Biogas in Greece – Status Quo and Opportunities

Pictured: Athens’ waste water treatment plant on the island of Psyttalia, commissioned in 1994.

Picture by Gina Stefanakou, Athens Water Supply and Sewerage Company (EYDAP S.A.)

A brief trip to Greece in mid October 2018 inspired Achim Kaiser to dig a little deeper into the current state of the local bioenergy and biogas market of this mediterranean pearl.

First published in the German magazine “Energie aus Pflanzen” early 2019, this short and concise summary will likely be interesting to international readers as well.

The Greek energy market

The economic crisis in 2009 hit Greece hard. It forced the domestic economy to focus on its core strengths: Agriculture and Tourism.

But: despite the ongoing economic crisis, food exports have increased in the past years.

And for the sixth year in a row, tourism in Greece is booming.

All the tourists produce large amounts of seasonal waste. This brings the local waste disposal processes to the limits of its capacities every year.

A shift in the current political energy strategy of Greece towards a more effective use of renewable energy is very visible. Especially taking into account this seasonal waste production and how to treat it.

At the moment, Greece produces two thirds of its electricity by burning coal in power plants. Of the entire primary energy supply demand, it produces more than 80 percent from fossil fuels.

The not-so-close second with about 15 percent are renewable energy sources.

Despite increasing its use of regenerative energies, Greece still depends on energy imports.

Energetic use of Biomass

At the end of 2017, seven biomass-incineration plants are installed in the Hellenian republic. They have an installed capacity of 2.1 megawatts.

These plants incinerate:

  • Residues from agriculture and forestry

  • Residues from the food industry

  • Cotton and wood processing waste

  • Straw from rice cultivation

  • Olive pomace and fruit stones

Compared to other renewable energy sectors in Greece, the bioenergy industry shows the biggest growth potential.

Despite being slowed down by the economy crisis, the natural potential for the bioenergy market looks prime.

This is especially interesting for German plant engineers and component manufacturers.

Biogas Utilization in Greece

Despite a huge raw potential, the Greek biogas sector is still in its infancy. This is also due to the Greek economic crisis.

As a result, financing and investments, including those into renewable energies, have suffered.

As of late 2017, 37 biogas plants are running in Greece of which 30 are landfill or sewage gas treatment plants. The largest biogas project of the country is connected to a wastewater treatment plant. It is in operation since 2004 already.

This plant is located on the island Psyttalia in the bay before Athens and the Port city of Piraeus. The sewage water from the metropolitan area Athens is pumped through a 1.5 kilometer pipeline from the mainland to the sewage treatment plant.

The technical figures of this plant are enormous. The biological cleaning stage includes twelve digesters with a total volume of 300,000 cubic meters and a daily flow rate of 1,000,000 cubic meters.

The biogas from the anaerobic digestion of the sewage sludge is converted into electricity and heat in four gas engines. The installed electrical capacity is 5.04 megawatt.

Only seven of the Greek biogas plants run on animal excrement, slaughterhouse wastes or fermentable waste from agriculture or the food industry.

Four of them are in northern Greece. One is located on the west coast, close to Athens and another one on the island Crete, the largest of all 3,000 Greek islands.

The total installed electrical output of all 37 biogas installations is 59.1 megawatts.

The Greek Subsidy System

Generation and injection of electricity from biogas into the grid is desired for several reasons:

  • Establishing a sustainable industry
  • Contributing to solve the existing waste disposal problems
  • Making use of the existing raw material

  • Contributing to climate protection.

The 20 years state-fixed feed-in tariffs are anchored in law 4414/2016. They differ according to installed capacity of the power plant and its substrate.

In the field of biogas, it looks like this:

  • Fermentable waste and organic sewage sludge from wastewater treatment: for power plants with an installed electrical capacity of less than two megawatts, payment is 12.29 cents per kilowatt hour. For power plants over two megawatts there are 10.60 cents for each kilowatt hour.

  • Organic residues and wastes from livestock and agriculture: For power plants with an installed electrical capacity of less than three megawatts, the tariff is 22.50 cents each kilowatt hour. Power plants with more than three megawatts capacity get 20.40 cents per kilowatt hour.

According to the criteria groups above an upper limit for new biogas plants was set. This aims to speed up growth in the biogas market.

Those tariffs only apply to new installed electrical connections up to 50 megawatts per year.

Once this number is reached in a calendar year, the tariffs for electricity from biogas are tendered until the end of that year. This process is already in effect since 2017 in Greece for photovoltaic and wind power plants.

Risks and Opportunities

The Greek biogas market offers a big opportunity for foreign companies since it has been largely untapped.

But although there are positive market developments…

A strong growth potential…

And very favorable competition conditions…

You can never ignore potential market risks.

Social acceptance opposing biogas technology can sometimes represent an major challenge.

For foreign companies interested in entering the market, it is recommended to cooperate with a Greek partner.

For example, as a German company, your central point of contact is the German-Greek Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DGIHK).

They are the official representative of the German economy in Greece.

Their expertise for bilateral business relationships will help any German trying to enter the market.

 

Figures based on AHK-reports by Matthias Hoffmann (DGIHK) and Georgios Theodorakis (DGIHK)

Text and translation: Achim Kaiser, Tristan Gruszkos

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