Interest in the renewable energy sources market is currently increasing in Greece, mainly after the entry into force of the National Energy and Climate Plan (NECP/Government Gazette 4893Β΄/31.12.2019) which sets as a national target that at least 35% of electricity production in Greece should come from renewable energy sources by 2030. The above target will have as a result that by 2030, approximately 3,6 GW of RES power will be installed throughout the country.
In order to achieve that ambitious goal, the Greek government during the past two years attempted to simplify the administrative framework concerning the licensing procedure for the lawful operation of RES projects in the Greek territory.
In this article we aim to present the most recent regulatory amendments of the licensing procedure which were set in force in July 2022 by law 4951/2022 (Government Gazette A’ 129).
Main scope of the recent provisions is to simplify the second phase of the licensing procedures for the operation of RES stations. This second phase begins with the submission of an application to the competent IPTO for granting a Final Connection Offer and ends with the issuance of the Operating License.
The regulatory provisions are following the first phase of the licensing procedures as set into force with the provision of Law 4685/2020 (A΄ 92) and have simplified the administrative steps needed by an investor in order to obtain the RES production certificate and the environmental license.
As a short reference to Law 4685/2020 (A’ 92), we shall mention that its provisions contained the first steps for the simplification and digitalization of the licensing procedure. The most important provision of the law was the formalization of the three licensing cycles (first ten days of October- February and June) for the digital submission of the application to obtain a RES production certificate.
An investor shall mainly be aware of the significant administrative fees to be paid in order to submit lawfully an application for the RES production certificate. The major cost comes from the obligation to submit a letter of guarantee, the amount of which is determined to 35,000€/mw of the electricity energy to be produced.
After the admissible submission of the application, the RES producers’ certificate is issued no and is valid for 25 years with a possibility of renewal for other 25 years.
The second step, after obtaining the RES production certificate, is the administrative procedure in order to grant an environmental license for the RES project. The basic law provisions are included in chapter A’ law 4685/2020. The current legislative framework, as was set in force in 2020 sets exclusive deadlines to the competent authorities in order to minimize the time needed for obtaining an environmental license. The environmental license is valid for 15 years with a possibility of renewal for the same time frame and when its granted the a’ phase of the licensing procedure is completed and the owner of the RES station can move forward to the next steps that are described in the provisions of the recently set in to force, law 4951/2022.
Law 4951/2022 was set into force on 04.07.2022 (date of publication in the Government Gazette) and mainly reforms the procedures needed for obtaining a final grid connection offer, an installation permit and operation license for RES Projects.
A major amendment is the abolishment of the stage of receiving a temporary grid connection offer as a legislative effort to shorten the stages for the operation of a RES project and as a further step of simplifying the licensing process. According to par. 1 of article 5 law 4951/2022, the holder of an producer certificate, after completing the environmental licensing (exemption/ppd/aepo) submits to the IPTO a request to receive the final grid connection offer.
Specifically, for the Interconnected System, applications for the granting of a Final Grid Connection Offer of up to 8MW are submitted by the interested parties to DEDDIE S.A. and applications for stations above eight (8) MW are submitted by interested parties to ADMIE S.A.
The relevant applications are submitted electronically on the first ten days of each month and to be considered complete they must be accompanied among others, by the following supporting documents: a) RES producers certificate) Environmental Licensing Decision, c) letter of guarantee, the amount of which is defined in article 6 of law 4951/2022 d) proof of payment of the administrative fee which amounts to 250 euros.
Within a period of 2 months (not defined by law as an exclusive deadline) from the submission of a complete file for the granting of a final grid connection offer the competent IpTo sends to the interest party the offer and the project operator shall accept or reject it within a period of 2 months from the above notification.
In case of rejection, all the obtained licenses (producer’s certificate/environmental licensing permit, etc.) automatically cease and the amount of the letter of guarantee is returned.
At this point the legislator have chosen a critical distinction regarding the time of the validity of the Grid Connection Offer. Specifically, stations that receive a FiT price have a 3-year period after accepting the offer, in order to apply for signing the Connection Agreement, on the other hand station that participate in auction procedures, under the provisions of law 4414/2016, the grid connection terms are valid until the operation of the station.
After accepting the grid connection offer the owner of the RES station shall proceed to issue the prerequisite installation permit for the operation of the station.
In order to submit the relevant application to the competent decentralized administration, the project operator must have covered all the previous licensing steps and specifically
- A) to be the holder of the RES producer’s certificate
- B) to have completed the environmental licensing of the project (exemption decision/ppd/aeo)
- C) to have received and accepted the final grid connection offer from the competent IPTO.
At this stage and for the issuance of the Installation Permit, the documentation of securing the right to use the installation land is required.
The Installation Permit is issued once and is valid for three (3) years (in the previous legislative framework the validity was 2 years). Within this period, the owner of the station must submit either an application for the temporary connection of the station or a declaration of readiness, or an application for the granting of an Operating Permit as otherwise, the Installation Permit automatically cease (Article 19 law 4951/2022).
The final step for the lawful operation of the RES station is the operation license valid for 20 years as described on Chapter D’ law 4951/2022.
Finally, with the new legislative framework, the following licensing milestones are set until the operation of the project according to station technology (combined with the milestones of Law 4685/2020) A) PV plants, onshore windfarms and hybrid plants have 1 year from the acceptance of the Final Grid Connection Offer, in order to submit a relevant request to receive an installation permit otherwise, the Production Certificate automatically terminates, B) Other technologies (e.g. offshore wind/storage/storage stations) 18 months, to apply for an Installation Permit, as otherwise, the Producer Certificate automatically ceases. This deadline can be extended up to one (1) year, if the holder of the Certificate submits a relevant application and pays the physical installation site commitment fee, which amounts to €1,000/MW of maximum production power for each month of extension.
At this point we shall mention that RES projects that have already participated in the auction procedure to receive a compensation price for the produced energy are not occupied by the above mentioned time milestones The above mentioned milestones provisions are set into force for final grid connection offers granted after the 1st of September 2022.
After the above presentation of the basic provisions of the law and as a final remark, we would like to note that with the completion of the simplification of both phases of licensing procedures the legislative framework for renewable energy projects acquired a coherent character which at one hand assists a possible investor to make their business decisions according the time frames and milestones set by the legal framework and on the other hand gives the state useful tools to control the real investment interest at all critical stages of the licensing process. The above is achieved a) by the obligation to submit letters of guarantee at two stages of the licensing procedure and b) with the set-up of specific deadlines and milestones for the implementation of RES projects.