The project is still in its infancy

The study takes into account the fact that many crops in Greece are declining as prices fall, and they could, if the farmers wish, be replaced or supplemented by biofuel crops. An estimated 80 percent of tobacco, sugar beet and cotton could be replaced by energy crops, as could an estimated 20 percent of hard and soft wheat grown for food. Seventy-five percent of those crops are grown in 21 largely agricultural prefectures. As Nikos Vassilakos, one of the researchers and vice president of the European Federation of Energy Producers, told Kathimerini, «The units were positioned in areas where the raw material is available so as to keep transportation costs down, and to encourage farmers to participate in the business side.» The study provides for five units, each capable of producing 40,000 metric tons of biodiesel a year, in Rhodope-Evros, Kilkis-Thessaloniki, Larissa, Viotia-Fthiotida and Kozani-Karditsa. It will take 42,500 hectares of sunflower crops to make 40,000 tons of biodiesel. The experts recommend putting three bioethanol units of 12,000-15,000 hectares in Larissa, Serres and Evros, and nine 15 MW electricity plants in Aitoloacarnania, Fthiotida, Ileia, Drama, Imathia, Pella, Kilkis, Kozani and Serres. The study notes that growing energy crops will not work without subsidies and other support to guarantee farmers’ incomes and the sale of the energy by the processing unit at a price that makes it worthwhile for the factory. The present EU subsidy (of -4.50 per 0.1 hectare) is considered very low. «The overall required annual subsidy for energy crops – in order to ensure farmers’ present incomes and make investments in biofuel processing pay off – is -197 million,» said Vassilakos. The present subsidy is -17 million a year, but the INASO research team believes there are solutions. Their use of biofuel is estimated to save around -50 million from carbon emission conversions in line with the Kyoto protocol and from the money saved on fines and on acquiring emission rights. Also, the remaining -130 million a year could come from Fourth Community Support Framework funds. To boost demand, the amount of tax-free biofuels produced from local raw materials could be increased. Vassilakos notes that kWh produced by biomass could be sold at a higher price to the electricity grid. «Currently electricity generated from biomass sells at -73/MWh, while that generated by photovoltaic is -50/MWh,» And, he added, «the solar cell systems are wholly imported.» Matters will improve considerably if Greece decides to produce more than the EU-mandated 5.75 percent of energy from biomass. Besides, the latest proposal from the European Commission is for biofuels to represent 20 percent of all fuel used for transportation by 2020, while the European Parliament seems likely to recommend 15 percent. As greater amounts are produced, economies of scale will benefit all concerned. But the project is still in its infancy. To produce biodiesel, the raw material must first be made into oil and then processed. At present there are four biodiesel factories in Greece, all using imported oils, and one factory that can handle the whole process from raw material to the finished product. The deputy minister has announced the establishment of a new factory, with investment from the Agricultural Cooperatives of Kozani and Amyntaio and funding under the development law. As yet there is no bioethanol factory, which requires far more capital investment, and there are few energy crops. Ministry data show that in 2006 some 9,000 hectares of land were planted with sunflowers for other uses in northern Evros and 1,000 to 1,500 hectares of rapeseed in Thessaloniki, Central and Eastern Macedonia and Thrace.

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