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Kyriakos Mitsotakis: Energy transition is a significant opportunity for Greece

22 May 2024

At the Eurelectric conference “Lights On” held in Athens these days, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis mentioned the record penetration of renewable in Greece, and the broader system transformation in order to building up the country’s resilience against the climate crisis.


The penetration of renewables

He started by remembering how immediately after he have been sworn in as prime minister, he have made the commitment at the United Nations that Greece would shut down all its lignite plants by 2028. “Now, ahead of plan, we’re actually close to meeting this target. In 2023, our lignite generation was at its lowest point in over 50 years, and the output has declined by 87% relative to its peak. As lignite is phased out, renewables are taking its place.”

Mitsotakis talked about how the old coal plants in Western Macedonia, where most of the lignite in Greece was extracted, “sit idle and lots of solar currently occupying the space”. The official considers this as “a very good indication of what has been happening across the country”. Since 2019, Greece has more than doubled its installed capacity of solar and wind. Greece is the second in the world, after Denmark, in terms of the share of wind and solar energy in power generation.


A broader system transformation

This growth in renewables is part of a broader system transformation, continued Kyriakos Mitsotakis. According to him, in 2023, Greece doubled its investments in grids relative to the average of the years between 2020 and 2022, which in turn was 50% higher than the period between 2012 and 2019. He mentioned that Greece is investing in pump hydro and have held two auctions for grid-scale batteries. Mitsotakis highlighted the leading role of PPC in managing hydropower resources, recognizing that “prudent management of water can help balance the grid and build resilience against the climate crisis”. He also noted that they are finally rolling out smart meters.

Mitsotakis observed significant opportunities in Greece’s energy transition. Despite being resource-poor in fossil fuels, Greece has abundant sun and wind. He pointed out that the main challenge is managing the high interest from companies wanting to invest in Greece, which can be seen as a victim of its own success. He emphasized the potential of offshore wind in the Aegean Sea, which could make Greece a significant net electricity exporter in the future.


On Eurelectric’s Grids for Speed initiative

Mitsotakis appreciated the Eurelectric’s Grids for Speed initiative, which he said is crucial in enabling the energy transition of each country. The study shows that distribution grid investments should increase from an average 33 billion euros to 67 billion euros per year from 2025 to 2050, roughly 20% of what the EU spent on fossil fuel imports in 2023. Getting the grid up to speed will significantly reduce fossil fuel imports, create more than 2 million jobs, bring greater energy savings and deliver more reliable power supply while accelerating the decarbonisation of Europe’s economy, writes Eurelectric.

Mitsotakis pointed out that proper interconnectors are essential for a single market in Europe, helping balance the system by complementing the sun of the Mediterranean with the wind of the North Sea.

There is excess wind capacity in northern Europe during winter and excess solar capacity in the south during summer. PM argued that proper grids would allow energy “to be transported from where it is cheapest to produce to where it is most needed, facilitating the energy transition at a lower cost”. Mitsotakis emphasized the need for pan-European planning and broader visualization of electricity flows, including potential connections with North Africa and the Middle East. He mentioned ongoing discussions for a 3-gigawatt interconnection with Egypt.

Mitsotakis also pointed out a clear mismatch between Europe’s ambitions and the resources allocated to achieve them. He stressed that Europe cannot rely on protectionism but also cannot allow undue competition to harm European industry. “The balance must work for all European countries, not just those with strong fiscal positions”, he said.

Mitsotakis concluded by expressing his hope for moderation to prevail in the upcoming European Parliament elections and reiterated Greece’s belief in the need for “more Europe, not less”. He argued for a flexible and pragmatic approach to the energy transition, allowing member states room to experiment.

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