October 22, 2010 / 4:09 PM / 9 years ago

PPC plans renewables renaissance, giant solar park

ATHENS (Reuters) - Greek utility PPC plans a sevenfold increase in its clean energy production over the next five years and is thinking of building one of the world’s largest solar parks, the head of its renewables unit said on Friday.

Cash-strapped Greece uses state-controlled PPC as a spearhead to meet its ambitious climate change target of green energy accounting for 40 percent of total electricity production by 2020, up from 4 percent currently.

PPC Renewables plans to invest about 2 billion euros ($2.78 billion) to increase its capacity from about 160 megawatts at the end of this year to 1,200 megawatts in 2015, Chief Executive Officer Ioannis Tsipouridis said in an interview.

Back in 1982, PPC built Europe’s first wind farm on the gale-swept Aegean island of Kythnos. But it has lost its early lead and the company now has just 8 percent of Greece’s renewable energy production.

“We are waking up now,” said Tsipouridis. “At the end of the 1980s we were Europe’s fourth-largest renewable energy producer, but then a big slump followed,” he added.

Failure to boost renewables would cost PPC 1.3 billion euros in extra carbon costs a year after 2013, when the free allocation of carbon emission rights ends. PPC Renewables plans to run 713 MW of wind farms and 245 MW of solar parks by 2015, according to company plans.

The company is seeking partners to help fund more than 600 MW of these projects, including a large 200 MW solar park in northwest Greece.

“It’s a plan under discussion, we have to find a strategic partner, mainly for financing,” Tsipouridis said.

Last month, PPC Renewables signed a framework agreement with French group EDF Energies Nouvelles. Joint projects will be considered on a case-by-case basis, Tsipouridis said.

“EDF has a total 2,000 MW of mature potential projects in Greece and it wants to do all of them in cooperation with us,” he said. “It remains to be seen how many of them will be implemented.”

Renewables could help save jobs in the country’s lignite heartland of northwest and southern Greece, where polluting lignite-fired units will go offline in the next 10 years.

PPC, the EU’s second-biggest producer of lignite, plans to decommission up to 20 of its total 24 thermal plants by 2020. The company is the main jobs provider in Western Macedonia, where unemployment is among the highest in the country.

“We want to produce clean energy, create jobs and make use of the land we already own in these areas,” Tsipouridis said.

Red tape and addiction to cheap, polluting coal has turned Greece into a renewables laggard, even though it is one of the sunniest and most windy countries in Europe.

Editing by David Cowell

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