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Renewed hope for clean energy revolution


Relevant to the Kytherian Wind Turbine debate

The long-awaited land use plan for renewable energy sources passed into law on November 12 with the unanimous approval of the government's inner cabinet.
Environment and Public Works Minister George Souflias boasted that the plan clarifies where wind and solar energy parks can be situated, providing guidelines for potential investors and for lawyers considering the myriad of complaints against existing applications.

Additionally, said Souflias, it provides the framework for the exploitation of other clean energy sources, such as the siting of small hydroelectric and biogas installations and the continued exploration of geothermal energy fields.

According to figures given on November 7 by Anastasios Garis, the managing director of the Public Power Corporation's renewables arm, only two percent of all applications for clean energy installations have so far been approved by the country's Regulatory Authority for Energy (RAE).

At a time when the RAE is considering wind power production licences for more than 4,000MW of wind power, such parks currently total a meagre 870MW nationwide.

Solar power is even less exploited, with installations totalling 3,000MW awaiting production licences but less than 1MW of the sun's energy currently passing into the largely lignite-dependent national grid (with a total generating capacity over 10,000MW).

As for the geothermal fields of Milos and Nisyros, the use of up to 250MW of clean energy apparently hangs on whether the islanders can overcome their deeply ingrained suspicion after a previous botched attempt by PPC to harness the energy in the 1980s.

For all that, Souflias announced his confidence that the country will meet its EU targets of producing more than 20 percent of the country's electricity from renewables by 2010, rising to 29 percent by 2020.

"The plan represents one of the key tools to implement a new energy policy that will aim to strengthen the use of renewable energies," he said.
Specifically, it envisages 5,000MW from wind power on sites in northern and central Greece and in the Peloponnese, while detailing other restrictions, such as the distance between turbines and archaeological sites and major public works. It also clears the way for turbines to be built within forests, though not on environmentally-protected land.

Notably downgraded within the scheme is the position of the Greece's islands, once considered the focus of the country's renewables policy because of their abundant wind.

The islands are categorised as locations "suitable" for wind-generated energy, as opposed to the mainland, which is to be "prioritised".

According to the ministry, the islands could provide more than 14,000MW of wind energy - at time when the RAE anticipates the need for an additional 5,000MW from all renewables by 2012, and 10,000MW by 2020, to achieve the country's EU targets.
However, the plan all but dismisses the islands' contributions to these targets by referring to their "limited space, intensive tourism and valuable natural and cultural environment" as restricting factors.

Christos Zerefos, head of the National Observatory of Athens, said the plan is a significant step in the right direction.
"Better late than never," he told this newspaper. "We are talking about something that should have been done some time ago so that investors would know where and how to invest their money. The challenge now is for the licence-granting process to be simplified even further."

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