Crete could be powered 100% by renewables by 2030
Crete has long been recognized as a fertile ground for the development and application of renewable energy technologies. Strategically located in the Mediterranean, the island boasts an optimal climate that makes it an ideal candidate for harnessing solar and wind energy to its full potential.
These natural resources offer a unique opportunity to turn Crete into a renewable energy powerhouse and contribute significantly to Greece’s national renewable energy goals.
- Crete has excellent solar energy potential due to its location and climate. It receives some of the highest levels of solar irradiation in Europe, comparable to southern Spain.
- The Greek government and Crete regional authorities have prioritized developing renewable energy on the island to reduce reliance on imported fossil fuels for electricity generation.
- The Greek Minister of Environment and Energy has stated that Crete could be powered 100% by renewables, contributing significantly to the national goal of 80% renewables in the energy mix by 2030.
Regulatory Milestones and Future Projections
One cannot discuss the renewable energy sector in Crete without mentioning the Greek Regulatory Authority for Energy (RAE). The latest RAE decree has allocated a capacity of 2,150-2,500 MW for the installation of renewable energy projects in Crete. This move coincides with the imminent completion of the island’s electrical interconnection with mainland Greece, which is expected to be fully operational by 2024.
Following this interconnection, the energy landscape in Crete is expected to undergo a transformative change. The potential for renewable energy in Crete, as forecast by the Independent Electricity Transmission System Operator (ADMIE), is likely to lead to the launch of a plethora of new projects.
The technological impetus
Crete’s current energy matrix is heavily weighted towards solar and wind power. Until now, the absence of interconnection with the mainland system has put a brake on the implementation of large-scale projects, with the result that the island’s total capacity barely exceeds 310 MW of wind and solar energy, along with 70 MW of solar thermal energy in the Sitia area. Thus, among the many benefits of the electrical interconnection with the mainland system is that it will allow further penetration of RES, signalling major new investments.
It is estimated that the final electricity demand of Crete will reach 3.4 TWh in 2030. The National Technical University of Athens in a study for RAE has estimated the demand at 3.8 TWh, an increase of about 31% compared to the demand in 2019. Hence, the higher renewable energy sources (RES) capacity margins are largely justified.
Interconnection of Crete with Mainland Greece
The island’s previously isolated power grid is being modernized. Two submarine cables are helping to make this happen:
- Phase 1 connected Western Crete to the Peloponnese with a capacity of 200 MW
- Phase 2 focuses on Central Crete and its connection to Peloponnese and Attica with a capacity of 500 MW
This modern grid will be designed to seamlessly integrate renewables and will be reinforced with state-of-the-art battery storage and grid management technologies.
Socio-economic benefits and challenges
A full transition to renewable energy would bring transformative socio-economic benefits to Crete. These include potential savings of around €400 million per year by reducing the need for costly diesel imports. The burgeoning renewable energy sector is also expected to create new jobs and attract further investment to the island.
But it’s not all smooth sailing. Challenges remain, primarily in the form of the need for significant capital expenditures to upgrade the grid and balance intermittent energy production. Regulatory hurdles and environmental concerns are also significant obstacles.
Government commitment and strategic planning
- Greece adopted its first national climate protection law that set interim targets as part of a 2050 net-zero strategy and cleared the path towards exiting lignite power generation by 2028.
- The Greek government is investing heavily in the renewable transformation of Crete. An allocation of €8 billion has been earmarked for this endeavor, which aims to solve the looming energy crisis. Only 30% of this amount will come from the national budget.
- New legislation is in the pipeline to enable energy communities on the island. These microgrids will be able to generate solar power, connect to the main grid, and even incorporate battery storage solutions to reduce costs.
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