Cyprus could export renewable energy

It is tragic that Cyprus has had to suspend tourism for an indefinite period amid the pandemic of the Coronavirus. Let’s hope the worst of the sickness is over within a few weeks and holidaymakers can once more enjoy Cyprus’s sunshine, lovely beaches and golden sands.

Meanwhile, the Cyprus government needs to look urgently at diversifying its economy so that it is less dependent on tourism. Especially because in the longer term, the number of visitors to Cyprus may ease off permanently as people take fewer flights because of climate change.

For quite a few years now the government has been pinning its hopes on wealth from sales of gas from the Aphrodite block of offshore oil deposits. But that seems increasingly unlikely as gas prices plunge and Turkey continues to cause trouble in the seas off Cyprus. Already the expected date of first gas production has been put back to 2025.

Sadly, President Anastasiades and his government still seem blind to the huge opportunities for Cyprus from wind, solar and marine power. They seem to treat applications for wind farms and solar arrays as nuisances foisted on them by Brussels.

Meanwhile, more alert governments elsewhere are raking in money from the export of renewable energy. Scotland is one country which has enjoyed a surge in electricity exports, to the rest of the UK.

In 2018, electricity exports from Scotland almost doubled from 12,868 GWh in 2017 to 24,379 GWh in 2018. Nor did Scottish domestic customers lose out. In the same year, 75% of Scotland’s gross electricity consumption was from renewable sources – an increase on 70% achieved in 2017.

If cold, dull Scotland can achieve such great figures think what the potential is in warm, sunny and windy Cyprus. Let’s get cracking.

The great thing about renewable energy is that there are many ways to use it. An agreement has been signed for a Mediterranean power cable to pass through Cyprus, ideal to export that surplus electricity once it is up and running.

But even if the cable is delayed or cancelled rapidly developing storage technologies mean there will be myriad uses for spare electricity on Cyprus. Entirely new industries, perhaps. Remember that talk of an Indian company building an aluminium smelter on Cyprus. Perhaps Cyprus will soon be able to power it.

Another range of potential new uses can be found for intermittent power direct from Cyprus’ future wind turbines, solar arrays and so on. Electric cars, for instance, can be programmed to charge up only when electricity is plentiful.

Cyprus does have many far-sighted people, such as Paphos-based Alfa Mediterranean Enterprises, backers of a 50 MW solar thermal park in Alassa, Limassol.

But why has it taken six years for Alfa to win Cyprus government approval, which only came through a couple of weeks ago?

The company is definitely blaming the state for not having a mechanism to support renewable energy ventures.

“As the Cyprus energy market is incomplete, and it is still unknown at what prices producers will be selling electricity, banking institutions, especially Cyprus banks, are extremely reluctant to give out loans to these projects. That is why we need a state support mechanism,” Alfa chief executive Andreas Ioannou told the Financial Mirror.

“The truth is that if it was not for the continuous efforts of the European Union, the project would have been dead in the water a long time ago,” said Ioannou.

Why is the Cyprus government’s attitude so out of date and so far behind modern thinking not just by its leading businessmen but by a growing number of all Cypriots, as highlighted this spring when four times more drivers applied for an electric car incentive than the government was expecting?

Come on Cyprus government. Please fast-track the other renewable energy projects that are still awaiting approval. Then all that sunshine can be put to good use, powering the country and enabling Cyprus to finally get rid of those filthy oil-fired power stations.

And after that Cypriot renewable energy firms can can press on with exporting the electricity they produce or providing power to exciting new industrial projects to boost the economy further. Ministers, what are you waiting for?

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