ATHENS – Greece’s plans to close coal-fired plants in 2023 to deal with climate change have been pushed back to 2028 in a setback for Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ ambitious goals as the country tries to reduce dependency on Russian energy supplies.
Greece will boost coal mining by 50 percent and extend use of the coal plants for five more years after the original deadline, he said, after the state-run Public Power Corporation said said it was going to to switch to a new, more efficient coal-fired unit due to open later this year to a cleaner fuel by 2025.
That was part of the National Energy and Climate Plan presented in September 2019 to phase coal out of its electricity mix by 2028 at the latest, said media reports, including from Reuters and Kathimerini.
“For the next two years, it certainly makes sense to increase energy production from lignite, maximizing, increasing by 50 percent its extraction in order to reduce our dependence on natural gas in the short term,” Mitsotakis said at the inauguration of a 204.3-megawatt photovoltaic park by Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE), Greece’s biggest oil refiner, in Kozani.
“It is a temporary measure,” he said, while noting that “in this new environment, it is also certain that the new unit, which is being built by PPC, will operate as a lignite unit in the coming years (until 2028.)”
The goal to get off coal has been repeatedly delayed although he noted it’s expensive and pollutes and is a worse alternative than natural gas, Greece having little choice now but to keep using it.
“It is more expensive than renewable energy sources due to the very high emissions costs,” he said, noting that “it was the war of this magnitude that led to natural gas prices soaring, making it cheaper to temporarily – and I stress temporarily – produce energy from lignite,” he said.
He didn’t explain how five more years means temporary or what would happen in 2028 if there is still a need to keep using coal, a 19th Century source of producing electricity and energy.
He said that if if some of the more modern but still quite old PPC units need to remain in operation, such as Melitis or Agios Dimitrios 5, “It is something that will be evaluated according to the needs of the moment, but also according to the prices and the availability of natural gas.”
He said that “in no case” will these changes affect Greece’s announced goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 55 percent by 2030 and achieve climate neutrality by 2050 without explaining how that could happen as it’s polluting.
Two sources from PPC not named told Reuters the company plans to increase coal extraction this year to make sure there are no power shortages in the event Russia halts gas supplies to Greece in further disputes over European Union sanctions for the ongoing invasion of Ukraine.