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Greece says its entire electrical grid ran on 100% renewables for the first time

An array of photovoltaic panels are pictured at a solar power park in Kozani, Greece on April 6, 2022. Greece's power transmission operator says it recently hit a new benchmark, using exclusively renewable energy for a brief time.
An array of photovoltaic panels at a solar power park, operated by Hellenic Petroleum SA, in Kozani, Greece, on Wednesday, April 6, 2022. The Kozani PV Park is the largest project of renewable energy sources in Greece. Photographer: Konstantinos Tsakalidis/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Greek electrical system has hit a new milestone, after running completely on "clean" renewable energy for the first time.

Renewable energy sources covered Greece's electricity demands for about five hours last Friday, the Independent Power Transmission Operator, or IPTO, said. Renewables also posted a new record that day, reaching a peak of 3,106 megawatt hours (MWh) of electricity.

The company, which owns and operates the Greek electrical transmission system connecting power plants with customers, says the achievement will open the door to making its energy mix greener in coming years.

Greece relies on a range of sources for electricity, with no one source accounting for more than 50%. In August of 2022, natural gas and renewable sources, such as wind and solar, accounted for the most power. IPTO also draws electricity from hydropower, as well as from lignite or "brown coal," one of the dirtiest fossil fuels.

As of 2019, Greece's total energy consumption per capita (including electricity, oil and other segments) ranked 52nd in the world, with 108 million Btu per person, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. By that metric, Greece used around a third as much energy as the U.S., which reported 304.41 million Btu per person.

The country's accomplishment comes after a decade in which its reliance on fossil fuels has gradually declined, at the same time as it has boosted the capacity of renewables and large hydropower plants, according to The Green Tank, a Greece-based nonprofit environmental think tank.

Greece's system isn't the only one to have hit the 100% mark with renewables: The much larger California Independent System Operator, which serves about 80% of the state, reported that it briefly achieved it in the spring.

Renewable energy has seen "an unprecedented boom" in recent years, including a 45% jump in capacity in 2020, the International Energy Agency reported. In the U.S. this year, the gains include wind power outpacing both coal and nuclear energy.

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