Greek energy companies annoyed by ‘late’ amendments to renewables regulation

Industry sources commented that these “overnight” amendments that change the regulatory framework distort the market. [Activ Solar/Flickr]

Private energy providers are upset with Greek politicians, claiming that they make “last minute” amendments to bills that change the regulatory framework and distort the renewable energy market.

The Greek government recently included an amendment in a bill for the protection of the built environment concerning hybrid renewable energy plants on islands not connected to the mainland electricity system.

The amendment addresses the issue of the islands’ decarbonisation and the development of pilot energy programmes on non-interconnected islands. But reports in Athens suggest that the amendment may be out of line with EU legislation.

The development of hybrid power generation systems, as well as the pricing of energy they provide, is regulated by a 2016 law, which replaced a previous one from 2006, as part of the country’s bailout commitments to consolidate the renewable energy market.

The 2016 law stipulates that there should be a tender for all new renewable energy projects on the basis of the lowest price and then to sign a contract with the most economical project aiming to reduce the cost of the energy produced.

However, according to an amendment, a different procedure is envisaged for two pilot hybrid projects on the islands of Tilos and Ikaria. These projects will fall under the previous 2006 scheme and enjoy the old aid and subsidy arrangements as well as directly awarded contracts.

Aside from these projects, the derogation also covers less mature projects (without an environmental permit), which have secured EU funding, either as a whole or in part.

In this way, energy providers claim that specific companies, such as the Public Power Corporation (PPC), which has monopolised the Greek market for decades, enjoy preferential treatment.

Industry sources have said that these “overnight” amendments that change the regulatory framework distort the market.

“Lawmakers from all the parties adopt them without being aware of what exactly they are voting for,” the sources noted.

Luxembourg buys up surplus energy to hit renewable target, in EU first

Lithuania and Luxembourg became the first EU member states to agree on the transfer of renewable energy statistics on Thursday (26 October), meaning the Grand Duchy will now probably hit its 2020 target. Estonia hopes to broker a similar deal to finance its wind power ambitions.

The government

The ministry of environment and energy reacted to the reports, saying that the amendment was backed by a big majority in parliament and that the two projects were already at an advanced stage on 31 December 2015 (the date of expiry of the old regime), demonstrating that they could conclude a contract of sale with the old scheme.

“The government’s initiative is provided by the EU’s 2014-2020 guidelines and the relevant EU institutions have not expressed any contradictory views,” the ministry said in an unofficial note.

EURACTIV.com has learnt that a relevant State Aid Decision made by the European Commission in 2016 stipulates that renewable energy installations, which are covered by a Power Purchase Agreement concluded under the previous support scheme and whose construction will not have been finalised before 31 December 2017, will in principle fall under the conditions of the present support scheme.

“In specific circumstances, a deviation from this principle is possible but would have to be justified by Greece and assessed by the Commission,” the sources said. EURACTIV understands, though, that the Commission has not yet assessed the two Greek projects.

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