The revision of the Ministerial Order is expected to be completed in about a month
Permits for the installation of photovoltaic parks in reclamation areas will not be reissued, Energy Minister Giorgos Papanastasiou told the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture on Friday, which was informed by the Department of Urban Planning that from January 2009 to the end of 2022, 778 applications from of which 541 were approved, 83 were rejected while 154 are pending. Of the 541, 47 are in reclamation areas.
The President of the Committee, Giannakis Gavriil, called on the Government to determine in the ongoing process of revising the Ministerial Order that determines the development of photovoltaic parks, to introduce prohibitive provisions for land surveying in tilled areas and fertile irrigated agricultural land.
The revision of the Ministerial Order is expected to be completed in about a month, the Committee was informed, which continued the discussion on ways to safeguard fertile agricultural land and reclamation areas from the installations of photovoltaic parks. The debate concerns an ex officio examination of the matter following a proposal by MPs Giannakis Gabriel, Andreas Pasiourtides, Valentinos Fakontis, Christos Orphanidis, Christos Senekis, Linos Papagiannis and Charalambos Theopeptou.
Among others, the Ministers of Interior, Energy, Trade and Industry, and Agriculture, Rural Development and Environment were invited to attend the session.
In his initial statement, Mr. Gavriel mentioned, among other things, that political decisions are needed regarding the installation of photovoltaic parks, which, as he said, “appear like mushrooms” and it is not known if they have permits.
He referred to the mandate of the Ministry of Internal Affairs on this matter and noted that there are no provisions but an exhortation to protect agricultural land, and asked the Ministers if there is political will to prohibit the use of agricultural land for the installation of photovoltaic parks. He raised the issue of the need to protect arable land for the production of agricultural products for the needs of the country.
The Minister of Commerce, Giorgos Papanastasiou, told the Committee that any development needs proper management so as not to burden the agricultural land.
He said that, hypothetically, if we want to develop photovoltaics of the order of 1.2 gigawatts which is about the target set by the European Commission, if we assume that they will be installed on all the roofs of either government buildings or private or industrial areas , the production will be 300-400 megawatts and the rest of the other obligation, around 800 megawatts, will all go to agricultural land, and it will cover 2-3% of agricultural land, which is a small percentage, as he noted. He clarified after reactions from representatives of agricultural organizations that this is hypothetical and does not mean that this will happen.
He said that he personally is against the installation of photovoltaics on fertile land, and that there are solutions, such as agricultural photovoltaics that they enter elevated and allow agricultural growth below, while creating shaded areas for the spars.
He expressed the position that photovoltaics should not be placed in areas of disturbance, while, in the comments of MPs that they exist in such areas, he said that “they entered badly” and that there will be no repetition, at least in this Government. “We are making a commitment that the reclamation areas will never be used for photovoltaic purposes,” the Minister said.
The Minister of Agriculture, Petros Xenophontos, said he agrees with the Minister of Energy. He told the Commission that the available agricultural land in free Cyprus amounts to 1,300 square kilometers, while of this total, the installation of photovoltaics is prohibited in 900 square kilometers because they are Natura areas, migratory bird corridors, protected areas, etc.
He said that his Ministry had drawn up a plan in November 2022 for dual use and based on this, 79 applications have been submitted, 24 have been approved, while for now they have stopped accepting applications for agro-photovoltaics.
Kyriakos Koundouros, Director of the Department of Urban Planning and Housing on behalf of the Minister of the Interior, told the Commission that the placement of RES photovoltaic and wind parks is governed by the 2006 Order of the Ministry of the Interior, which defines areas that prevent the placement of RES such as Natura areas, and environmentally sensitive spaces. The rest of the land is designated as C areas, regardless of whether it is fertile arable land or not. He noted that if a photovoltaic park is installed in area C, it does not mean that it is necessarily fertile land.
Mr. Koundouros reported that, from January 2009 until the end of 2022, 778 applications were submitted, of which 541 were approved and received planning permits, 83 were rejected while 154 are pending. He further said that of the 541, 47 or 8% are in reclamation areas. But the 32, he said, are in dry cultivation and especially in the area of Agios Ioannis Maloundas in a livestock breeding zone or in the periphery of this zone. He referred to a peculiarity of the area there, that it covers an area of approximately 2,000 hectares (20 million square meters), livestock zones which remain largely unexploited. He noted that the area of Agios Ioannis, Menikos and Paleometochos is burdened with very troublesome developments and the zones designated for livestock development are occupied only in a very small part. Only 7 cases out of 541 are under irrigated tillage, he said, noting that the area of irrigated tillage occupied by solar farms, “is negligible”. and is expected to be completed in about a month.
During the discussion, the members of the Commission expressed concerns about the use of agricultural land for the installation of photovoltaics.
AKEL Member of Parliament Valentinos Fakontis referred to the lack of grain due to the war in Ukraine and said that the primary sector must be protected. He said that the State has spent huge amounts by taking barren land to build road network and then some people come to build solar parks. He asked for the State to settle the issue and for photovoltaic producers to go to specific areas.
ELAM Member of Parliament Linos Papagiannis suggested that it be investigated how many of the public buildings could be used for this purpose instead of the State to give fertile land for parks. He also said that they have seen farmers with financial problems giving up their land to build solar parks and that should be a concern.
EDEK Member of Parliament, Ilias Myrianthous said that in reclamation areas, since such developments have been allowed, the State should ask to take back the investment it made. It was also suggested that, where the government is unable to install photovoltaics on the roofs of public buildings, they should be given to the private sector to install them through proper procedures. for his party and have submitted specific proposals.
The Member of Parliament of the Movement of Environmentalists-Citizens' Cooperation, Charalambos Theopeptou referred to a recommendation by the European Commission for a bioeconomy policy for food production, for food security, noting that instead of “taking care of our fertile land, we give it to businessmen to make super profits”.
Representatives of agricultural organizations raised the need to protect agricultural land, noting, among other things, that the Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) of halloumi could be at risk since, as they stated, according to the PDO regulation, animal feeding must be 50% they are from local grain, and they wondered where this grain would be grown.
Declarations by Members of Parliament
The President of the Commission, Giannakis Gabriel, said in his statements after the session that it is admitted by all that in recent years a short-sighted policy has been followed in favor of the profits of the few and at the expense of the protection of agricultural land with the installation of photovoltaic parks “even within the agricultural reforms for which the State has spent tens of millions of euros”. He noted that they have called on the Government to determine in the ongoing process of revision of the Ministerial order determining the development of solar parks to introduce prohibitive provisions for land surveying in areas of cultivation and fertile irrigated agricultural land. They note with a positive sign the commitment of the two Ministers to move in this direction, he added.
He referred to figures given to the Commission that 8% of licensed solar parks are within reclamation areas, noting that this does not include permits given on fertile agricultural land irrigated by government water projects, expressing the belief that “if these figures are also calculated , the situation is absolutely worse.”
DISY Member of Parliament Kyriakos Hatzigiannis said that the Government should take a decision, based on a study, on the one hand to protect arable land but also to ensure a quick energy transition. He noted that the session was not intended to create conditions to limit RES development but to protect arable agricultural land. He also said that when it is not possible to install RES parks somewhere, there should also be provision for where RES productions can be installed. the Government is determined to take those measures after assurances from Ministers to put an end to the installation of photovoltaic parks in areas that are accessible and can be used for cultivation.
He said that an end would be put to this the situation which, by the end of 2022 “had taken the form of a storm” with the placement of photovoltaic parks in reclamation areas, for which the taxpayer had borne the burden to create areas with roads and water supply, noting that this constituted a scandal.< /p>