Renewable energy? Shh… please don’t wake up the state

Shortly before Easter, I wrote in Kathimerini about the state’s stupidity regarding photovoltaic energy. My observations gave rise to criticism and comment, but I also received new information from the victims of that stupidity which turns out to be even greater than I had originally imagined. I’ll give you one telling example. A businessman involved in the construction industry decided to install a small 40-kilowatt photovoltaic unit in a field in Attica. The unit was installed in accordance with the provisions of Law 3468/2006, which was passed supposedly to encourage renewable energy sources (RES). To save time and avoid trouble, the businessman decided not to apply for the subsidy to which he was entitled. In January 2007, the Regulatory Energy Authority (REA) ruled that no permit was required for the energy plant. The ruling would be rescinded if the plant did not begin operation within two years. The businessman went ahead with the investment, which included excessive fees charged by the Public Power Corporation to expand its grid in the area. In July 2007 he signed the contract for the sale and purchase of electrical energy with the Electrical Energy Administrator. At the end of spring 2007, this small power plant was ready to begin operating and providing its 40 MW to the system. It had not cost the state a single euro. PPC benefited by charging the businessman twice the cost of expanding its grid. The final act would have been to link the plant to the grid, that is, to turn on a switch. At that stage PPC made its final demand – the businessman had to provide a document from the zoning authority (pursuant to Law 1512/85) stating that the plant could be linked to the grid. The law refers to specifications for hooking building sites up to the grid and is aimed at preventing illegal building sites from being connected. In this particular case, the photovoltaic unit would not be drawing electricity, but providing it. The unfortunate investor had no choice but to submit the application, only to receive the reply that «for the moment your request cannot be met because the existing legislation makes no provision for the specific act.» The businessman’s next move was, in August 2007, to request the intervention of the environment and public works minister. In lieu of a reply, he received a document from the ministry in September informing him that the «existing legislative framework… is incomplete.» However, it added the reassurance that the minister had ordered a working group to be set up «which had completed its work and recommended further action.» It is now May 2008 but the further action has yet to be taken… The businessman has sent several letters, not only to the Environment and Public Works Ministry, but also to the development minister, PPC and a number of other authorities. You might well say (as former Prime Minister Costas Simitis once did): «What can you do? That’s Greece.» Yet I ask you, can you really believe the assurances by the prime minister and his Cabinet that they truly want to develop renewable energy sources? In my opinion, PPC’s requirement that applicants must abide by the irrelevant provisions of Law 1512/85 is underhand, aimed solely at obstructing the development of photovoltaic units (the PPC quashes any attempt to break its monopoly). Doesn’t the head of PPC realize this? PPC’s preposterous prerequisite should be abolished and it should compensate all those who have suffered the consequences… The government’s utter incompetence is evident in all things, large and small. Pompous statements about nuclear energy, energy hubs, strategic agreements, environmental sensitivity and so on will sooner or later be revealed for what they are – just words, words, words. (1) Stefanos Manos is a former economy and environment minister.