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Greece: stormy skies ahead?

A year ago, the future of the PV industry in Greece was looking very bright indeed. After what seemed to be a long time in the mid-table of European renewable energy output, lagging behind the rather less sunny Ireland and Great Britain, it seemed there was a new effort to capture the country’s greatest natural resource and aim towards becoming one of the continent’s biggest PV players.

In fact, something of a PV gold rush was forecast for Greece. The Greek government offered one of the most generous feed-in tariffs (FITS), along with state subsidies for most commercial applications up to 40 per cent. Suddenly, home-grown and international PV firms were popping up everywhere. “After years of promises, I really believe Greece is now ready to become a major PV market in the world,” said Stelios Psomas, a leading Greek PV consultant and author of the market report “The Greek solar PV market, the next Mediterranean PV tiger”.

Did he speak too soon? A year on, and Greece is in the depths of a debt crisis that has the financial ministers of the Eurozone seriously rattled about the future of the single currency. At the time of writing, the Greek government has been warned by the rest of Europe that it must make further cuts to spending and public sector wages. If it doesn’t, sanctions will be imposed on it and the threat of savage cuts looks likely to cause strikes and a subsequent loss of economic confidence in Greece across the world.

As yet, the Greek government haven’t given much indication of how and where they will cut spending. But if reductions are made in renewables investment, the optimism which has steered the country through its first phase of real solar growth could be strangled at birth.

If, however, the government takes a long-term view and sees solar power as a way out of the country’s current woes, the potential for the sector is great. After all, the one thing Greece is not running out of is sunshine.

Over the last two years, potential investors have filed more than 8,000 applications for commercial PV systems, with a cumulated capacity of 3.7 GWp. Some 30 MWp had been realised by mid-2009, and over next two to three years the market is predicted to exceed100 MWp annually. Grid parity is not expected before 2014-2018, as retail electricity prices are comparatively low in Greece.


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