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Will Greece warm to renewable energy? March 22, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Energy.
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Wind power generators in Greece currently produce 746 megawatts, while a further 1,600 MW are presently under development > Renewable energy generation in Greece is still at low levels, despite the country’s excellent potential, according to a survey by Kantor Management Consultants SA.

Wind power accounts for the largest share of renewable energy in Greece (excluding the major hydroelectric plants operated by the Public Power Corporation), with a wind generator capacity amounting to 746 megawatts (end 2006 data).

The domestic wind power market is operated by only a few but large groups which have the necessary expertise and capital. Some of the major players include Rokas-Iberdrola, Kopelouzos-ENEL, PPC Renewable-EDF and Terna. Currently under development are another 600 MW by Terna and 1,000 MW by Kopelouzos.

European Union targets are to double the gross primary energy generation from renewable sources to 12 percent of total production in 2010 and to 20 percent in 2020. But this target would be hard for Greece to achieve under current conditions, as it would require the country to almost double its renewable energy generation in just three years.

The main reasons for Greece’s lower-than-expected penetration into renewable energy sources, according to Kantor’s survey, include complex and time-consuming licensing procedures, network and connection problems, ineffective incentives and the lack of a comprehensive town-planning program for development of energy production regions.

Despite having incorporated EU directives, Greek legislation provides a rather vague framework. In addition, subsidies for renewable energy investments are excessively high.

For instance, photovoltaic systems in Greece are subsidized up to 45 percent of the required amount, and this, Kantor says, has invited oversupply in small-scale projects, which are not capable of creating the required impetus for a shift to large-scale photovoltaic development.

To speed up the penetration of renewable energy in the country’s energy balance, Kantor believes that policy should revolve around the following main axes: the reduction of subsidies for small-scale investments and the channeling of funds to larger-scale renewable energy projects; the designation and, where appropriate, expropriation of expanses of land to be used for renewable energy installations; plus the better organization of licensing and town-planning procedures.

Solar power sector looks set to shine February 25, 2008

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Solar power sector looks set to shine despite financing difficulties from credit crunch > Demand from institutional investors for large-scale renewable portfolios remains strong, now reaching into new markets, such as Greece. 

Solar power will be a bright investment prospect, as the appetite for green energy grows, even though the global credit crisis is making banks more wary of providing financing. In the short term, the sector will also have to contend with a shortage of silicon, a key ingredient for solar cells that turn sunlight into electricity, and possible changes in political support as elections take place.

“This year will be a very volatile one,” said Sven Hansen, chief investment officer at clean technology investor Good Energies, which has about 7 billion Swiss francs ($6.38 billion) under management. “The industry will see fantastic growth, but it will be a bumpy ride in terms of how financial markets value photovoltaic companies.”

The number of new large-scale solar energy plants has been growing rapidly particularly in sun-drenched countries like Spain and Italy, but also in Germany and the United States, where regulatory conditions offer incentives and stable returns for investors. Conditions could change because of a presidential election in the United States and general elections in Spain in March. “Whether there are support programs in place has a strong impact on markets’ development,” Hansen said.

Growth is still expected to be strong, driven by increased interest from institutional investors, such as pension funds and insurers, which are seeking alternative stable and long-term opportunities. Experts also expect the silicon shortage to ease next year as silicon makers hike up capacity and production.

“Leverage ratios are more difficult, but we will ride out the storm. The business is not shut,” said Peter van Egmond Rossbach, director of investment at Impax Asset Management. The firm provides finance for renewable energy projects around the world and has $2 billion under management. Thirty percent is invested in solar, 40 percent in wind and the rest in other renewable energy projects, it said. “It just means that (project financing) is getting more expensive and we have to bridge with equity,” he added.

Tighter liquidity on global financial markets resulting from a crisis in the US subprime mortgage market last year has made banks more risk-averse. As a result, conditions have become tougher, pushing up interest payments for loans and other financing costs, which reduces the cashflow and leads to higher purchase prices for investors.

“We notice it in the purchase prices,” said Barbara Flesche, head of equity sales at Epuron, a project developer, which is fully owned by German solar group Conergy. Epuron develops, finances, develops and operates large-scale renewable energy projects, bringing together investors, banks and equipment producers. It has completed deals worth about 800 million euro ($1.18 billion) since 1998, it said.

Banks were less willing to provide high gearing for such major projects, which dampened investor hopes of a higher return on equity, Flesche said. But she added, “The risk for purchase prices is not something that’s hurting us dramatically – so far.”

Flesche said demand from institutional investors for such large-scale renewable portfolios was still strong and was now also reaching into new markets, such as Greece or Italy. “It will become more difficult to get bank financing, but not impossible,” Epuron’s Flesche said.

The European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA) expects the global market to be five times bigger than it was in 2007 within the next five years. It said it expected annual installations to reach a 10.9-gigawatt peak by 2012 globally, up from a peak of about 2.2 gigawatts in 2007, adding that annual growth rates of well above 25 percent could be expected.

The European Energy Council has forecast that by 2010 about 1.6 percent of total energy generation will derive from photovoltaic sources, which compares to a share of 0.01 percent in 2003. By 2010 the council expects about 19 percent of generation will derive from renewables, 15 percent from nuclear and 66 percent from fossil sources.

Cyprus to get natural gas advice October 16, 2007

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Cyprus will appoint consultants by the end of the year to advise it on supply and source options for natural gas, its Energy Minister said yesterday.

Cyprus needs to wean itself off its reliance on heavy fuel oil firing its power grids emitting the carbon dioxide blamed for climate change. “The experts will be appointed by the beginning of 2008,” said Antonis Michaelides, the Commerce, Industry and Tourism Minister.

The consultants would be tasked with drafting specifications for the construction of a land-based or offshore natural gas storage terminal. Michaelides said Cyprus was keeping its options open on the type of gas sought.

Solar energy represents 4.0 percent of the island’s energy balance. Eurostat data suggest the less than 1 million people in Cyprus produce between 10 and 20 percent more carbon dioxide than the average citizen of the EU.

First energy-sufficient building in Athens October 3, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Architecture Greece, Energy, Technology.
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A team of local experts have built a five-story building in Athens with its own autonomous energy supply, the first of its kind in Europe.

Experts from the National Center of Scientific Research (NCSR), the Development Ministry’s General Secretariat for Research and Technology and energy company Sol Energy Hellas have pooled their resources to create a 600-square-meter building that draws more than 95 percent of its energy needs from its solar and geothermal energy installations. Geothermal power is generated by heat stored beneath the earth’s surface.

athens_eco_building.jpg  The mythical figure of Prometheus, giver of fire, adorns the building. Located in the southern Athens suburb of Palaio Faliron, the inauguration of the energy project, which houses Sol Energy Hellas’s offices, will take place tomorrow after four years in the making.

One of the largest obstacles experts came up against in executing the project was proving to government officials that the building did not need access to all state energy companies. However, the Environment Ministry forced the installation of a natural gas system, as this is required by law.

High-performance solar panels that heat water but are also able to cool down the building and shallow geothermal equipment used to control room temperatures are among the features of the project. Experts estimate that less than 10 years will be needed to recover the money invested in the power equipment. In Greece, solar power systems are used almost exclusively to power hot water systems in homes.

”We have 3 million square meters in Greece of installed solar panels, saving 2,000 megawatts of energy which amount to two power plants the size of those in Megalopolis,” said Vasillis Belesiotis of the NCSR.

Related Links > http://www.solenergy.gr

Phoenix Solar to build Greek plant October 3, 2007

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Phoenix Solar AG signed a general contractor agreement with a UK-based company for the construction of a photovoltaic (PV) plant in Greece with a peak power output of 952 kW.

Construction work on the plant is due to begin soon and finish before the end of the year. The project site is on mainland Greece not far from Thessaloniki. A project developer based in Cyprus is responsible for developing the project through obtaining all the necessary approvals. Phoenix Solar is to plan and build the power plant and turn it over upon full completion.

The demand for grid-connected large-scale photovoltaic plants is very high in Greece. Due to the complex and protracted approval procedure, no grid connected photovoltaic plants of over 100 kW peak power output have been built so far. Upon completion, Phoenix Solar’s 1 MW power plant will be Greece’s largest grid-connected PV plant.

Phoenix Solar AG has been working for two years on its market entry into Greece. This 1 MW project and the framework agreement signed last month on project development for 25 MW of PV power have secured the company an excellent starting point for developing business in the Greek solar market.