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?

Electric cars need renewable energy

More evidence that the Cyprus government is way behind the general public in understanding the urgency of decarbonising our lifestyles.

A scrappage incentive scheme launched to encourage Cypriot motorists to replace their old high-emission bangers with new electric ones has received five times the number of applications expected.

Transport Minister Yiannis Karousos is to propose the expansion of the scheme to include more grants for electric cars under the weight of the surprising number of applications.

“We will try to meet as many requests as we can depending on the budget available. We also discussed this with the Finance Minister, and we will have more to say on the matter,” said Karousos.

Part of a broader incentive scheme launched to encourage Cypriots to replace their old cars with newer more eco-friendly ones, the plan drew in some 450 applicants in less than two days, while it had only budgeted for 100 grants.

A budget for the programme was set at €3 mln, of which €2.5 mln was earmarked for the withdrawal of old cars and replaced with a new car with a conventional engine meeting the emissions criteria.

The subsidy of €2,000 is available for the purchase of new conventional vehicles, while €5,000 will be given for buying a new electric vehicle. This does not require the withdrawal of an old car.

Car owners replacing their older vehicle with a new electric car are eligible for both grants worth €7,000.

A great scheme in theory but it seems that the government hasn’t thought it through. Get real!

My worry is that because Cyprus is so reliant on electricity from filthy oil fired power stations, the proud owners of the electric cars will have to recharge their batteries from the EAC’s existing high pollution power.

There will still be an overall reduction in CO2 emissions but less than there would be if electric car owners were able to recharge their cars from a clean renewable electricity supply.

Come on Cyprus government, it is time you encouraged voters to apply for solar panels on their roofs and then expedited the approvals, instead of sitting on the applications for years, as it has been known to do.

Ways that Cyprus could cut all its CO2

Already the new blue-green government in Austria has vowed to make that country CO2 neutral by 2030. That’s quite a challenge but Cyprus too could achieve that target if it set out a proper plan instead of obsessing with fantasies of vast wealth from gas lying underground in the deep-water Aphrodite field.

Here are a few details of how the Cyprus government and state-owned Electricity Authority of Cyprus should go about getting rid of CO2 from their power stations. And ‘state-owned’ is important here because no large private generator would still allow its three main power plants to carrying on spewing out greenhouse gases from burning heavy oil and gas.

For power-producing arrays of solar panels, construction times are a matters of weeks or a few months after permissions are in place. See: https://www.infinityrenewables.com/solar-construction-process.html

Wind turbines can be erected in as little as a year for medium ones, eg 55kw, while a big 500kw turbine should be up in two years. See: https://www.renewablesfirst.co.uk/windpower/windpower-learning-centre/how-long-will-the-whole-project-take/

EAC’s own power generation system consists of three fossil-fuel power stations with a total installed capacity of 1480mwe. The latest figures I can find show that renewable energy sources contributed 9.72% of Cyprus electricity generation in 2017 and was projected to increase only slowly.

Those figures show there is a lot to but those onshore constructon times prove it would be perfectly feasible for Cyprus to reach 100% renewable energy by 2030. And it would all be onshore, avoiding clashing with Turkey in any way.

Yes, renewable power is variable but NO that won’t be a problem because companies bidding to supply renewable energy can be asked to provide their own storage to ensure they provide a steady supply of electricity to the grid.

The geography of Cyprus makes it suitable for various existing storage options, eg hydro, whereby excess daytime or windy-day power pumps water uphill to lagoons, from where it flows back to generate power at night or on a calm day. See electricmountain.co.uk for how this works. Several other storage systems are developing rapidly too – large batteries, heating mineral salts and so on.

I do see a challenge in strengthening the Cyprus power grid to make sure it can handle the input of electricity from the various wind farms and solar arrays that are needed but the Cyprus government does have a target of reducing carbon emissions by 30% by 2030 and already needs to act urgently to make sure the grid can cope with a lot more renewable energy.

The EAC deserves praise for its plans to save energy, to increase energy efficiency and roll out smart meters. But the government’s fantasy about a fabled gush of golden gas from the deep water Aphrodite is still the main focus, though it is a dangerous diversion from meeting Cyprus’ long-term energy needs and few now expect Aphrodite to bring huge wealth from gas exports.

There is a much more certain way of Cyprus making money from energy exports. The seas all around Cyprus, near to the shore as well as in deep waters like Aphrodite, are a blank canvas for potential huge production of wind power. I am certain many skilled and experienced offshore wind farm developers would be thrilled to be given a chance to bid for rights.

The risk of heightened disputes between Cyprus and Turkey over offshore wind power would no greater than those currently besetting the zones where Cyprus has allocated offshore oil and gas exploration and exploitation rights.

For one thing, Turkey could hardly interfere with wind farm licensing in zones just off the south coast of Cyprus, say off Pafos, Larnaca or Famagusta (Agia Napa). And if agreement could be reached, it could lead to a bonanza of wind farm development in all Cyprus zones and in Turkey itself in zones nearer the Turkish mainland.

Cyprus has already agreed to back the EuroAsia Interconnector between the Greek, Cypriot and Israeli power grids and this cable could be used to export Cyprus’ electricity without further technical development.

More details about Cyprus’ offshore power potential in my next post, along with thoughts about wave and tidal power. Meanwhile, if Austria reckons it can be carbon neutral in 10 years, so can Cyprus. Cyprus is warmer, has much more sunshine per hectare than Austria and the Alpine country has no coast and thus has zero potential for offshore wind power.

Come on Cyprus government and EAC. What is holding you back?

Cyprus could be carbon neutral

Cyprus has vast potential for renewable energy from solar power, onshore and offshore wind and the rapidly developing marine power technologies. 

Within a few years from now Cyprus could quite easily become become the EU’s first carbon neutral nation.

 Cyprus could be the sustainable energy hub of the Eastern Mediterranean and make money from exports of carbon neutral electricity along the already-proposed underwater international power cable.

 What a great achievement that would be.

 So why are political leaders in Cyprus still focussed instead on a fantasy of huge wealth from exports of the gas discovered in the offshore Aphrodite field? 

The consortium which is supposedly going to develop Aphrodite has already put back the first possible production date to 2025 and further drilling this year could change the timetable again.

My prediction is that production from Aphrodite will never begin. Even if it does, no-one in Europe will buy the gas, because of cheaper supplies from elsewhere and the continued growth of renewable technologies, along with improvements in energy conservation and insulation.

Meanwhile, a huge proportion of the Republic of Cyprus’s 9,251 km2 would be eminently suitable for solar and wind power production. 

Much land in Cyprus stands barren and empty all the time, potently ready for solar panels and wind turbines.

On agricultural land,  crops could be grown around wind turbines and mobile photovoltaic panels could be spread across fields outside the rapid growing season.

None of Cyprus’s delicious fruit and vegetables need be lost to the country’s potential revolution in sustainabilty.

Cyprus homes and other buildings could play a big role too. The laws in Cyprus mandating solar water heating panels on rooftops have already shown how easy it would be to install photovoltaic panels up top. What an opportunity.

Offshore Cyprus has greater potential still. Offshore wind turbines are getting bigger and bigger and can produce vast amounts of electricity.

Cyprus has a vast unexploited offshore economic zone ripe and ready for windpower development.

When the happy day comes that the island of Cyprus is reunited, the offshore potential will be even greater, but already there is scope for offshore windfarms to produce much more power than Cyprus needs.Mostly, offshore windfarms stand securely on their own sturdy legs, but even where the seabed is deep it will soon be possible to locate floating turbines and I am sure tidal and wave power specialists would propose Cyprus projects too, if given the chance.

Instead of which, the Cyprus government is still paying fines to the EU for excessive carbon emissions from its power stations.

Then there is the cost of oil and gas to fuel those power stations, which could be sharply lowered with a better proportion of power from renewable sources.

Electricity users in Cyprus, ie all residents, have got used to surcharges on their bills to pay for slow changes to the generation activities of the Electricity Authority of Cyprus.

So far, the Cyprus government has only tinkered with renewable energy. Its targets have been very modest and at least one of its few forays has gone badly astray.

The EAC stupidly agreed a deal to guarantee some wind energy producers 16.6 eurocents per kilowatt hour, more than four times the going rate in capacity auctions in many countries in Europe, the US and Asia in 2019.

The Cyprus government should cancel this ripoff deal immediately and stand up to any legal repercussions.

What the government should be doing is calculating Cyprus energy needs over the next, say, ten or 20 years and inviting tenders for the supply, from all comers.

Suppliers of fossils fuels could still bid, but I am certain the lowest bids would come in from companies eager to exploit Cyprus’ enormous potential CO2-free energy resources, ie sun, wind and water.

Household and industrial electricity bills could fall sharply, giving people and companies more cash to spend in Cyprus’ hard-pressed economy.

Cyprus has the fortune to be warm for much of the year, keeping heating bills lower than in most European countries.

With a low proportion of heavy industry too, renewable energy production could quite soon surpass Cyprus’ own needs, allowing for exports and making Cyprus a carbon neutral or even carbon negative country.

Bring it on!

I will aim to look at some of the facts, figures and costs in future items.

Introduce Yourself (Example Post)

This is an example post, originally published as part of Blogging University. Enroll in one of our ten programs, and start your blog right.

You’re going to publish a post today. Don’t worry about how your blog looks. Don’t worry if you haven’t given it a name yet, or you’re feeling overwhelmed. Just click the “New Post” button, and tell us why you’re here.

Why do this?

  • Because it gives new readers context. What are you about? Why should they read your blog?
  • Because it will help you focus you own ideas about your blog and what you’d like to do with it.

The post can be short or long, a personal intro to your life or a bloggy mission statement, a manifesto for the future or a simple outline of your the types of things you hope to publish.

To help you get started, here are a few questions:

  • Why are you blogging publicly, rather than keeping a personal journal?
  • What topics do you think you’ll write about?
  • Who would you love to connect with via your blog?
  • If you blog successfully throughout the next year, what would you hope to have accomplished?

You’re not locked into any of this; one of the wonderful things about blogs is how they constantly evolve as we learn, grow, and interact with one another — but it’s good to know where and why you started, and articulating your goals may just give you a few other post ideas.

Can’t think how to get started? Just write the first thing that pops into your head. Anne Lamott, author of a book on writing we love, says that you need to give yourself permission to write a “crappy first draft”. Anne makes a great point — just start writing, and worry about editing it later.

When you’re ready to publish, give your post three to five tags that describe your blog’s focus — writing, photography, fiction, parenting, food, cars, movies, sports, whatever. These tags will help others who care about your topics find you in the Reader. Make sure one of the tags is “zerotohero,” so other new bloggers can find you, too.