NEWS

Possibilities for cleaner fuels abound, but no one studies them

Every installed megawatt (MW) of wind energy produces the same amount of electrical power as 720 tons of crude oil. In Greece today there are 525 installed megawatts at about 100 wind parks, but there could be many more since investment proposals have been submitted for 14,000MW. Of these, initial approval has been given for the production of 4,200MW, but there is no zoning plan. In September 2004, the Council of State, the country’s highest court, ruled against approval of anymore installations. «At the moment there are investment proposals for 1,500MW, of which two-thirds are for wind energy; these are all still pending,» said Nikos Vassilakos, vice president of the European Renewable Energies Federation (EREF). «These are the investments that made it through the bureaucracy maze,» he added. In the early years, a total of 41 documents were required for an investment in renewable energy production. This number later fell to 26. Yet with just 2,000MW from wind generators, there could be a saving of 1 million tons of petroleum a year. Photovoltaic cells In Greece, photovoltaic installations of over 20 kilowatts (KW) are banned in residential areas as unsightly. As a result, in this sun-drenched country, just 1MW of photovoltaic installations have been set up, of which just 210KW is from the state-controlled Public Power Corporation. Here again, bureaucracy is the main obstacle. «It would take just four hours to set up a 5KW panel on Voula beach,» said environmentalist Stelios Psomas. «But this has not been done because of the many more hours needed in queues.» Neglected public buildings The greatest waste of energy is in the some 200,000 public and state-owned buildings, where outdated, badly maintained installations result in electricity bills of over 450 million euros annually, according to a survey by the Renewable Energy Sources Center (KAPE). According to one estimate, up to 22 percent of these energy costs could be avoided, equivalent to 140,000 tons of petroleum. A number of European Union programs on power use in public buildings have not been utilized. Biomass banned Biomass is considered one of the most dynamic renewable energy sources since it uses farm and forest waste which would otherwise be unexploited. According to an ICAP survey, the material available in Greece (from plants such as grains, cotton, tobacco and sunflowers) amount to 7.5 million tons a year, with another potential 2.7 million tons from forest waste. If all of these resources were used, the result would be savings of the equivalent of nearly 5 million tons of petroleum. Unfortunately, less than 25 percent of that amount is made use of, mostly in fireplaces and to a lesser extent in the timber-processing industry. Not only have governments done nothing systematic to exploit biomass, but since 1993 there has even been a law banning its use in Athens and Thessaloniki as a pollutant. «For over 10 years we have been trying to explain to officials that a clean biomass furnace to meet the needs of a large apartment building of 30 apartments emits less smog than an ordinary fireplace, but to no effect,» Psomas said. Missed opportunity Despite promises of a «green» Olympics in Athens, there were no attempts to save energy or use renewable sources. Not one photovoltaic cell was installed. At the Olympic Village there is no provision for heat insulation or bioclimatic building methods. There are no solar heating panels for hot water in the village, despite a plethora of air-conditioning units, even in some of the bathrooms.