COMMENT

Public skepticism over wind energy

By Tasoula Karaiskaki

The organized protests against the establishment of wind parks on Greek islands, as well as on parts of the mainland, have developed into a form of ideological warfare between «environmentally friendly» local organizations and the central government. Municipalities, local groups and unions have made huge efforts this year to avert plans to construct wind parks on their islands. Faced with the choice between «dirty» energy and wind generators, they evidently prefer the former, with their polluting oil-driven power stations that draw heavily on already dwindling natural resources. These protesters are evidently uncomfortable with the idea of roads being opened up to allow the creation of wind parks, but have for years turned a blind eye to the widespread illegal construction on their islands. The development of tourism infrastructure was always the priority, and plans to exploit land for anything other than tourist accommodation have always been treated with skepticism. There have been similar reactions on the Greek mainland in areas of natural beauty that do not enjoy European Union protection. It appears that we have no problem with burning forestland, building wherever we like, dumping our trash in pristine natural settings and generally spreading pollution. We are not bothered by television antennas or by the creeping scourge of construction in our countryside, but we do seem to have a problem with the prospect of wind farms. We see them as a threat to public health, an erroneous conclusion and one that is almost insulting to the residents of Ptolemaida and Megalopolis who have been enduring the impact of lignite pollution in their areas for decades now. In the meantime, we fail to react to plans for four new coal-powered plants in different parts of the country. In view of this, the EU goal for Greece to acquire 3,500 megawatts of wind energy by 2010 appears rather unrealistic. At present, just 750 MW of wind energy is produced in Greece, compared to 11,615 MW in Spain and 20,622 MW in Germany. And this is despite the fact that licenses have been issued for the production of 6,000 MW of wind energy. The good purchase price for wind energy from the Public Power Corporation (PPC) and the subsidies for production have whetted the appetite of large and small investors, both Greek and foreign. But the government's land zoning plan is unclear and does not provide motives for the establishment of small wind farms; also there are difficulties in connecting the parks to the country's power production network. The reactions we have seen from local communities could have been avoided with better planning, public awareness campaigns and negotiations with residents. But in Greece we always seem to neglect such basic precautions.

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