Norway’s Equinor Mulling Investment in Aegean

(Photo: Windbag of Aeolus documentary website, courtesy)

A proposal for an offshore wind farm between the Greek islands of Tinos, Syros and Mykonos has been floated by the Norwegian energy company Equinor, formerly Norway’s state-owned Statoil.

The heads of Equinor’s renewable energy sources (RES) sections are due to arrive in Athens on April 12 to present their investment proposal in more detail while Norway’s Ambassador in Athens Jorn Gjelstad has already discussed the project with the Greek environment and energy ministry.

According to Equinor, the low height of the waves combined with strong winds in the Aegean create ideal conditions for an offshore wind farm, similar to the first floating wind farm built by Equinor off the shore of Peterhead, Scotland a few years ago.

“Equinor installed a wind farm east of Scotland – a truly very successful endeavour – and in Greece, the specific area of the Aegean is very interesting for a similar application of this type of technology,” Gjelstad said, talking to reporters while visiting the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki. He said that a wind farm of this type could generate enough electricity to supply 40,000 households and also support the Greek National Action Plan for increasing the share of RES in final consumption to 20%, in line with EU directives.

Regarding possible investments in shipping, the ambassador said these might involve the conversion of energy systems on ships, introducing electrically powered passenger-car ferries similar to those operating in Norway.

“Norwegian investors see Greece as an interesting country because it has highly educated personnel,” Gjelstad noted, while deterrents for investors included the inefficient and slow judicial system, complicated laws, excessive red tape, and difficult communication between investors and public administration.

He also noted that the Norwegian state had earmarked 120 million euros to be spent on programs and initiatives in Greece between 2018 and 2021 and had so far contributed to programs for migration, to enhance social cohesion and poverty but “we must also do something that has added value, so that we create hope and prospects for young people in Greece as well.”

To this end, the ambassador added, a new program for entrepreneurship and innovation will be announced within the next few days – Innovation Business Greece – that will direct 22 million euros directly to the private sector, financing projects on Green Energy, Blue Growth, IT and Communications. Applications for this will be accepted for a period of three months, Gjelstad said.

“We are very happy to address an open invitation…the launch event for this will be held on March 27 in Piraeus, April 2 in Thessaloniki, April 9 in Heraklion and April 11 in Patras. Open invitation means that anyone can submit good, innovative ideas for evaluation and, if they meet the criteria, receive financing for their implementation,” the ambassador explained, while deploring the ‘brain drain’ observed in Greece as “a tragic loss of human capital” that had to be stopped.

Gjelstad also spoke about his visit to the Diavata refugee reception centre in northern Greece, saying that Norway places great weight on implementing programs for the refugee crisis and was working on developing a comprehensive database for hot spots, which will work with the central system at the migration policy ministry and allow it to allocate resources more efficiently.