Greece is rapidly becoming one of the most promising markets for solar energy in Europe, but experts warn that its clunky bureaucracy and overly generous subsidies for photovoltaics (PV) could stunt or distort the industry’s development.
Greece’s burgeoning solar sector is attracting heavy buzz within the European renewables industry at the moment, underpinned by a suite of lavish new feed-in tariffs (FITs) that pay out €0.55 ($0.77) per kilowatt hour (kWh) of electricity produced by residential PV systems, and as much as €0.50 for utility-scale arrays.
Unlike the solar FIT Greece introduced in 2006, which capped support at 700 megawatts (MW) and failed to kick-start a domestic PV industry, the new subsidy scheme comes without a ceiling. Greece also provides grants to cover 20%-40% of the upfront cost of PV installations larger than 2MW.
Together, these support mechanisms have led to a froth of expectations for the industry. Greece will see anywhere from €500m-€2bn plugged into its solar sector each year until 2020, according to the Hellenic Association of PV Companies (Helapco).
By then, the solar industry will supply roughly 12% of Greece’s electricity requirements, or 8,000MW, while supporting as many as 13,000 full-time jobs in a country of just 11 million people.
“By Greek standards, these are huge numbers,” says Stellios Psoras, chief policy adviser for Helapco. “When you compare this to anything else in the Greek energy industry, it’s clear that PV will be the major player when it comes to jobs. That’s why Greek politicians like it so much.”
For all his optimism, however, Stellios says there remains a grave impediment to the industry’s successful growth, despite the firm political support behind it.
“We have very good legislation, and extremely good incentives – in my opinion, they are much, much higher than what is needed,” said Stellios, speaking at a solar economics forum organised by Greenpower in London.
“But we all must acknowledge that there is a huge coolant in the Greek solar market that has prevented it from really taking off, and that is our bureaucracy,” he says.