Wind farm bureaucracy
Kathimerini 23 May 2008

Although Greece is one of the windiest countries in Europe, wind farms have been slow in coming. The country gets just 3 percent of its power from wind, compared to 30 percent in Denmark.

In 2007 125 megawatts of wind power were added to the arsenal, raising the total to 870 MW (0.93 percent of the world’s total), produced from 1,096 wind generators, widening the gap Greece must close before it meets its targets under the Kyoto Protocol.

According to a European Commission proposal, renewable energy sources (RES) should supply 18 percent of total energy consumption by 2020, from 6.9 percent in 2005.

According to estimates, this means that wind energy should account for 8,000 to 10,000 MW.

There are several reasons for the shortfall. Although the Public Power Corporation (PPC) was one of the world’s pioneers during the 1980s, it abandoned its efforts in the 1990s, just when the technology was becoming more efficient.

“Cheap” lignite and the petroleum lobby worked their miracle. Then the deregulation of the market put a halt to PPC’s ventures in RES. Business interests, which proved to be considerable, took up the gauntlet.

Yet despite their initial enthusiasm over the good winds and fixed price per kilowatt hour, investors were soon faced with obstacles, chief among them Greece’s notorious bureaucracy that calls for 36 documents before final approval is given for a wind farm.

The Center for Renewable Energy Sources (KAPE) has estimated that the entire process takes 820 days, even though it is supposed to have been simplified over the past two years.

Moreover, the lack of a zoning plan has defeated all plans for wind farms opposed by local residents who have lodged protests with the Council of State (the country’s highest administrative court), which has ruled that in the absence of a national zoning plan, no wind farms can be sited.

This problem is expected to be overcome, as the Environment and Public Works Ministry is rushing through its bill on such a plan and a special plan on RES, despite opposition from the Technical Chamber of Greece and environmental and other groups.

About 1,000 MW of wind power are estimated to be in the final stages of planning permission.

Problems still remain, however. The wind farms are meeting with considerable opposition in many areas, particularly where there are large concentrations of them (as in southern Evia). Many have also been sited in inappropriate places, spoiling landscapes of natural beauty. Community consultation is rare; the wind farms are seen as get-rich schemes for private interests. The other major problem is that the specifications for developing the system for conveying wind energy cover only 5,500 MW, far below the target.