Greek Islands Connect to Mainland Power Grid But How Sustainable Is It?

Greece’s US$310 million project to connect the Cyclades islands to Greece’s mainland power grid will save the country US$129 million.
Published: Mon 22 Sep 2014

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Greek electricity grid operator ADMIE, owned by the country's biggest power producer PPC, has signed a US$310.39 million (240 million euro) project with foreign and local companies to connect the Greek islands with the mainland grid. While the project has taken two decades to come to fruition, it is expected to be completed within two years.

Creating a reliable power source

ADMIE runs about 11,000 kilometres (7,000 miles) of high-voltage power lines across the country. Most Greek islands are currently not linked to the mainland grid and are heavily reliant on oil-fired power stations to provide electricity to millions of tourists that visit the islands during the summer months. These power stations are prone to blackouts and are not very reliable. Deputy Environment Minister Makis Papageorgiou says that US$129.31 million (100 million Euros) will be saved by linking the Cyclades islands to the mainland grid. He adds that the more reliable source of power will also protect their tourism sector from embarrassing blackouts. This is obviously a main concern for Greece’s tourism as it is one of their largest income earners, accounting for about 20% of its economic output.

France's Alstom, Switzerland's ABB, Italy's Prysmian and Athens-based Hellenic Cables will build power sub-sea cables to connect the Greek islands.

The Prysmian Group won a contract worth US$127 million for the interconnection between the island of Syros (Cyclades) and the mainland power transmission System in Lavrion, Greece.

The project involves the design, supply and installation of a turnkey high voltage alternating current (HVAC) cable system designed to transmit a power of 200MVA and consisting of 150kV extruded cables and associated fiber optic cable system along a total route of over 110km (108km submarine and 2km land) for the interconnection between the two landfalls that will enable integration of Syros into the Greek network system and future expansion to the other Cyclades Islands (Paros, Mykonos, Tinos).

The submarine cables for the Lavrion-Syros link will be manufactured in the Arco Felice plant (Naples), the Group's centre of technological and manufacturing excellence. Production of both submarine and land cables will occur during 2015. Cable installation and protection will be completed within 22 months in 2016.

Prysmian has a long-standing track record in the development of submarine interconnection milestone projects in the entire Mediterranean region, such as Italy-Greece, Sardinia-Italian Peninsula (SA.PE.I.), two interconnections between Spain and Morocco, two projects in the Balearic Islands (Spanish Mainland to Majorca and Ibiza to Majorca) and the Dardanelles in Turkey.

Prysmian is also a founding member of the industrial partnership Medgrid, launched to study the feasibility of a high-voltage direct current interconnection project to transmit electricity from solar or wind power plants to load centers in the Mediterranean.

PPC is selling a 66% stake in ADMIE. Belgian power grid operator Elia, State Grid Corporation of China (SGCC), Italian grid operator Terna and Canadian pension fund PSP Investments have been shortlisted to bid for the stake.

Athens wants ADMIE's buyer to invest 2.5 billion euros to extend its grid to several islands and lay new connections to neighbouring countries such as Italy.

Decentralised renewable energy model could be more sustainable

While the subsea interconnection would provide a quick fix for the islands, the power which will be transmitted from the mainland is dependent on a high level (64%) of expensive imported fossil fuels. This is in comparison to the European average of 46%. Furthermore, 91% of the energy Greece uses comes from fossil fuels (coal, oil, and gas), which are among the most damaging energy sources for the environment. As a result, Greece has one of the highest carbon dioxide released per capita (8.4 tons) than any other country in the EU . This is significantly greater than the EU average of 7.2 tons.

The current government in Greece, instead of turning its attention towards renewable energy sources, is planning for more fossil fuel exploitation in the eastern Mediterranean, south of Crete and in the Ionian Sea, through large-scale, privately funded projects and further privatization of existing national energy companies.

While there are plans to go green, the country can certainly do more to develop a decentralized, small-scale, local, community-controlled renewable energy model for the islands which could serve to be more sustainable in the long run. A good example of this is the Pacific and Hawaiian islands which are turning to more affordable, reliable and cleaner sources of power [Engerati-Spotlight On South Pacific - On The Way To A Clean Energy Future.]

The power generated from the islands’ solar and wind resources can then be drawn from mainland Greece and other Mediterranean countries eventually. This will also reduce the need for imported fossil fuels.