Greece eyes 2.3GW of new solar as part of efforts to ditch coal

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Solar parks with a total capacity of 2.3GW will be developed in Greece as part of a €5 billion (US$5.94 billion) roadmap to support the phase-out of coal generation by 2028.

Majority state-owned utility Public Power Corporation (PPC) has been tasked with the construction of solar facilities in the country’s Western Macedonia region as well as 0.5GW of parks in the Peloponnese peninsula. Hellenic Petroleum will also develop a €130 million solar project under the scheme.

Those investments form part of a 16-point plan revealed earlier this week by Greece’s energy minister Kostis Hatzidakis, who also announced new energy storage and green hydrogen facilities.

Reuters quoted Hatzidakis as saying the investment will include state money, EU funds and European Investment Bank loans. The plan will be tabled for approval from the Greek parliament and the European Union by the end of the year.

According to Stelios Psomas, a policy advisor for the Hellenic Association of Photovoltaic Companies (HELAPCO), Greece's renewable energy sector was taken by surprise when the government announced the phase-out of coal (lignite) by 2028 in late 2019.

“With the exception of one power station (which is still being constructed), all other lignite-fired power stations will be phased out by 2023,” he said. “For a country which covered more than 50% of its electricity needs with lignite until recently, this is a huge step forward.”

Psomas said Greece’s transition to a cleaner economy will be based mostly on renewables (over 60% by 2030), with solar PV making up the lion’s share in the new capacity to be built.

For PPC, which is Greece’s largest power generator with 12.2GW of installed capacity, the solar projects represent the next step in its decarbonisation strategy. Reuters reports that the company has already closed two coal units with a total capacity of 550MW in Macedonia and will shutter ten more by 2023.

In the last year, PPC has signed agreements with both German power major RWE and Abu Dhabi-based Masdar to explore the development of renewable energy projects in Greece. The Masdar deal includes the planned construction of at least 300MW of solar and wind.

Pending green energy projects in Greece were given a boost earlier this year when the government tabled plans to shorten licensing processes and unblock a backlog that stood at 29GW as of March.

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