Irrevocably negative is the European Commission's response to the request submitted by the Greek Government in May 2015 to reopen the destroyed by fire lignite unit "Ptolemaida III." It is the oldest and one of the most polluting lignite units for which the Greek Ministry of Environment and Energy had requested formally to extend its operation beyond the expiration of its environmental permit through a Limited Lifetime Derogation (Article 33 of the Industrial Emissions Directive).

Former Minister of Environment and Energy, Panagiotis Lafazanis, the Alternate Minister, Yiannis Tsironis and the current Minister of Environment and Energy, Panagiotis Skourletis bear full responsibility for this environmentally regressive initiative.

This development which exposes Greece internationally should prompt the government to reconsider seriously its disastrous lignite-related policy pursued so far. It is not only this absurd request for reopening of Ptolemaida III, but also the self-destructive obsession for the construction of the new, expensive, gigantic, lignite unit “Ptolemaida V”, despite the fact that it was shown to be non-viable in economic terms. The political responsibility of the Greek government is even greater as it continues to ignore the clean alternatives to Ptolemaida V, which have been presented and have lower Levelized Cost of Electricity (LCOE) compared to the planned new lignite unit. At a time when PPC is called to adapt to a new reality with a shrinking market share imposed by the 3rd Memorandum of Understanding of Greece with its lenders, increased competition and shifting interest of large European energy companies towards clean energy, the implementation of such solutions will strategically strengthen the position of the company in Greece’s electricity market.

The impacts of lignite use on human health and the environment are undisputable. However, the recent changes in the ETS and the historic global climate agreement in Paris ensure that the Greek lignite will not remain inexpensive, despite being indigenous.

If this reality continues to be disregarded, it will bite us.


Right from the beginning, WWF Greece explained that the government’s request to re-open Ptolemaida III was unsubstantiated and incompatible with both national and European legislation. Two months later, the president of the workers’ union expressed the view that reopening Ptolemaida III is contrary to PPC’s interests and serves only petty politics. Shortly thereafter, the local Technical Chamber of Greece (Department of Western Macedonia) submitted its objections on the same subject and proposed alternative solutions for the district heating of the city of Ptolemaida that should be independent of PPC’s lignite plants. Moreover, Commissioner Vella in his reply to a question by two Greek MEPs on the subject emphasized the fact that the Greek government missed the January 2014 deadline for LLD requests.

Nevertheless, the government refused to even consider the appeal by WWF Greece, submitted in October, to officially withdraw its request. Such an action, just a few weeks before COP21 in Paris, would allow the country to finally catch up with international developments in the energy sector. A few days after WWF Greece’s letter to the Ministry, DG ENVI of the European Commission formally rejected the request by Greece for inclusion of Ptolemaida III to the Limited Liftetime Derogation, which would allow the unit to operate for an additional 17.500 hours, until 2023.


Share this