Greeks embrace solar energy as electric bills soar

ATHENS – Facing soaring electricity and natural gas bills, Greek companies and households are turning to photovoltaics en masse this year to cope with the ongoing energy crisis.

The phone of Nikos Tzortzakakis, operations manager at AENAOS Energy Systems, a local company specializing in renewable energy sources (RES), is constantly ringing these days. Demand for photovoltaic projects has increased this year by approximately 80 percent, he told Xinhua.

“Amidst the energy crisis, self-production is the only solution households or businesses have to be able to cope with the cost of electricity and protect themselves in an unstable environment,” Tzortzakakis said.

With more than 250 days of sunshine per year, Greece is rich in renewable solar energy potential. According to a recent report by the Hellenic Association of Photovoltaic Companies (HELAPCO), the output of the new photovoltaic projects that are interconnected with the grid rose by 59 percent from 838 MWh (megawatt hours) in 2021 to an estimated 1,340 MWh by the end of 2022. The total of interconnected photovoltaic installations in operation in Greece now reaches 5,466 MWh.

In Greece’s energy transition, medium-sized photovoltaic investors (10-1,000 kW projects) represent 71 percent of the total market, large projects (over 1MW) 22 percent and small investors 7 percent.

Stergiou Family S.A., one of the largest producers and distributors of confectionery and bakery products in Greece, took the plunge this summer. The company installed a Chinese-made 250-1,000 kW photovoltaic system, interconnected with the grid, on the rooftop of their factory at their headquarters in Acharnes, an Athens suburb.

“Solar panel installation with the principle of net metering enables us to utilize 100 percent of the power generated by the panels,” George Delis, factory manager, told Xinhua.

“Our factory covers up to 30 percent of its daily energy needs through the panels. On idle days, like Sundays or national holidays, the energy produced can be fed back to the public grid,” he said.

By switching to photovoltaics, Delis said the company could reduce not only its operating costs but also its carbon footprint amid the intense energy crisis.

The Greek government is scheduled to unroll a series of subsidy programs in the coming months to support the public’s shift to rooftop photovoltaic panels, the Energy and Environment Ministry said recently.

A 200-million-euro (207.25 million U.S. dollars) program is to be launched in early 2023, which will subsidize 10 kW rooftop solar panels combined with power storage (batteries) up to 60 percent.

Those who choose to install photovoltaic systems without batteries will receive smaller subsidies (around 30 percent), the ministry said.

Thirty percent of the program is planned to concern farmers (about 70,000 beneficiaries), 30 percent small and medium-sized businesses and 40 percent (some 100,000) households, Energy and Environment Minister Kostas Skrekas told a press briefing in Athens recently.

The ministry has also announced two other subsidy programs, one to promote self-generation by businesses and another to help energy communities support vulnerable consumers.

Skrekas said that demand is expected to be high, as businesses and households are looking for ways to reduce their energy costs.

“Currently, the average cost for a household for a self-production project is around 10,000 euros without batteries. So, with the 30 percent subsidy, it drops to around 7,000 euros,” Tzortzakakis said.

For projects with integrated batteries, the initial cost is around 14,000 euros, which goes down to 5,600 euros after the subsidy, he explained.

The subsidy will help businesses and households alike to finance their switch to renewable energy, he said.

Meanwhile, the state needs to upgrade the country’s energy infrastructure to accommodate the increase in supply, Tzortzakakis added. (1 euro = 1.06 U.S. dollar)


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