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RWE signs deal with Greek utility aiming for 2 GW of coal-mine solar

It’s official. After 18 months or so of negotiations, electric companies in Germany and Greece last night inked a deal to confirm RWE’s entry into the Greek power market. Initially, the arrangement concerns 2 GW of new PV generation capacity to be built in former lignite mines, however the deal may later expand to include additional power projects.

The RWE Renewables subsidiary of German utility RWE, and its PPC Renewables counterpart of Greece’s Public Power Corporation (PPC) last night agreed to form a joint venture to co-develop renewables projects in Greece.

Under the arrangement, RWE will hold 51% of the joint business, and the PPC the balance.

A press release issued to announce the arrangement stated: “PPC Renewables will contribute nine solar projects [with] up to a combined [generation capacity] total of 940 MW (870 MWac), and which are located in northern Greece’s west Macedonian region, within the boundaries of the former Amyntaio open pit lignite mine.”

The statement added: “RWE Renewables has secured a Greek photovoltaic project pipeline of similar size for the purpose of including it in the joint venture,” without offering further detail of the source of the latter projects. pv magazine has learned, however, the RWE Greek solar projects are part of a portfolio under development by Athens-based public limited company Idea. 

The press release stated the PV projects concerned are in various stages of development, with operations to start from 2023-25.

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Speaking to pv magazine in June, an RWE spokesperson chose not to provide further information regarding the policy mechanisms supporting the Greek investment. 

The clean energy arm of the PPC has secured contracts for three solar farms with a total generation capacity of 230 MW in previous rounds of Greece’s renewables tenders. All three facilities concern the same western Macedonia site, for which the PPC landed premium top-up payments – on top of the wholesale power price – of €0.04911/kWh for 200 MW of the capacity plus payments of €0.06488 and €0.05382/kWh for the two 15 MW slices of the solar field which make up the balance of the 230 MW power plant.

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The RWE-PPC joint venture can be expected to participate in future rounds of the public tenders, which offer successful bidders premium payments under 20-year contracts. With the Greek utility’s clean power operation already working on a 50 MW unsubsidized solar farm in southern Greece, there is also the possibility the new business could venture into commercial PPA-driven project development.

Greece’s decarbonization process

The new partnership is set to be another boost for the Greek energy transition, with the government having committed to phase out coal from its electricity generation by 2025 and the PPC aiming to develop 3 GW of solar capacity in the nation’s former mining regions.

RWE’s renewables unit can inject much-needed capital and technical expertise into the Greek market, and the PPC can offer local knowledge and well established relationships with stakeholders and clients, given the state-owned generator is Greece’s largest and oldest electric utility. PPC Renewables chief executive Konstantinos Mavros, the driving force behind the new partnership, has welcomed RWE to his country adding, the PPC is looking “forward to co-developing projects of unprecedented scale.”

The German clean power developer recently told pv magazine the company’s “first strategic focus is on the development and implementation of solar farms,” before adding: “We always have an eye on developments for energy storage facilities and hybrid projects across all European markets, wherever it makes economic sense, including Greece.” That suggests the initial ex-coal mine ambition could be expanded into other areas of Greece’s energy transition.

Katja Wünschel, chief operating officer for onshore wind and solar photovoltaics in Europe and Asia-Pacific for RWE Renewables, has said “European collaborations, like our partnership with [the] PPC, are essential to making the energy transition happen.” Greece also offers the German company the chance to build out a solar portfolio which stretched to 229 MW in operation at the end of last year, with just 56 MW of it in Europe.

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Source: pv magazine