The number of energy communities is increasing in Greece in the areas where lignite mines and thermal power plants are being shut down, the Green Tank said. Such organizations, founded by citizens or local authorities, are developing renewable energy projects as the coal regions are undergoing a transition to clean sources.
As the European Union strengthens its climate neutrality policies, it also provided citizens with opportunities to participate in the energy transition, particularly in the regions still dependent on coal, where the challenge is bigger and more urgent. Greece, which has ambitious targets, registered a surge in renewable energy projects, mostly solar power, developed by newly established energy communities or cooperatives.
The Green Tank compiled a list with a focus on lignite regions, based on official data from the Hellenic Electricity Distribution Network Operator (HEDNO) and the General Commercial Register (GEMI). The necessary legislation was adopted in 2018.
Most of the organizations in the sector were founded for profit. There are 1,036 of them established in the country in the past three years, of which 19% are in the two coal hubs – Western Macedonia and Arcadia in the Peloponnese, where coal is excavated and burnt in power plants in Megalopolis.
Regional, municipal authorities don’t fall behind
The efforts of the local authorities are remarkable, the report’s authors said. Both regions and the municipalities of Kozani, Florina and Prespa in Western Macedonia have already established energy communities for public benefit.
“The tool of energy communities enables local communities to be an active part in both the energy transformation of lignite regions towards clean energy, and in ensuring conditions of justice, solidarity and democracy on the course to the post-lignite era. A prerequisite for using this tool, however, is to provide solutions to perennial problems, such as the release of existing resources to financially support public benefit energy communities, the saturation of grids, the institutional protection of energy communities from unfair competition in the energy market, and a modern, stable and favorable institutional framework for their development,” said Ioanna Theodosiou, Policy Associate at the Green Tank.
Share of applications in Western Macedonia is far higher than in whole of Greece
The majority of the 176 energy communities in Western Macedonia were established in Florina and Kozani, which are the most exposed to coal there, while in the regional unit of Arcadia, most of the 18 are located in the capital Tripoli, rather than in the lignite town of Megalopolis.
The 12 public benefit energy communities in Western Macedonia make up 6.8% of the 176 in total. In Arcadia there is only one.
The pending connection applications of energy community projects constitute 31.1% of the total requested renewable energy capacity in the low and medium voltage in Western Macedonia. The share is 20.5% in the whole country.
In Western Macedonia, the installed capacity of green energy projects by energy communities amounts to 24.6 MW or 10.1% of the low and medium voltage range. Progress is slower in Arcadia, where there is only 1.3 MW or 0.9%, and nothing in Megalopolis. On the other hand, the pending applications, 6 MW, constitute 63.7% of the total in the Megalopolis area.
Energy communities in Greece operate a total of 466 MW in renewable energy and CHP units.
Western Macedonia has 175 entities with 686 renewable energy and CHP projects with connection applications for a combined planned capacity of 552 MW, or 28.5% of the total. It compares to 18 energy communities and 66 projects in Arcadia including Megalopolis, making up 49.2 MW or 14.2% of all applications in the segment.
Law enables benefits for energy communities
Energy communities are defined as “urban cooperatives with the exclusive aim of promoting social and solidarity-based economy and innovation in the energy sector, addressing energy poverty and promoting energy sustainability, generation, storage, self-consumption, distribution and supply, enhancing energy self-sufficiency / security in island municipalities as well as improving end-use energy efficiency at local and regional level, by engaging in the sectors of renewable energy sources (RES), high-efficiency cogeneration of heat and power (CHP), rational energy use, energy efficiency, sustainable transportation means, and management of energy demand, generation, distribution and supply.”
Non-profit energy communities don’t share surplus use among their members, while the for-profit entities do.
The law provides financial incentives and support measures such as preferential participation in or exemption from competitive bidding procedures, exemption from paying the annual electricity generation permit fee, priority in obtaining generation permits and the access to national and European financial instruments.