Pospief, the association of Greek solar energy producers, says that about 1 GW of installed solar projects are still waiting to be connected to the grid. Greece’s distribution system is unable to accommodate new small-scale solar capacity, except for net metering projects.
A clear process applies to small-scale solar power plants that need to be connected to the grid. Investors start by applying for a network connection permit from the Greek distribution network operator HEDNO. Letters of guarantee from financial institutions must be attached to the application.
If the request to join the network is fully documented, within four months HEDNO will issue a preliminary license detailing all the terms of the agreement. The investor then has two months to accept or reject these conditions. If the investor agrees, HEDNO will sign the final network connection agreement within four months, which enables the project to connect to the network.
However, Pospief’s general secretary Petros Tsikouras said pv magazine that HEDNO has never respected these time scales. He pointed out that it often takes up to 12 months to process requests to join the network, even though it should happen in, say, four months.
Tsikouras said that the situation gets even worse towards the end of the process, when the investors have accepted the conditions of the permit, when the project is finished and the network connection is still pending. HEDNO is usually slow, so investors are left with various financial burdens such as bank loans for several months. Meanwhile, their completed solar projects remain offline with no revenue.
Tsikouras said that these latest delays in particular could be easily resolved if the Greek government stopped protecting HEDNO’s role in the process of connecting new projects to the grid. Since HEDNO does not follow the set schedules, Pospief insists that investors can build their own network connection cables. However, in 2020, the Greek government confirmed HEDNO’s complete monopoly in matters related to network connections.
“HEDNO typically subcontracts construction companies that connect our solar power plants to the grid,” Tsikouras said. “But they won’t be able to do it in time when this monopoly runs counter to the mandates of the free economy that the government says it’s promoting.”
Projects under 500kW built and waiting to be connected to the grid are often at risk of losing the stable feed-in tariffs (FIT) offered by Greece. pv magazine has previously reported. Tsikouras said that small solar plants were able to secure stable arrangements by December 31, 2022, as long as they were connected to the grid within the set deadlines. However, HEDNO was often unable to bring such projects online in time, so the government came to the rescue by allowing offline projects to retain their FIT rates if they could prove they were built on time, Tsikouras added.
Apart from net metering systems and community energy projects, the small-scale solar segment in Greece is dying, Tsikouras said. The current government and the previous administration did nothing to expand renewable energy grid infrastructure. There is now little free network capacity for new small-scale plants, with the exception of plants that have already received permission and are waiting to be connected to the network.
HEDNO does not even accept new requests to connect plants to the network, and this is not going to change anytime soon. The only exceptions are network metering installations and community energy projects, for which HEDNO has released approximately 2.5 GW of network space. The network company has also reserved network space for the connection of large electricity-scale projects.
However, Tsikouras said developers and investors have been calling for the grid to be expanded for years, but the government has never listened. Unless grid operators expand their grid infrastructure soon, renewable energy will not expand in any meaningful way in Greece. Energy storage technologies could offer alternative solutions, but the government’s plan to organize energy storage competitions in 2021 failed. The country is also not expected to launch new stock competitions until the end of this year.