Papademos Says Renewable Energy Investment a Priority for Greece

April 4, 2012 by  
Filed under Green Energy News

Greek Prime Minister Lucas Papademos
vowed to accelerate a 20-billion euro ($27 billion) solar-power
project that would help the European Union’s most-indebted
nation spur growth and export clean energy.

Investment in renewable energy is a “national priority”
for Greece, which agreed to deep spending cuts to fend off a
possible financial collapse, Papademos told a conference in
Athens today. The Helios project, named after the ancient god of
the sun, would install as many as 10 gigawatts of solar panels
by 2050, increasing use of Greece’s natural energy.

“In the last few years, talk has centered on Greece’s
fiscal discipline,” Papademos said. “But fiscal harmonization
isn’t enough for development. The energy sector gives Greece an
opportunity to become a hub for the European Union and third
countries.”

Greece’s debt reached 165 percent of gross domestic product
last year as its economy shrank 6.9 percent, a fourth year of
recession, according to estimates last month by the European
Commission, the EU’s executive arm. Helios would help Greece
create jobs and tap new revenue sources, while aiding the EU in
meeting its clean energy targets, Papademos said.

Europe, which is seeking to lead the global fight against
climate change and cut dependence on imported fossil fuels, is
on schedule to meet its goal of raising the share of green
energy it consumes to an average of 20 percent by 2020.

Fossil Fuels

EU Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger threw his weight
behind Helios today, saying he will continue supporting Greece
in achieving a “stable, competitive and sustainable energy
platform” that will bolster economic growth.

“Helios has potential to be ground breaking,” Oettinger
told the conference. “Greece must demonstrate it can exploit
its sun and turn this into an economic benefit for the country
and other EU regions that don’t have as much sun.”

Ways to transfer solar electricity from Greece to the rest
of the EU include overhead high-voltage routes via the Balkans
as well as underwater and overhead interconnections through
Italy or the Adriatic Sea, according to a presentation held by
Greek Environment and Energy Minister George Papaconstantinou in
Brussels in February.

Helios will be based on a long-term cooperation agreement
between Greece and one or more EU member states and will need to
attract industry or financial investors, according to Guggenheim
Partners LLC, an adviser to the Greek government on the project.

Solar Resources

Greece is currently discussing with the EU which financial
mechanisms may be used to encourage investment in the project,
Guggenheim’s Costas Karagiannis said today. Helios may also use
planned project bonds that the EU and European Investment Bank
are working on to help companies fund energy infrastructure.

“Investors would see high single- to low double-digit
returns,” he said. “Based on current trends, the tariff would
be 12 euro cents or 13 euro cents per kilowatt-hour.”

The average annual solar radiation in Greece is 1,800
kilowatt-hours per square meter, among the highest in Europe and
about 50 percent more than in Germany, according to EU data.

Germany, where the share of solar power in energy
consumption rose to 4 percent from 1 percent in 2009, supports
the idea of Greece exporting solar power to other EU states and
is willing to share its experience, German Deputy Environment
Minister Juergen Becker told the conference today.

Economic Recovery

“Helios is a way to help Greek economic recovery,” he
said. “EU states that want to import Greek solar power should
make up any funding shortfall. Germany is looking at how it can
contribute to financing Helios.”

The project would be a second large solar project in the EU
after Desertec, backed by German turbine maker Siemens AG (SIE) and
Deutsche Bank AG (DBK) and which aims to generate power across the
Sahara desert for consumers in the Mediterranean area.

“Desertec and Helios do not exclude each other,” the EU’s
Oettinger said. “Desertec is a vision for 2050, Helios should
reach its full capacity already in 10 years.”

To contact the reporters on this story:
Paul Tugwell in Athens at
ptugwell1@bloomberg.net;
Ewa Krukowska in Brussels at
ekrukowska@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story:
Jerrold Colten at
jcolten@bloomberg.net;
Lars Paulsson at
lpaulsson@bloomberg.net

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