Sioufas demands new energy era, will spend to get it

While hinting at the possibility of power outages next year, the government yesterday announced a plan of multimillion investment, consumer education and increased use of renewable sources of energy in order to drag Greece’s electricity system out of the mire. «We have to alter the perception that sees energy simply as a commodity which must be sold, like other goods, in increasingly bigger quantities. Instead, we have to discuss how to manage energy and achieve sustainable development,» said Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas. Sioufas announced a plan to invest nearly 192 million euros in Greece’s energy market through 104 separate projects, with the key aim of radically improving the state of the Greek electricity network, which he claimed was teetering on the edge of overload. «The years 2005 and 2006 will be especially difficult years energy-wise,» said Sioufas, while calling for households and businesses to change their habits and become more conscious of ways to save power. The minister said that the problems in the electricity system were due to delays by the previous government in modernizing power stations and a failure to invest in upgrading the grid. Sioufas added that a government committee was investigating methods for improving the production and distribution of electricity. Its results are due in a few weeks. The minister also announced that a campaign would be launched next year, under the stewardship of the Development Ministry general secretary Nikos Stefanou, which would declare 2005 as «the year of energy conservation.» «Citizens should no longer be just consumers, indifferent to every energy-saving effort, but well-informed, active citizens who will take part in a common effort to employ conservation measures,» said Sioufas. In a country where being green is regarded as the eccentric domain of the few, the government may face a hard task. However, Sioufas seemed determined to succeed yesterday. «In every corner of the country, we will sponsor energy-saving projects, the combined production of electricity and heat and the replacement of the use of fuel in industries, banks, hotels and greenhouses,» he said. The minister also emphasized the need for the development and greater use of renewable sources of energy. Of the 104 projects that the government announced it is funding, 44 are dedicated to this end. Sioufas said the government would cut down on red tape, which often makes it difficult for renewable energy projects to get official approval.