Surging energy bills prompt rush for solar panels in Cyprus

Nathanael said that the EAC's staff was forced by the high number of applicants to work extra hours weekends. Even so, several applicants must wait a few months before they receive the clearance.

(File: Famagusta Gazette)

NICOSIA – Cypriots by the thousand are rushing to sign up for the government’s enhanced solar panel subsidy program, which they expect will help reduce their surging electricity bills, an official of the state-owned Electricity Authority of Cyprus (EAC) told Xinhua.

Dimitris Nathanael, a spokesman for the EAC, which processes the applications, said that 2,260 applications were filed within one week after the announcement of the updated program in June.

“We currently receive about 1,000 applications per month, compared to 200 a month in 2019 and 400 a month in 2020 and 2021,” he said.

The first solar panels were installed in Cyprus about 15 years ago and by 2020 — when the first subsidy program was launched within the framework of the green transition — the EAC had received 17,000 applications.

“Since then, another five thousand people have applied, most of them after June, when the enhanced subsidy program was launched, raising the total number of applicants to 22,000,” he told Xinhua.

The country’s Statistical Service said earlier this month that since the beginning of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the price of electricity has gone up by 44.2 percent and the price of oil and oil products has risen by 17.3 percent.

In response to the energy crisis fueled by the conflict, the Energy, Commerce and Industry Ministry enhanced its original subsidy program by increasing its budget by 40 percent, from 20 million euros (20.8 million U.S. dollars) to 30 million euros. It almost doubled the subsidies for households to 375 euros per one kilowatt (kW) of installed solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity. The maximum grant is 1,500 euros.

The Energy Ministry aims at expanding the subsidy program to bring the number of households with solar panels close to 50 percent of Cyprus’ 331,000 households (2.6 persons per household) by 2030.

Nathanael said that the EAC’s staff was forced by the high number of applicants to work extra hours weekends. Even so, several applicants must wait a few months before they receive the clearance.

“I was told that I may have my application examined after two or three months,” applicant Michalis Malas said.

Malas, a mechanical engineer, said that he had long been planning to install a solar system.

“My decision got delayed because electricity prices were stable and were even declining in 2021 as a result of the slump in international oil prices. However, the energy crisis, which started early in 2022, coupled with the higher subsidies offered by the government speeded up my decision,” Malas said.

He said that for maximum gain he opted to install a 4 kW system rather than a smaller 3 kW one, and estimated that the panels would reduce his bi-monthly electricity bill from an average 430 euros to around 180 euros.

“The 4 kW system will cost me close to 6,000 euros, but the actual expense will be close to 4,500 euros once I receive the government grant of 1,500 euros. I expect to recover my investment within five years,” he said.

 

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