COMMUNITY

Municipalities vie over wind farm islet in Saronic Gulf

GIORGOS LIALIOS

An aerial view of Aghios Georgios (San Giorgio). The municipalities of Lavreotiki and Hydra are vying for administrative control of the uninhabited islet, which hosts a lucrative wind farm.

TAGS: Justice, Energy

The municipalities of Lavreotiki at the southeastern tip of the Attica region and Hydra in the Saronic Gulf are vying for administrative control of an uninhabited islet.

The reason is that when Aghios Georgios (San Giorgio) goes into official operation as a wind farm, the municipality in control will be entitled to 3 percent of revenues, which came to 940,000 euros last year.

Last Monday, the country’s Ministry of Environment and Energy modified the environmental terms of the installation, which is managed by Terna SA, in a way that reflects Hydra’s administrative control over Aghios Georgios. However, the dispute is not yet settled. Three lawsuits are still pending, while Lavreotiki officials are preparing to file one more.

In April, the Interior Ministry endorsed an assessment by the Legal Council of the State that adopts the claims of Hydra authorities. According to that, Aghios Georgios, a private island, has been under Hydra’s jurisdiction since 1843.

The apple of discord is the levies from the operation of a wind farm on the island, which represent 3 percent of revenues from the sale of electricity to the national grid.

The wind farm started operating on a pilot basis in 2016 and, according to figures provided by Terna, 2017 revenues stood at 940,000 euros. About 533,000 euros of that was destined to be paid state-owned electricity market operator LAGIE into the municipal coffers, about 313,000 euros to residents of the municipality in the form of a discount on their electricity bills, and some 94,000 to the Green Fund – a national environment fund set up in 2010 to support regeneration projects.

Part of that money has already been collected by the Municipality of Lavreotiki, under whose authority the islet fell until recently.

“We shall certainly also challenge the decision at the Council of State,” said Lavreotiki Mayor Dimitris Loukas. “Another lawsuit is still pending, against a similar decision by the Regulatory Authority for Energy (RAE), which will be adjudicated in 2019."

“Meanwhile, two rulings are still pending over two lawsuits filed by the Municipality of Hydra – one against a building permit issued by the Markopoulo town-planning authority [Editor’s note: This also covers Lavrio, a port town in Lavreotiki municipality] and another against LAGIE’s decision to give us the first levy installment.”

Lavreotiki officials claim that Aghios Georgios actually lies within the municipality’s administrative limits. “The Interior Ministry never gave us a chance to defend our position. We have asked the plenary to review the decision, but we have not received a response.”

Hydra officials hail the decision. “There had been an injustice against us. The islet never belonged to Lavrio in the first place,” the island’s mayor, Giorgos Koukoudakis, said. “We have filed a lawsuit seeking to reclaim the levies collected by the Municipality of Lavreotiki. Hydra has to put up with too many conservation laws. We are not allowed to install solar water heaters or modern window frames. These funds will be of some comfort,” he said.

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