Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis attended the inauguration of Hellenic Petroleum's (HELPE) photovoltaic park in the city of Kozani, northern Greece, on Wednesday.
HELPE's 204 MW photovoltaic park is the largest Renewable Energy Sources (RES) unit in the Southeast Mediterranean region and one of the largest in Europe.
Speaking at the event, the premier said that "Greece's energy policy must be flexible, bearing in mind the current situation." It is, therefore, sensible, he elaborated, "to want to increase lignite-based energy production over the next two years, upping lignite mining by 50 pct, so as to reduce dependency on natural gas." In this context, he added, the Public Power Company's (PPC) new unit Ptolemaida 5 will operate as a lignite unit through 2028, and if necessary, so will other units such as Meliti or Agios Dimitrios 5.
Mitsotakis spoke about this being a temporary measure, noting that all European countries are modifying their energy policy planning "against the worst possible scenarios regarding supply security in natural gas." "There had to be a war which raised gas prices tenfold for lignite to become temporarily cheaper," he added.
The current use of lignite does not null the targets for reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 55 pct by 2030 and climate neutrality by 2050, he stressed. Moreover, he underlined that this adjustment in energy planning does not delay, postpone or reduce actions relating to the program for a fair transition of Greece's lignite areas.
The PM also criticised main opposition SYRIZA for hypocrisy and crocodile tears over the phasing out of lignite mining and use, noting that the transition was inaugurated 10 years ago with the gradual removal of old electricity production units, without any preparation for the post-lignite era. The so-called violent transition from lignite and the availability of cheaper lignite is a myth, he said.
According to HELPE's CEO Andreas Siamisis, the total benefit from the reduction in natural gas imports by the new photovoltaic park in Kozani is estimated at 80-100 million euros annually. Additionally, he said, the park can:
- produce 350 GW hours of clean energy every year, equivalent to the consumption by 75,000 households
- provide income for local government, households and businesses amounting to 600,000 euros per year
- reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 300,000 tonnes per year, corresponding to 110,000 hectares (1.1 mln stremmas) of forest
- reduce energy costs at national level, as the price at which energy will be sold in the system will be fixed at 57.72 euros per MWh for the next 20 years.
As Siamisis added, the photovoltaic investment totaled 130 million euros, with a national added value share of 35 pct, while during its construction 350 jobs were created.