Economically depressed Greece is working to become the EU's largest exporter of solar-generated electricity, the Greek energy minister said. Talks with investors from Italy and Luxembourg are already underway.
The planned state-sponsored project "Helios" is expected to pour annual revenues to the tune of 15 billion euros ($19.5 billion) into empty Greek state coffers and create 60,000 jobs, Greece's Energy Minister George Papakonstantinou said on Monday.
The money should be used to repay the country's enormous debt and help EU countries meet the bloc's CO2 reduction target, he told German newspaper "Die Welt."
"We have begun talks with Italy and Luxembourg," he said, adding that Germany too, was showing an interest in the "negotiations."
Papakonstantinou expressed the hope that the implementation of the solar energy project might start "already this year," producing solar-generated electricity for exports as early as 2014.
However, some funding problems "remain unresolved" at the moment, he added.
The Helios project alone, once fully operational, has a planned capacity of 10,000 megawatts - about two thirds of the current solar energy production of Germany, whose renewable energy sector has been booming for years, boosted by plentiful state subsidies.
Greece ranks sixth among a group of 35 countries deemed most lucrative for photo-voltaic investment, according to the latest available Renewable Energy Country Attractiveness Index published by the Ernst & Young consultancy group in May 2011.
Greece needs 20 billion euros for the project, and said it wanted to provide investors with state land to ensure investments were "free of any administrative, legal and bureaucratic barriers."
Describing the project as a "huge chance," EU Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger told a solar energy conference in Athens two weeks ago that "Greece could promote economic growth, while other countries could benefit from inexpensive energy imports."
However, the current transport infrastructure for electricity in Greece was "insufficient" to distribute the "massive" solar power generated by the Helios project, he added.
uhe/ai (AFP, dpa Reuters)