Solar PV Greek legal framework
The Renewable Energy Sources sector specific legislation in Greece has lately been revised, introducing a normative reform of the Photovoltaic market. The Greek Parliament adopted in November 2012 Law 4093/2012 (Government’s Gazette A 222/12.11.2012) and in May 2013 Law 4152/2013 (Government’s Gazette A 107/09/05.2013), both of which introduced significant changes in the previous existing regulatory scheme. The basic structure of the licensing procedure is designed by Law 3468/2006 (Government’s Gazette A 129/27.06.2006), which was subject to significant amendments, mainly by Law 3851/2010 (Government’s Gazette A 85/04.06.2010) and later by Law 4001/2011 (Government’s Gazette A 179/22.08.2011). Additionally, specific procedures are provided for in the Production Licenses Regulation (Y.A.Π.Ε./Φ1/14810/2011) and also in certain Ministerial Decisions (such Ministerial Decision Δ6/Φ1/οικ.13310 RES projects installation and operation licenses regulation) as well as important internal circulars (such as Υ.Α.Π.Ε./Φ1/οικ.26928). Furthermore, Ministerial Decisions Υ.Α.Π.Ε./Φ1/2301/οικ.16933 and Υ.Α.Π.Ε./Φ1/1288/9011 revised the Feed in Tariff regime, complementing in this way a series of changes taking place in the regulatory framework of the Renewable Energy Sources and in particular the Photovoltaic sector in Greece.
What are the necessary steps of the licensing process?
An investor aiming to operate a photovoltaic station of >1 MW should follow the steps below:
Apply to the Regulatory Authority for Energy (RAE) for a Production License
Once the Production License is obtained, apply to the regional Department of Environment and Land Planning for an Approval of Environmental Conditions.
Apply to the regional Directorate of Technical Control for an Installation License
Apply to the System or Network Operator for a Grid Connection Offer
Sign a contract with the System or Network Operator for the construction of the grid connection works
Sign a Power Purchase Agreement with the Operator of the Electricity Market (LAGIE, former Hellenic Transmission System Operator-HTSO) for selling electricity to the grid
Obtain a Small Scale Construction Works Approval by the regional Department of Urban Planning.
Install PV system
Commence a trial operation period
Apply to the regional Department of Technical Control for an Operation License
Which is the competent Authority for the issuance of the Production License?
The Production License is issued by the Regulatory Authority for Energy (RAE). RAE examines if the criteria provided for in Law 3468/2006, as in force and the RES Production Licenses Regulation of 2011 are met and decides whether to issue or not a Production License within 2 months from the application submission date, provided that the application folder is complete, otherwise, from its completion. The Production License is valid for up to 25 years and can be renewed for another 25 years. If the Installation License is not issued within 30 months of the issuance of the Production License, the latter is being automatically revoked.
RAE must be notified, among others, in case there is: (a) a change in the licensee’s shareholding structure not exceeding 20% of the share capital, if the shareholders are the ones securing the financing, and only for once, and (b) a change in the licensee’s shareholding structure irrespective of percentage, in case the shareholders are not the ones who secure the financing. The Production License must be amended by obtaining RAE’s approval, among others, in case there is: (a) a change in the physical persons or legal entities designated in the license as securing the financing of the project, (b) a change in the licensee’s shareholding structure exceeding 20% of the share capital if the previous shareholders are the ones securing the financing, (c) a transfer of the license itself.
Exceptions from the Production License
PV projects with installed capacity ≤ 1 MW are exempted from the prerequisite to obtain a Production License.
Upon issuance of the Production License, the investor shall simultaneously a) apply to the System or Network Operator for a connection terms offer, b) apply to the competent authority for an Approval of Environmental Conditions of the project (A.E.P.O.) and c) apply to the Forestry Office for a Forest Intervention Approval, if required.
Within 4 months of the submission of the relevant application the competent System or Network Operator issues the connection terms offer, which becomes binding upon the issuance of the Approval of Environmental Conditions. Within 45 working days of the submission of the relevant application, the regional Department of Technical Control issues the Installation License. The Installation License is valid for 2 years and can be renewed once for another 2 years.
Approval of Environmental Conditions (E.P.O.)
After receiving the Production License from RAE the investor shall apply for the issuance of a Decision of Approval of Environmental Conditions (E.P.O.), in order to be granted an Installation License. The application shall be followed by a complete folder and an Environmental Impact Study (M.P.E).
The competent authority examines the environmental impacts and the proposed mitigation measures and issues its opinion on whether to issue or not an E.P.O. decision within four (4) months from the time the folder was consider complete. This decision on environmental compatibility (E.P.O.) is valid for 10 years and can be extended twice for the same period of time, if a relevant application is submitted up to 6 months before the expiration of the said decision.
The competent authority for the Operation License is the same as the one competent for the Installation License. It is granted after the successful commencement of the trial operation period and the approval of the technical conditions for the installation of the PV station. The Operation License and is valid for 20 years.
Licensing Procedure for Photovoltaic Stations up to 1 MW
An investor aiming to operate a PV station with installed capacity up to 1 MW, should follow the licensing procedure stated below:
PV projects with installed capacity ≤ 1 MW are exempted from the prerequisite to obtain a Production License, as well as from the prerequisite to obtain an Installation and Operation License. For these projects, one may apply directly for the issuance of the Connection Terms Offer. Following an Approval of the Environmental Terms Conditions (E.P.O) is required for PVs with installed capacity from 500 kW to 1 MW. For PVs with installed capacity less than 500 kW an Approval of the Environmental Terms Conditions is required only when the respective PV stations are to be installed in NATURA areas, coastal areas, or in a distance of less than 150m from another RES project. For PVs that are exempted from the requirement to obtain an EPO, an EPO exemption is issued by the competent Authority.
If the PV project is also exempted from the obligation to obtain an EPO, the Offer becomes final and binding from the date of its issuance; on the contrary, if the PV project requires an EPO, the Offer becomes definite and binding only after the issuance of the EPO. The Offer for PV projects ≤ 1 MW has a term of validity of 6 months. The Producer must accept the Offer within 45 days of its issuance.
Following a Connection Works Agreement is signed between the Producer and the System Operator for the construction of the grid connection works, a Power Purchase Agreement is concluded between the Producer and the Operator of the Electricity Market (LAGIE) and a Small Scale Construction Works Approval is issued by the regional Department of Urban Planning.
PV projects that are exempted from the obligation to obtain a Production License after the enactment of Law 3851/2010, are required to provide a letter of guarantee equal to 150€/kW which should be paid before the conclusion of both the Connection Works and the Power Purchase Agreement. In addition, a time limit is provided by law for the connection to the grid. In case the connection of the PV Park does not take place within that time limit, the above guarantee is forfeited.
How can a PV station be transferred?
The owner of a Production License, following a relevant decision by the RAE, may transfer his license to other natural or legal persons.
Solar (PV) stations with installed power capacity smaller than or equal to one (1) MW, are not allowed to be transferred before beginning of their operation. Such a transfer is only allowed to legal entities, as long as the total share capital of the company to which they are being transferred is held by the transferring physical or legal body.
How is the pricing of electric energy produced by PV stations carried out?
The pricing of electric energy produced by PV stations is carried out based on the provisions of the Ministerial Decision ΥΑΠΕ/Φ1/οικ. 2262 (ΦΕΚ B 97 2012), as amended by the Ministerial Decision ΥΑΠΕ/Φ1/2301/οικ.16933 (ΦΕΚ Β 2317/2012). This amendment was followed by a further revision of the FIT regime by Ministerial Decision Υ.Α.Π.Ε./Φ1/1288/9011 (ΦΕΚ Β' 1103/02-05-2013). Furthermore, it must be highlighted that according to the provisions of Law 4093/2012, the applicable FITs are not calculated based on the timeframe when the PPA was concluded –as provided by the previous legal framework- but based on the time of the electrification of the solar park. The new feed-in tariffs (FITs) are guaranteed for 20 years and are adjusted annually by 25% of previous year’s consumer price index.
Why should one consider investing in the photovoltaic sector in Greece?
First and foremost: Greece is generally associated with sunshine, being a Mediterranean country. But also, Greece’s Feed in Tariff system, though it was subject to a substantial reduction of prices, still remains attractive, since electricity produced from PVs is sold at fixed purchase prices agreed in advance and guaranteed for twenty years. The weather conditions in Greece, therefore, guarantee that the investment will be profitable. Amidst an unprecedented financial crisis, the Greek government has taken bold initiatives for the development of residential solar systems, offering not just generous financial incentives but also simplifying the licensing procedures.