Far too few incentives for households to do their bit

Restricting the use of gasoline and diesel in cars has never been a real priority for the state, even it could reduce this use by over 15 percent. Politicians and state services (central and local) could take certain steps in this direction. A first step could be to replace all state-owned vehicles with hybrid cars that use 40 percent less fuel. Several firms around the world manufacture hybrid vehicles (using a combination of fuel and electricity), but they have not yet made an impact in Greece. There are insufficient incentives; the Environment and Public Works Ministry has only five or six of these cars. The Municipality of Athens missed an opportunity two years ago to be included in a European program for hybrid buses. However, it recently announced the acquisition of 10 hydrogen-powered buses expected to go into circulation early next year. It would be simple enough for all vehicles used by ministers, members of Parliament, general secretaries and other state officials to be replaced with hybrid cars; the slightly higher purchase price would soon be offset by the reduction in fuel consumption. Moreover, the European Union has set a goal of 2 percent biofuel consumption by 2005 and 5.75 percent by 2010. Unfortunately, in Greece nothing has been done. For starters, all buses and garbage trucks that run on diesel fuel could use Greek-made bio-diesel, a move that would result in huge savings. The islands The Greek islands could be an ideal site for renewable energy sources, particularly solar energy, which is in greatest supply during the time of greatest demand. Unfortunately, these sources account for just 1.7 percent of the islands’ power supply. What is more, instead of investing in the sun and wind, the Public Power Corporation (PPC) and the state are building more fuel-based power stations. PPC is replacing an old power station in Crete that stopped operating in February this year and another on the island of Lesvos with new plants that pollute the atmosphere. Renewable sources are accessible all year round and under any weather conditions by means of pumped storage systems. These are small hydraulic units for producing energy based on a simple principle. During an energy surplus, water is pumped up. When there is a shortage, the water is allowed to fall and set the hydroelectric station in motion. A recent study by Greenpeace showed that a 35MW-pumped storage system and a 60MW wind farm could meet 75 percent of the energy needs on the island of Lesvos, the equivalent of 75,000 tons of crude oil. Black holes Perhaps Greece’s greatest «black holes» in its energy system are its buildings, which account for 40 percent of its energy needs in the form of heating, cooling and light, among other things. According to a European Union directive of 1998, each building is supposed to have an «energy ID» for the information of tenants or owners. There is nothing like this in Greece. As of January 4, 2006, the European Union will require specific measures to be taken to reduce energy waste in buildings through the use of renewable sources of energy, a new kind of heat insulation, and bioclimatic techniques. In Italy, 7,000 energy inspectors (the term itself is non-existent in Greece) have already been trained for the purpose. According to a survey by ICAP, it would be feasible within 10 years to save 10 percent of energy needs in buildings simply through the use of passive solar systems, equivalent to 35 tons of petroleum. In Greece, however, no incentives are given to people to use renewable sources of energy or to be proactive about current use by installing energy savers such as low-emission glass in their windows. In this «low-e» glass, a microscopically thin coating of metal oxide allows the sun’s heat and light to pass into the building but blocks heat from leaving the room. Any incentives are given solely to investors or large firms. Although Greece is the main producer of solar water heaters, only 20 percent of Greek households (about 800,000) have them. A realistic goal would be to triple the number installed within the next 10 years, which would result in energy conservation rising from the current 1.3 million MWh (megawatt hours) a year to 4 million MWh.