NEWS

Greece shuns solar energy opportunity

Some European countries are forging ahead with the use of solar power, but Greece is lagging behind, mainly because of the lack of incentives for homeowners to install and make use of renewable energy sources, experts in the field told Sunday’s Kathimerini. Last year, Greece produced a 10th of the solar energy that was used in Spain and some 300 times less than was produced in Germany. Earlier this month, Spain decided to make it compulsory to install solar panels in new and renovated buildings from next year. «It was a surprise. They are going for an explosion in solar energy,» said environmentalist Stelios Psomas, who is an adviser to the Hellenic Association of Photovoltaic Companies. «Solar energy can give us hot water, heating and cooling systems,» said Psomas. «Unfortunately, we are still stuck with what we had 30 years ago – the solar water heater.» Greece ranked third in Europe for the number of solar water heaters installed last year but the coverage is less than half of that in Cyprus, where some 93 percent of buildings have the appliances. The inclusion of solar water heaters in new homes is not compulsory in Greece and homeowners only receive a 20 percent tax break for them. «We need to take huge technological leaps in heating and cooling,» Psomas told Kathimerini. «They do not install simple solar water heaters abroad anymore, they have modern systems.» According to official estimates in Spain, the installation of solar panels in 3.5 million homes that were built there over the past five years would have yielded a fuel cost savings of 245 million euros. The government took a step toward encouraging the use of renewable sources of energy in June when it passed a new law. However, there is concern that the law provides incentives to companies that want to store solar energy and sell it to the Public Power Corporation (PPC) but there is not enough encouragement for homeowners to install their own solar panels. «A tax break of 500 euros is small for an investment of 8,000 to 10,000 euros,» said Psomas.