As recently as 2018, Greece was one of the largest lignite producers in the European Union with a production volume of 36.1 million tons. Then, however, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis took over the business of government and pushed for a quick energy turnaround. All domestic coal-fired power plants should go offline by 2023. The only exception: a power plant is currently still under construction and should originally be allowed to run until 2024. The end of the coal-fired power plants in Greece would have meant the end of the opencast mines there. That is why there has already started to shut down conveyor belts and dismantle the huge shovel excavators into their individual parts. But now everything turns out completely different. Because the Greek electricity regulator RAE has had a study carried out to see how the electricity demand can be met in the coming winter. The result: There is a threat of a supply bottleneck in the particularly cold months.
In contrast to coal, natural gas has to be imported
The background: While coal no longer seemed to have a future due to its extremely poor environmental balance, the share of natural gas in the electricity mix rose continuously. This value is now a proud 42 percent. First of all, this is good news for the fight against climate change. Because gas-fired power plants are significantly more climate-friendly than their coal-fired counterparts. However, there is one problem: Lignite can be mined in Greece itself. Natural gas, on the other hand, has to be imported. But this year, of all times, world market prices for gas have skyrocketed. The experts are still arguing about exactly what this is. But one thing is clear: If prices stay that high, Greece’s own electricity mix will be unaffordable. The government has now made a kind of U-turn and is increasingly relying on domestic lignite. However, this cannot be a permanent solution.
Nuclear power does not play a role in Greece
In the long term, the problem should therefore be solved primarily through the expansion of renewable energies. But the country still has a long way to go. Because sun, wind, water and the like have so far been responsible for less than a third of the electricity mix. The government wants to increase this value to 67 percent by 2030. By then, at the latest, domestic coal should no longer be needed. This would mean that the coal phase-out in Greece would still be completed faster than in Germany. Because in this country an exit is currently planned in 2038. Greece and Germany also agree on another point: nuclear power is not seen as a useful addition to the electricity mix. While Germany is in the process of taking the last reactors off the grid, the Greek government has given another assurance that it does not want to build any nuclear power plants in the first place.