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Greek solar project could spur national recovery - officials

German and Greek officials have urged global investors to get on board with a solar project which could have the potential to put debt-laden Greece on a path to economic recovery

Greece will need to upgrade its transmission networks if it is to exploit the full potential of it sunshine

EU officials have urged foreign investors to help kick-start an ambitious renewable energy production project aimed at making Greece an energy exporter and creating jobs.

Greece is pushing forward investments in several renewable energy projects, including a massive, multi-billion euro solar power venture named "Helios".

The project hopes to exploit 10 gigawatts of installed photovoltaics and could create between 30,000 and 60,000 jobs in Greece, making it the largest solar energy project in the world.

"I would like to see many participants from countries of the region, but also beyond," EU energy commissioner, Guenther Oettinger told a conference in Athens.

Greek Prime Energy Lucas Papademos called the Helios project a "national priority" which could spur growth and enable Greece to become the largest exporter of clean energy in the EU.

Greece, now entering the fifth straight year of recession, is hoping that energy – along with tourism and agriculture – can help it revitalise its economy.

With more than 300 days of sunshine a year the country aims to attract over EUR 20bn in solar investments and become a leader in the sector, exporting the "sun" to energy hungry markets across Europe and beyond.

The country aims to expand its solar power production from 206MW at present to 2.2GW by 2020, and then to 10GW by 2050. Greece enjoys 50 per cent more solar radiation than Germany per year, and yet its solar energy output is about 80 times smaller.

"No other OECD country has reduced its deficit by so much so quickly," Papademos said. "But fiscal harmonisation isn't enough for development. The energy sector gives Greece an opportunity to become a hub for the European Union and other countries."

One of the biggest problems is that Greece is connected by relatively low voltage infrastructure transmission with the rest of Europe, which is an issue that has to be resolved. However, Oettinger said Greece should focus on "the development of new capacities".

Another issue is the significant difference between the tariffs for renewable energy between Greece and Germany. Juergen Becker, Germany's Federal Minister for the environment, nature conservation and nuclear safety, said the tariff in Greece per kilowatt-hour is twice as high as the one in Germany.

"The Helios project cannot be based on Greek fitting tariffs," said Greek Energy Minister, George Papaconstantinou, continuing that the prices will be formed close to the prices in the importing country, rather than those of the exporting.