Total electricity generation capacity run by energy communities in Greece jumped 71.4% to just under 800 MW in the year through November in the low and medium voltage category. The number of active energy communities, which develop green electricity and combined heat and power plants, surged 36% to 1,406.
As part of its climate neutrality push, the European Union has enabled citizens to participate in the energy transition by gathering in energy communities or, as they are also known, energy cooperatives. The model is particularly relevant in areas still dependent on coal, where the challenge is more urgent, given that jobs and livelihoods are jeopardized in the process of decarbonization.
Greece, which has some of the most ambitious targets, registered a surge in renewable energy and combined heat and power (CHP) projects and installed capacity in the segment of energy communities. Official data for the 12 months through November 2022, reported by the Green Tank, show the number of active entities grew 36% to 1,406.
They have submitted 6,014 connection requests with 4.75 GW in total, which is an 11.7% increase in planned capacity. In the same period, 138 energy communities ceased to exist.
Energy communities run 14% of renewable electricity capacity in Greece
In Greece, the projects connected to the low and medium voltage grid are participating in the market. The ones in the virtual net metering scheme are aimed at meeting the energy needs of the members of an energy community. The primary role of non-profit entities formed by citizens, and the energy communities established by local authorities (whether for profit or not for profit) is for public benefit and they usually employ virtual net metering for own consumption. Solar power remains the most accessible and the most affordable technology.
There was only 3.17 MW in operation at the end of November 2022 within the virtual net metering mechanism
With regard to low and medium voltage, as recorded at the end of November, energy community projects accounted for 799.54 MW of installed capacity, which is an impressive 14% on a nationwide scale. Year on year, the increase was 71.4%. Separately, the virtual net metering item reached only 3.17 MW in total, compared to the 1.13 MW that was registered 12 months before.
Subsidies are necessary for public benefit projects
Grid availability remains the biggest issue. The number of requests for virtual net-metering projects by energy communities which were rejected by Greece’s distribution system operator HEDNO due to the inability to connect came in at 72 or 49% of applications. In the low and medium voltage category, 2,735 requests or 46.6% were turned down in the observed one-year period.
Greece’s distribution system operator HEDNO is rejecting almost half of all requests due to poor grid availability
The Green Tank called for subsidies for part of the cost of renewable energy projects for public benefit energy communities (involving either local authorities or citizens), whose main objective is to cover their own needs through net metering.
Rising interest in collective renewable electricity plants was registered in Western Macedonia coal hub
The Central Macedonia province had the highest number of active energy communities at the end of November – 263. Greece’s main lignite hub, Western Macedonia, trailed it closely with 261 entities. It landed only sixth with regard to installed capacity (63 MW), but it was second in the category of requests. The islands still make very little use of the model, the report showed.
Looking at the legal definition, energy communities are aimed at promoting a social and solidarity-based economy and innovation in the energy sector. Among other activities, they address energy poverty and work on improving end-use energy efficiency.