02. July 2021Green Transition Investments in Western Macedonia
How to put Just Transition into practice? This article describes how Greece’s Just Transition Master Plan is implemented in the Western Macedonia region. It looks at, inter alia, green investments into renewable energy projects, alternatives for district heating, and perspectives for green hydrogen
The Greek national Just Transition Development Plan (JTDP) addresses all issues arising from the strategic decision of the Greek Government to close all lignite power plants in the country by 2028, including an active consultation with local stakeholders. As such, the vision for the “next day” regarding energy transition in Western Macedonia will be based on five pillars of sustainable development:
Instigating the transition process locally is achieved by taking actions on the following measures indicated in the JDTP, which are currently in the implementation phase:
- Installing 2 GW of solar PV projects in Western Macedonia (a partnership between PPC SA and the German energy company RWE AG);
- Constructing a 204 MW Solar PV project by the German developer Juwi for Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE);
- Spatial planning for the future development of lignite areas, which includes accelerated permitting processes;
- Supporting the plans of the local Solid Waste Management Bodies;
- Request to the European Commission to declare lignite areas as special tax zones;
- Creation of a Western Macedonian Innovation Zone (i.e., start-up pathway) in addition to a Green Data and Supercomputing Center (i.e., R&E Cloud) in the region
The JDTP, which runs from 2021-2027, includes a detailed plan for the transition of Western Macedonia. The plan indicates the perspective targets where the budget complying to the specific EU rules will be used, according to the specific actions of the five development pillars.
Alternatives for district heating after the shut-down of lignite units
The shutdown of lignite plants in Western Macedonia (planned for 2028 or 2025, according to the latest Public Power Corporation (PCC) announcements from the national Public Power Corporation, PPC) entails the serious problem of meeting the thermal needs in local district-heating systems (circa 400 MW), which up to now are connected to the various lignite power plants.
Against this background, the Greek Government in consultation with the local municipalities proposed the creation of an inter-municipal S.A. company under the name “District Heating of Western Macedonia”. The central idea is the interconnection of all energy production and consumption points through thermal transfer-pipes. Furthermore, the formation of a single business scheme composed of the region’s municipal enterprises is part of this endeavour.
More specifically, the plan is expected to:
- utilize the existing infrastructure as much as possible;
- optimize the fuel mixture and means of thermal energy production, including gas;
- ensure the necessary reserves, and maintain the price competitiveness of the services provided.
In this context, a thermal node is formed which will consist of the new Ptolemaida V unit, a new cogeneration unit combining high-efficiency electricity and heat, as well as electric and gas boilers. The amount of the foreseen investments exceeds € 170 million.
Long Term perspectives and the Hydrogen economy
The Green Hydrogen Economy is a key strategic choice for the Western Macedonian Region. Towards this goal, a national proposal was submitted in May 2021 to the Important Projects of Common European Interest (IPCEI) call under the name “White Dragon”. The “White Dragon” project intends to utilize renewable electricity to produce green hydrogen by electrolysis up to 1 GW. The produced hydrogen will be stored both directly (short-term storage) and indirectly (piped to the DESFA gas pipeline). Through high-temperature fuel cells, the hydrogen will then provide electricity to the country’s electricity system as a fixed base unit, green energy cogeneration and heat.
Table 1: White Dragon project at a glance
At the same time, the main goal of the “White Dragon” project is the development of an integrated Hydrogen Industrial Research Center, within the Hydrogen High Technology, Research, Development & Innovation Node that will be created in Western Macedonia.
Regional Development Fund of Western Macedonia
Centre for Research and Technology Hellas (CERTH)
Panagiotis Fragkos, Zoi Vrontisi
Chemical Process & Energy Resources Institute (CPERI)