Cyprus aims to solve its energy storage problem within the next 18 to 24 months, so that the energy generated from renewables doesn’t go to waste, the energy minister said on Monday.

Speaking at a press conference organised by Green Energy, George Papanastasiou said that within a short time after the government took office they initiated a public consultation for a scheme for storage of electrical energy.

Noting that the island’s energy system is undergoing “a total restructuring and reshaping”, the minister said efforts are concentrated on expediting the opening up of the competitive electricity market.

He said 41 per cent of the funds budgeted in Cyprus’ national Recovery and Resilience Plan concern the ‘green transition’. For the period 2021-2027, the energy ministry has secured €590 million which will be put to use through incentives to households, businesses and public-law entities to invest in energy efficiency and renewables.

Penetration of renewables in the energy mix is particularly difficult due to the small size but also the isolation of the market in Cyprus. Other limiting factors include seasonal demand and the absence of storage systems.

As a result, Cyprus continues to rely on imported fuel products – making it vulnerable to global price fluctuations.

Given all this, Papanastasiou called it “vital” to enhance the country’s security of energy supply.

He said that €4.5 million has been allocated from the ‘Cyprus Tomorrow’ programme for the system that will manage the competitive electricity market, plus another €100 million for the Euro-Asia Interconnector – the subsea cable linking Cyprus with Greece and Israel.

“Implementing and operating this interconnector will bring about the end of our energy isolation, help attain strategic autonomy in the energy sector, and facilitate the integration of renewables in our energy mix,” he asserted.

The minister also referred to the €120 million secured from EU funds for expanding, upgrading and digitising the grid via smart meters, plus €40 million for promoting energy storage systems.

This would create the necessary conditions in the market, incentivising the engagement of new investors in energy production, storage and supply.

Regarding the internal natural gas market, Papanastasiou said his ministry is “intensifying” efforts to bring to completion the liquefaction facility at Vasilikos. The other track involves bringing in natural gas from offshore fields.

“We’ve recast our strategy, which involves the creation of infrastructures – such as the gas pipeline and a possible floating liquefied natural gas (FLNG) facility.”

It would provide an incentive to natural gas producers in the eastern Mediterranean to tap into these infrastructures, using them for electricity production but also to export LNG to markets across the world.

The advent of natural gas, said the minister, will bring with it multiple benefits. It will allow independent energy producers to operate, leading to competition in the electricity market. In addition, it would cut down on greenhouse gas emissions.

Asked whether Cyprus has a ‘Plan B’ should it fail to meet EU climate targets, Papanastasiou said the alternative would be to buy the carbon credits of other countries. But, he stressed, this must be avoided because of the high cost to taxpayers.

Whereas Cyprus can approach the EU’s emissions target when it comes to electricity production, it still lags considerably behind as far as the transport sector goes. This includes aviation and shipping.

Taking another question regarding the installation of charging points for electrical vehicles, the minister spoke of “heightened activity” in this area. Other than the charging points of the Electricity Authority of Cyprus, the government has drafted legislation concerning the installation of chargers at petrol stations.

In his own remarks, the CEO of Green Energy Giorgos Georgiou highlighted the need for all stakeholders to engage in achieving the 2030 emissions targets.

He said the wasting of energy generated from renewables, and the consequent penalties that consumers have to pay, are a cause for concern.

For his part Thanasis Sakkas, sales manager for GoodWe, gave a presentation on current energy storage practices in Greece and in Europe. He noted that between 2021 and 2022, there was a 107 per cent growth in the European storage market.