ATHENS – Moving to tap its most available source – the sun – Greece is turning toward solar energy with the oil company Hellenic Petroleum getting 75 million euros ($88.62 million) in funding to build the country's largest renewable energy project.
The money, said the site Recharge, is coming from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) for a project that will reach 204 megawatts, to be built in Kozani in northern Greece.
It will generate 350 gigawatt hours annually, enough to power 75,000 homes in a country that still relies on oil and coal despite abundance of sun hours. It's the biggest move into renewable sources by the company which plans to build 600 megawatt hours of clean energy projects by 2025.
Ironically, the solar plant will be in Greece's most coal-dependent region in Western Macedonia, near coal-fired plants being phased out in favor of renewable energy in the 21st Century.
To finance the project, Athens-listed Hellenic launched a bond issue to raise 100 million euros ($118.14 million) with 75 percent subsidized by the ERBD monies to get it going.
“Greece has a very ambitious decarbonization plan and it will therefore need many projects of this scale to replace its existing lignite capacity,”Harry Boyd-Carpenter, EBRD’s head of energy for Europe, the Middle East and Africa told Recharge.
Greece plans to boost renewables to 35 percent of its energy consumption by 2030 from 19.7 percent this year, hoping to generate around 44 billion euros ($51.98 billion) in investments.
Hellenic said Kozani, which it bought from German developer Juwi in February, is in its final stage of licensing. Construction, expected to be 16 months, is expected to begin now so the project can be operational by the first quarter of 2022.
Kozani was the biggest winner in an April 2019 renewables auction staged by the Greek government, when it won almost half of the capacity on offer with a bid of 57.30 euros ($67.70) per megawatt hour.
“The Kozani project is our first big step towards building a material renewables portfolio in line with our strategy and our ambition to reduce our carbon footprint,” George Alexopoulos, member of Hellenic Petroleum’s Board said.