NEWS

Tax cut to aid energy switch?

With Greece trailing other European Union countries in the use of renewable energy sources, environmentalist group Greenpeace criticized the government yesterday for backtracking on a promise to offer a tax incentive for the adoption of greener energy. Greenpeace said that Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis has failed to nominate equipment that produces renewable energy as qualifying for a lower value-added tax (VAT) rate in a list recently sent to the European Commission. The environmentalists called on Alogoskoufis to change his decision as they argue that a 9 percent VAT rate – as opposed to 19 percent – on cleaner energy sources will also contribute to economic growth. Despite the year-round sunny weather Greece enjoys, it trails other cloudier European Union states in the adoption of solar energy systems. Experts estimate that Greece could cover one-third of its total energy needs with the help of the sun. In a bid to increase awareness on the issue, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and President Karolos Papoulias met a request made by Greenpeace and installed solar energy systems at their main Athens residencies. If the tax rate is lowered, this would help create up to 4,000 new jobs and save 90 million euros in spending on electricity, Greenpeace argues. It would also help to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 1.8 to 9.4 million tons over the next 10 years. Greece has formally committed to lower its high dependence on oil but the implementation process is slower than expected. The government has prepared a bill promoting environmentally friendly energy sources but has delayed submitting it to Parliament for a vote. Greece has set an optimistic goal for the future and estimates that by 2010, 20 percent of total electrical energy will come from renewable energy sources. The figure currently stands at 11 percent.