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Greece pushing back phase-out of lignite plants to reduce dependence on Russian natural gas

Greece will boost coal mining by 50% and extend the operation of all its coal-fired power plants to 2028, instead of closing them down by 2023 as previously planned, to reduce dependence on natural gas, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis announced on Wednesday.

The country’s state-run power utility PPC had pledged to shut down all but one of its coal-fired plants by 2023 and switch a new, more efficient coal-fired unit (Ptolemaida 5) due to open later this year to a cleaner fuel by 2025. This was part of Mitsotakis’ ambitious National Energy and Climate Plan presented in September 2019 to phase coal out of its electricity mix by 2028 at the latest.

“It is a temporary measure,” Mitsotakis said at the inauguration of a 204.3 MW photovoltaic park by Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE), Greece’s biggest oil refiner, in Kozani.

“In this new environment, it is also certain that the new unit, which is being built by PPC, will operate as a lignite unit in the coming years (until 2028) and if some of the more modern but old PPC units need to remain in operation, such as Melitis or Agios Dimitrios 5, it is something that will be evaluated according to the needs of the moment, but also according to the prices and the availability of natural gas,” he added.

Mitsotakis said that “in no case” will these changes affect Greece’s announced goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 55% in 2030 and achieve climate neutrality by 2050.

Earlier, two sources from PPC told Reuters the company plans to increase coal extraction this year to make sure there are no power shortages in the event Russia halts gas supplies to Greece.