already been licensed. Most applications have been submitted by German, Spanish and Danish firms, while US-based companies also account for a good number. They include Germany’s EON, Japan’s Tomen – which has planned for 320 MW, Spain’s Edesa and American firms York and Enron (whose plan is proceeding independently of the situation of the parent company), also for 320 MW each. Many of the applications are for locations in southern Evia and Laconia, with total capacity far exceeding the transport capacity of the power lines slated for construction. The planned projects on Evia alone, for instance, have a total capacity of 3,500 MW, while the capacity of the grids to be constructed is no more than 530 MW. The many applications for these areas has made RAE’s selection job difficult, and it has not issued a license for over a year. Sources say the process will take still more time.