Solar Energy in Crete

Crete – The Solar-Fossil Fuel Battleground

“Crete is one of the most favourable and promising Greek regions for the development of renewable energies”
Centre for Renewable Energy Sources, advisors to the Greek Government, March 1969

Crete represents a major opportunity for positive change in Europe. Electricity consumption is increasing and a proposed new oil-fired power station would cause a 50 per cent increase in CO2 emissions in Crete from the electricity sector.

However, solar technologies could be deployed today that would not only halt further expansion of CO2 but replace existing polluting energy sources, and provide a more efficient electricity service to consumers.

Greenpeace has proposed a practical plan for a fossil fuel-free Crete but the Greek state utility, the Public Power Corporation (PPC), opposes these options.

Primary energy consumption in the Mediterranean has shown a major increase since the 1970s. It rose 70 per cent between 1971 and 1990, an average annual growth of 2.8 per cent. Most of this is met through imports.

Electricity demand in the Mediterranean is projected to increase by a factor of 4.5 over the next 25 years.

An EC conference on renewable energy in the Mediterranean held in 1995 in Athens outlined the multiple advantages of renewables – energy economic, social, employment, environment, trade and competitiveness, and industrial benefits. The report of the conference concluded that existing renewables could contribute 50 per cent of the region�s energy demand.

EU Energy Commissioner Christos Papoutsis told the conference what could be achieved; “Greece could and should be an example, a country for demonstration of how renewables can play a serious role in the Mediterranean. Renewables…are the core vision for the development of the Mediterranean”

Electricity problems in Crete

Economic growth is based significantly on tourism and urbanisation. This has resulted in increasing energy demand with a seasonal character, high peaks and negative effects on an electricity system operating at safety limits.

Conventional fossil fuel electricity is failing to meet demand, and the annual rate of increase of electricity supply is 7 per cent, whereas nationally it is 3.5 per cent. Greece has one of the fastest growing energy demands in the Mediterranean. The residential and services sectors represent the two highest consumption increases with annual rates of increase of 6.5 per cent and 10 per cent respectively.

Electricity consumption in Crete is 4.5 times higher in 1994 than in 1975.

Rising demand and the inadequacy of the existing electricity network grid have resulted in disruptions to the regular service.

The Association of Industries and Commerce is concerned about the future electricity supply as the electrical grid causes many problems and prohibits further development. The increase in energy demand and particularly electricity cause power inefficiency problems requiring expensive solutions to cope with peak power loads. Costs can reach 50 GRD (19 US cents)/kWh.

The increase in electricity consumption coexists with an increasing maximum load. The corresponding annual rate is about 7 per cent. To deal with these high loads, the PPC overuses gas turbines. Therefore, energy production costs increase because gas turbines have a significant fuel cost compared to the mean production of the systems.

Fossil fuel expansion

CO2 emissions from the electricity sector in Crete are currently 1.3 million tonnes per year.

The electrical generation system on Crete is made up of 18 fossil fuel power units (steam electric, diesel electric, combined cycle and gas turbines), at two power stations – in Linoperamata, and Chania regions. Their total installed capacity is 402MW – 99.6per cent of total net electricity on the island. Some hydro and wind electric units contribute 7.7MW.

The PPC, forecasts that installed electrical capacity will increase 95 per cent to 785MW by 2005.

The system is rather centralised, and other structural disadvantages are the high losses due to lengths of medium voltage lines. Efficiencies are poor, down to 16 per cent in some cases. The existing conventional back-up units hardly cover the maximum loads.

The PPC has proposed two main policies for dealing with the electricity problem:

1. Construction of a new oil-fired power station in the Atherinolakkos area;

2. Connection to the mainland grid by a submarine cable.

There is a problem with a mainland cable due to strong undersea streams, and the high probability of earthquakes.

The construction of a new power plant would increase Crete’s CO2 emissions from the electricity sector by 630,000 tonnes per year. This is a 50 per cent increase.

Upgrading the Chania power station, using two gas turbines, is also proposed. This will increase CO2 emissions by 120,000 tonnes per year. The proposed new 150MW power station on Crete, and upgrading of the current power station with gas turbines, would account for an increase of 750,000 tonnes of CO2. That is a 60 per cent increase.

Both schemes face vigorous local opposition. The PPC has yet to submit a proposal for the new power station in Atherinolakkos and local opposition is strong. Riot police at the site have stopped protesters opposing the PPC doing preliminary site visits. The upgrading of the Chania power station also faces local protests. The turbines are currently stored at the Heraklion power station.

Greek state utility blocks solar solutions

The PPC’s attitude on Crete is symptomatic of its wider opposition to renewables. As has been noted in a report to the Government earlier this year: “The Public Power Corporation (PPC) favours actions based mainly on conventional technologies, as its previous record points to a tendency to even minimal risk taking in introducing innovative technologies.”

Nationally, the PPC is responsible for 50 per cent of the country’s CO2 emissions – over 40 million tonnes per annum. The PPC has consistently oppose new forms of renewable energy. In 1994, out of the PPC’s total investment of US$720 million, only 0.5 per cent was spent on renewables – one in every $200. Further, the PPC has spent just $11.2 million out of the small designated renewables budget of $46 million for 1993-5.

Out of 9,200 MW of installed capacity in Greece, only 69MW are renewables, mainly wind and small hydro. But even these are not used appropriately. Two of the country’s largest wind farms at Marmari near Athens and Sitia on Crete stayed idle for three years due to legal disputes over maintenance. According to the state-owned Greek Centre for Renewable Energy Source wind potential in Greece is amongst the highest in Europe.

An internal PPC document, obtained by Greenpeace, has shown that the cost of the proposed new power station is more expensive than construction of pumped storage facilities, which eliminate the need for any new fossil fuel capacity. The estimated cost of the proposed power station is US$ 225-300 million, whereas pumped storage would cost US$207-225 million.

In a recent paper written by a PPC employee from one of Crete’s power stations, it was stated that if a pumped storage system was in operation on Crete in 1995, fuel savings of US$16.5 million would be achieved. The paper says the natural environment of Crete is “suitable for the development of PSS (Pumped Storage System) which is technically feasible and provides low technical risk” and that the implementation of PSS is “highly attractive and profitable”.