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Government of Greece positive on geothermal energy in response to local concerns

Mandraki - Nisyros, Greece (source: flickr/ Kees Wielemaker, creative commons)
Alexander Richter 30 Aug 2018

In its answer to local concerns of geothermal development on one of the Greek islands, the Ministry for the Environment and Energy of Greece highlights the positive role of geothermal energy, its new geothermal legislation and answers local concerns.

Following a political debate about planned geothermal development on the island of Nisyros in Greece, the Greek Ministry of the Environment and Energy provided its view on the matter.

As of today, Greece has identified 32 geothermal fields. The 30 of them, which are low-enthalpy, can be used for immediate uses and can boost important productive sectors such as the primary sector by reducing energy costs in agriculture and fish farming as well as processing. The geothermal potential can still cover heating needs for homes, schools and hospitals. However, despite the significant contribution that Geothermal’s development as a Renewable Energy Source (RES) can have at both local and national level, only a small part of the available capacity is currently being used, mainly for healing tourism, due to obstacles which set the previous legal framework.

With the new piece of legislation on geothermal energy, which is under public consultation and is expected to be submitted to parliament (and we reported on), after the incorporation of any comments, the institutional framework for research and exploitation of geothermal energy is being modernized. There are also strict rules, able to guarantee the reversal of the climate created by the negative experiences of previous years and to cultivate a climate of confidence in the local communities to exploit this kind of RES.

Particularly:

  • Categorization of geothermal fields is simplified. More specifically, geothermal fields will be distinguished at local (fluid temperature 30-90 ° C) and national interest (fluid temperature above 90 °C).
  • The minimum geothermal potential setting temperature of 5 °C, ie from 25 °C, is increased to 30 °C, allowing for the exploitation of several agricultural boreholes for irrigation.
  • Contributing benefits from rents are introduced for the local communities in which geothermal energy is developed. A percentage of 10% of the annual proportional rents will be available to the municipalities.
  • A National Register of Points of Exploitation of Geothermy and a web portal at the Ministry of Environment and Energy, as well as a National Register for Geothermal Signs and Monitoring and a concurrent web portal at IGME.

Finally, Troubleshooting Committees, which will be responsible for ensuring the safe and in-use exploitation of the renewable source, are recommended.

With regards to the debate on possible geothermal development by PPC Renewables in Nisyros, the Ministry provided its comments here below.

PPC initially acquired in 1985 the rights to research and exploit this area in Nisyros, following an international tender procedure, as provided by the Mining Code, which was then transferred to PPC Renewables SA in 2011. It is underlined that PPC Renewables has not proceeded to exploit the geothermal field of Nisyros, as it is still in the process of exploring the potential, which has not yet been completed. It is clear, therefore, that the company has not taken unilateral actions as it is wrongly mentioned in the question of the Chief MP.

In addition, according to PPC Renewables, the company will not proceed to any project in Nisyros, without the consent of the majority of the local community, as has been repeatedly stated by all its administrations. It also notes that it is constantly seeking a social consensus on the implementation of geothermal projects, which can only be achieved through consultation with local actors. The company in this direction has asked the Municipal Authority to hold an open meeting of the City Council, a request that has not been answered so far.

Regarding the second question, we inform you that the potential of a geothermal field is not a function of its area on the surface of the earth. PPC Renewables has designed and proposed the installation of a low-power geothermal power plant (up to 5 MW) in a remote location, outside of Caldera. It is a fully reintroduced / zero pollution technology technology that can ensure the uninterrupted electrification of the island, contribute decisively to solving the drinking water problem for Nisyros through desalination and even apply to the district heating of homes and greenhouses. Both the drilling and the production plant will be inaccessible to the settlements and the ring road to Mandraki, so even the visual nuisance will be minimized. In addition, the geothermal fluid will be reintroduced into the subsoil, and with the new technology there will be zero emission of gases into the atmosphere. It is stressed that geothermal energy is renewable and inexhaustible, as the geothermal fluid is heated by the earth’s hearths and is recycled with the reintroduction technology.

Regarding whether the exploitation of this geothermal field poses risks due to the particular geological features of the island of Nisyros, the results of scientific research such as IGME as well as Universities such as the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, confirm that there is no risk from the research, installation and operation of a geothermal power plant in Nisyros.

In particular, IGME states in a document that the exploitation of the Nisyros geothermal field can not bring about physico-chemical imbalances such as to cause volcanic reactivation of the Nisyros building. IGME, in the same document, reports that in Nisyros there is a lower risk of hydrothermal explosions that have created so far more than 20 craters in Lakki area. And he adds that geothermal exploitation could in this case have beneficial effects, since the causes of the shaft explosions are associated with intense pressures from hydrothermal fluids circulating at some depth and facilitated by seismic activity. The EKPA adds that the exploitation of the geothermal field has no negative impact and impact on the above processes and, to the contrary, to a certain extent contributes to the depletion of volcanic energy.

We also know that the RIM bill on geothermal energy allows the use of low enthalpy in areas where there is no designated low-enthalpy geothermal field, as in the case of Nisyros. Finally, we emphasize that any PPC Renewables activity in the future does not prevent the parallel utilization of the low enthalpy geothermal potential in Nisyros by any other operator.

Source: Energy Press Greece