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Our View: Solar power has been neglected for far too long

ONE OF the areas of cooperation for which Cyprus, Greece and Jordan signed an agreement during Tuesday’s trilateral gathering was renewable energy.

Speaking after the meeting, King Abdullah of Jordan said “creating partnerships between private sectors of our three countries in these policy fields will provide jobs and opportunities for our peoples.” He was also referring to agriculture and tourism, but it is interesting to note that the energy cooperation agreed was in relation to renewable energy sources (RES) and not hydrocarbons.

Successive governments have underestimated the importance of renewable energy, especially solar power, because the Electricity Authority of Cyprus (EAC) did not want its power monopoly challenged. For years, a spasmodic policy was pursued without any overall plan. A few wind farms were set up with the government signing contracts which paid an extortionate rate to the providers for the power produced. Last year it tried to reduce the rate but lost the case in court and will have to carry on paying the premium rate for decades.

The authorities refused to see the potential of solar power, despite the abundance of sunlight in Cyprus. Some licences were eventually given for photovoltaic parks and the installation of photovoltaics by households was subsidised, on and off, with the EAC always placing obstacles, such as the suspending schemes.

Indicative of the authority’s role was the foot-dragging over a company’s application to set up a big solar park. Having stalled the company for close to 10 years, the EAC announced plans to set up its own solar park, the plan being to extend its power monopoly to renewable energy.

All policies for RES were determined by the interests of the EAC rather than of the country and we therefore never exploited the potential of renewables. Governments were also guilty of focusing on hydrocarbon explorations and natural gas, which they considered much more lucrative regardless of the huge investment required to monetise any discoveries. They ignored the fact that RES is the future, not to mention EU directives setting specific targets for clean energy.

Interestingly, even Russia is interested in co-operating with Cyprus on RES rather than on hydrocarbons. Asked in an interview he gave to Simerini last month, about areas of future co-operation, Foreign Minsiter Sergei Lavrov mentioned RES and green technologies.

It seems everyone, except our politicians, see the potential of renewable energy in a country bathed in sunlight for more than 300 days a year. If the trilateral agreement with Greece and Jordan boosts RES projects it will have served a very good purpose.

 


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