Greece vows €35 billion investment for energy transition

Minister of Environment and Energy George Stathakis. [Shutterstock]

The Greek ministry of energy has finally submitted a new national energy and climate plan to the European Commission. It aims to reduce dependence on lignite power and increase the use of renewable energy. EURACTIV Greece reports.

“For the first time Greece now has a long-term plan for the energy sector: The National Energy and Climate Plan, which describes the framework for investments totaling €35 billion,” Minister of Environment and Energy George Stathakis told EURACTIV.gr.

The plan, which was submitted to the EU executive a month late, noted that the transition to a green economy would be based on institution building, such as energy exchange, market transformation and consumer support.

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“It is a very important policy document, as it describes precisely the necessary steps towards clean energy and coal phase-out. They are ambitious, but also realistic. We set targets and priorities, we record quantitative and qualitative objectives, and we are sure that we will be in a position to deliver them by 2030,” the minister said.

The three pillars

According to the Stathakis, the first pillar refers to a radical change of Greece’s energy mix, favouring renewables, up to the 32% of final consumption.

To achieve this goal, the plan foresees a radical transformation of the electricity sector, as renewable energy will substitute fossil fuels with over 55% of final electricity consumption.

The plan says lignite will be progressively reduced, but it continues to help reduce the country’s dependency on imports, while natural gas continues to be used in electricity by providing necessary flexibility.

”It is also important to increase natural gas penetration in heating, more than doubling its use in the building sector,” the plan noted.

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Stathakis added that the second pillar referred to energy savings that will total one-third of current consumption by 2030. This practically means renovating and replacing 10% of residential buildings by 2030 with new near-zero energy consumption.

Annually, at least 40,000 residential buildings are to be upgraded or replaced by new energy efficient ones.

“The third pillar refers to the reduction of energy poverty, by ensuring equal and unhindered access to basic goods and services for all,” the minister said.

Coal is still there 

However, environmentalists are not pleased with the plan. They particularly criticised the government of not putting a definitive end to fossil fuels.

“The text not only does not provide a full decarbonisation timetable but also it cannot provide sufficient explanation as to why the country should remain locked into an expensive, highly polluting, obsolete and totally unnecessary for energy technology,” Greenpeace and WWF commented.

All in all, the plan is in line with global warming scenarios of 3,1-3,7°C, the two organisations argued.

They also stressed that the government’s “political choice” was in contrast with the tendency of both major energy companies in Europe and most EU member states to get rid of coal.

“According to the plan, existing lignite units and at least one new one will continue to operate in Greece in 2030,” they said.

They added that it was an irresponsible political approach, which also leads to an unjustified burden on consumers.

“It’s a choice that was also fueled – pun intended – by the DG Competition’s intransigence stance on forcing the Public Power Corporation (PPC) to sell lignite assets to private investors, thus making it even harder for Greece to get rid of coal by 2030,” Takis Grigoriou, climate and energy campaigner told EURACTIV Greece.

Edited by Sarantis Michalopoulos and Sam Morgan

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Positions

"The EU is attempting to give the ‘kiss of life’ to the dying lignite, perpetuating its devastating impacts on the environment, health and the national economy," Stavros Mavrogenis, Climate and Energy Policy Officer in WWF Greece said.

"Long-term energy planning should include a timetable for the withdrawal of all lignite plants by 2030 and full decarbonisation by 2050," he added.

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