Here comes the sun
Athens News, 29 May 2009

Photovoltaic rooftop panels to generate household electricity will soon become as familiar a sight in Greece as solar-powered water heaters under new measures announced by the development ministry.

"Our goal is the continued promotion of renewable energy," said Development Minister Kostis Hatzidakis while unveiling the plans on May 20.

The new procedures will have clear environmental consequences, said the minister, who expects photovoltaic energy will relieve the overburdened national grid, especially during hot summer afternoons when demand often exceeds capacity.

The measures are expected to become law by next month when a joint ministerial decision by the e development, environment and finance ministries is printed in the Government Gazette. The move is part of the governmentís target to generate 18 percent of the.countryís energy from renewable sources by 2020.

"We aim to introduce renewable energy to our daily lives, the lives of the everyday citizen, and our homes," the minister told journalists at a detailed briefing on the new procedures, which also include proposals for the domestic and industrial tapping of geothermal energy.

The programme, titled Photo-voltaics on Roofs, will remove the notorious bureaucratic hurdles that have retarded the development of photovoltaics in Greece, including the obligation on homeowners to set up companies in order to sell the produced solar energy to the national grid and to pay additional social security as self-employed businesspeople.

In another major relief for potential solar power producers, special licensing will not be required from the Regulatory Authority for Energy (RAE) or the development ministry.

The new approach to photovoltaics will also slash the time to install and connect to the national grid by obliging state-run monopoly Public Power Corporation (DEI) to process all suitable applications to supply photovoltaic energy to the national grid within clear deadlines.

Thus, according to the minister, a successful applicant can expect to install a rooftop photovoltaic system and start supplying the national grid in less than 70 days, as is the norm in Germany.

Property owners who successfully install a photovoltaic system will be allowed to sell the energy to DEI at the rate of 55 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh), which will apply for all contracts signed up to 2011, whereupon they will be adjusted in line with inflation. The contracts with DEI will last 25 years.

If a consumerís production exceeds consumption, DEI will duly credit his or her electricity bill.

For the time being, however, the new measures will only apply to the Greek mainland, as many Greek islands are powered by local electricity companies and not by DEI. The regulations will also encourage the development of solar power in the countryside by facilitating the erection of photovoltaic parks with a capacity of up to150kWh on 80 percent of land plots, including those smaller than four stremmata, which under current rules are precluded from all forms of development.

Undertakers willing to install such solar fields will not be required to seek permission from the committee for planning and architectural control (EPAE).

A second plank in the new renewable energy proposals relates to the utilisation of geothermal energy, extracted from heat stored in the earth, and has proved controversial in Greece in the past.

According to Hatzidakis, the Institute of Geology and Mineral Exploration (IGME) has this year located an additional seven potential low-temperature (less than 25 degrees Celsius) geothermal fields, in addition to the 34 found between 2004 and 2008.

In these areas, the exploitation of geothermal resources for domestic cooling and heating, as well as agriculture (greenhouses) will be permitted. As with photovoltaic systems, the bureaucracy which had plagued the development of the source has been dismantled.