Renewable energy


Combining institutional and scientific tools


Special Advisor in the Regulatory Authority for Energy, Athens, Greece

Phd Cand., Sorbonne University, Paris, France


Recent evolutions related to renewable energy technologies (RETs), made us consider the issue of their penetration into landscapes and local physiognomy of specific areas. We have been interested in questioning this issue for insular spaces and more particularly in the case of Hellenic islands. We concluded that if small and well planned and if adjusted at local geographical scale, the equipments of Renewable Energy Sources (RES), could even contribute at the update of the physiognomy of a micro-scale space (like the one of islands). This fact together with national and European funding incentives, make these technologies an attractive solution for an autonomous energy feeding combined with a preservation of local landscape particularities. Local abundant natural energy sources (such as sun, wind and see), as well as specific needs related to tourism development and to the need for regional economic development, further encourage this thought. Through a suitable Hellenic Plan for RETs planning (expected to be institutionalized in September 2008-) RETs could answer to the need for a local sustainable development with respect to the preservation of the physiognomy’s identity of our islands. The concept of “carrying capacity” is included in this Plan but its need is not scientifically justified. We therefore discuss here the idea of the synergy between institutional and scientific tools towards the optimal integration of renewable energy technologies (RETs) in insular areas. At least for Greece, time for experimentation is limited and therefore such a combination is more than necessary.


The exploitation of renewable energy sources is a result of international (Protocol of Kyoto) and European decisions which set obligatory targets for the introduction of renewable energy sources into the energy mix of each Member State of the European Union, until 2020. The overall goal of the European Union is 20% by renewable energy sources in the European energy mix until the year 2020.

Islands concern the 4% of the European land and only the 13 million of European citizens. Greek islands are active paths between the Middle East and the Europe, rich in energy natural resources and characterized by a variety of geo-morphological particularities, fragile ecosystems and special cultural elements. They are usually located at a distance from the mainland with a weak degree of accessibility. At the same time, peripheries where Hellenic islands belong present more and more increased rates of economic development and energy demands. Especially during summer months and because of increased tourist traffic, the demand for energy is vertically increasing (almost 45%) [PARASKEVOPOULOS, 2004] having as a result major problems of electricity inadequacies. Islands are also characterized by a bunch of energy particularities (such as deficient electricity infrastructures, a dominance by the high-cost imported oil (as the main fuel for their energy feeding), and peak electricity demands during tourist periods (usually June until September).

Islands present specific features in their economic and social development as well: because of their small dimensions and their relatively restricted communication with Mainland, they create economies with some degree of autonomy. Nevertheless, an improvement of their communication has been noted due to their tourism activity: the wonderful climate and the cultural heritage of Mediterranean countries, have established Mediterranean islands as significant pole of tourist attraction, carrying the 30% of the international tourism [DASCALAKI and BALARAS, 2004] , whereas the 113,000 inhabitants of Cycladic islands multiply by five every summer [ELECTRICITE DE FRANCE, 2002]. The most wide-spread form of tourism in these islands is “mass tourism” which results in the massive construction of hotel, transport and other infrastructures.

The need to face problems generated by mass tourism, combined with the challenge of competitiveness and environmental worries, offer a marvellous opportunity for the promotion of effective energy politics, the exploitation of renewable energy sources and the reasonable usage of energy (especially in the hotel sector) and turn islands to be the perfect experimentation sites for the integration of renewable energy equipments and infrastructures and the attending –under specific conditions- of a local “sustainable development”.

The principle of “sustainable development” were introduced almost 20 years ago at an international level and concern the economic, social and environmental development of an area aiming at “meet the present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs" [UNITED NATIONS, 1987]. In line with sustainable development principles and specific local and energy characteristics of insular areas, renewable energy development is of an essential priority due to both their economic and social benefits for regional economies, as well as due to their environmental nature: At a social level, the development of pure energy projects results in the cultivation of a feeling of environmental responsibility and, the most important, in the assurance of labour posts and the enriching the local community funds. The usage of renewable energy technologies (RETs) is also advisable for technical reasons, since cost of electricity production in islands is very high due to the high cost of the oil imported from Mainland [NTUA, 2001]. Moreover, most of the islands are not connected to the grid of Mainland and this facilitates more RETs penetration since some of them (i.e. small wind generators and solar systems) can provide electricity in an stand-alone way and also offer the potential of extension in line with the energy needs arisen. The possibility of storing the produced energy (through some battery) could be used for dealing with the instable character of wind energy (which depends on the existence and the power of wind velocities). Finally, RETs aim to cover dispersed energy applications (agricultural, hothouses, hotels, units of desalination, etc). RETs are also preferred for aesthetic reasons, in order to avoid the negative phenomena of diesel machines (smokes, chimneys, etc) and for reasons of harmonisation (through a good planning) with the existing, local, natural particularities.

These characteristics and benefits are essential for a country with a rich history in the use of natural energy resources (the first wind mill was designed in Greece at 343 before J.-C.!!) The first attempt for electricity production by wind energy (through a wind generator) being noted down in the beginning of ‘80s, Hellenic laws 2773/99 (following the Community Directive 96/92/EC), 3175/2003 (following the Community Directive 2003/54/EC) and 3486/2006 have structured the basic institutional framework where RETs projects authorization were based. In 2006, 335.68 GWh were produced in Crete (from wind, biomass and hydraulic energy), 24.1 GWh in Rhodes (from wind energy) and 139 GWh in other islands (from wind energy).

The potential is still large (especially as far as solar energy is concerned), but there are many obstacles which should be overcome, the most fundamental one being the lack of a Spatial Planning for RETs. Today a plan of RETs Planning has been announced by the Government and has been submitted for public consultation. The RETs Planning is expected to be institutionalized in September 2008 and includes norms and regulations concerning the criteria under which RETs should be installed in a given space.

Among these norms, an important criterion of planning RETs into a specific territory is the estimation of its “carrying capacity”. Whereas, in the plan, this estimation of “carrying capacity” embodies rather a “technical character”, for us the carrying capacity of islands should be measured at the basis of a material, psychological and ideological assessment. This means that RETs integration should be incorporated in the islander landscape in a contributing way to the cultural and esthetical conservation of islands features, elevating in parallel their characteristic physiognomy and their historical character. In this context, the concept of “currying capacity” concern the result and combination of various coordinates related to specific needs for the installation of energy equipments, their environmental charge and consequences, etc.

For example technical parameters, such as the credibility and the flexibility of the system, the time of construction, the need for auxiliary works and the restricted capabilities of connection to the network, impose the installation of small wind generators and photovoltaic systems, whereas the energy needs of the population are increased especially in tourist periods. Specific technical particularities of areas, such as the existent or potential natural energy sources, and the existing (or not) electricity transport network must be co-evaluated with technical parameters and/or comportment of RETs for the prioritization of RETs equipments and locations.

Moreover, as mentioned before, Hellenic islands are characterized by particular morphological and territorial features, rich biodiversity and ecosystems and rich cultural heritage. As far as energy equipments are concerned and in accordance with the existent decisions of the Supreme Administrative Courts of Greece, islands are accepting only a mild development(25) which indulge only as “mild energy system”, the system which consists of energy production by renewable energy sources (wind, solar etc). Still, for sensible ecosystems of this kind, the danger of optical disturbances that wind generators, for example, create is very important and needs a balance between RETs equipments forms and the landscape shape and features. The spatial plan for RET’s foresees special guidelines for areas under protection and NATURA 2000 areas, but still some other local prerequisites have to been taken into consideration when assessing local carrying capacity of a given area: The vertical feature of the wind generator for example could create an optical problem to the visitor; or (if well planned) could be so much harmonically integrated in the infertile and rocky territories of the Cycladic islands that could emphasize on their specific geo-morphologic landscape architecture. In order to obtain positive results and due to the fact that Hellenic islands present geo-morphological differences between them, we realize that the essential here is to conceive each island as a “unique case”, indicate differences and comparative advantages at a first step and then point out their particularities through RETs equipments. We could say that this is what happened in the old times, when windmills were used to point out the particularities of each Cycladic island.

The above mentioned approach shouldn’t neglect economic parameters, such as the cost of each RETs technology separately (of investment, of operation, of maintenance and of dismantlement), the return rate and the funding mechanisms which are available at a national and European level.

Local tourism development is an additional parameter which has to be co-evaluated, as well as predictions for future tourism development in a specific insular area.

In the final output we should also include the new technological discoveries and evolutions (for example as far as the wind generators nominal capacity is concerned) which are to come in a given time horizon. Possibilities of “synergies” between technologies (such as combinations of wind or hydraulic systems –hybrid systems) and the combined use of RETs for both electricity production and other applications (such as water desalination) should also be co-assessed.


By recapitulating the above analysis and resuming the necessary actions which are needed to be put in place for a successful RETs integration in the Hellenic islander territories, we conclude that:

Each island is different and areas of the same island are different between them (in terms of social capital, natural environmental and energy sources, economic development, etc.) Therefore, in order to conceptualize the ideal “energy system” of a specific area, energy planners should be in a position to understand its specific energy needs and then to assess its specific “currying capacity”. Especially as far as RETs implementation is concerned, planners should take into consideration a variety of parameters such as the economic return of each renewable energy technology, aesthetic parameters which lead at an harmonic integration of a RET in the landscape, technical parameters, data related to local economic activities (mainly tourism) and possibilities for national or European funding mechanisms. Some promotion of research and development at a local level would also be advisable.

An optimal assessment of local energy carrying capacity prior to RETs implementation, in combination with an official and institutionalized RETs planning, would activate third and local entrepreneurs towards investments on renewable energy, would secure the harmonious operation of RETs after their implementation, would protect local societies from unwanted actions, and would maximize benefits from renewable energy exploitation towards the satisfaction of local needs.

What is very true is that time for experimentations related to the implantation of innovative energy technologies into geographically restricted areas, is limited. In these cases, it seems that precaution is better than a bad planning and the combination between institutional tools and careful scientific studies prior to RETs installations are more than necessary towards the optimal exploitation of natural energy resources in Hellenic islander territories.


DASCALAKI, BALARAS, “Xenios – a methodology for assessing refurbishment scenarios and the potential of application of RES and RUE in hotels. Energy and Buildings 36 (2004) 1091 - 1105.

ELECTRICITE DE FRANCE Archipel Guadelupe “The introduction of Wind Power into insular electricity systems”, EuroCarribean RES Conference, 30th May 2002.

NATIONAL TECHNICAL UNIVERSITY OF ATHENS (NTUA), Conference on «Renewable Energies for Islands – Towards 100% RES Supply», Chania, June 2001

PARASKEVOPOULOS, A. 2004, "Tehno-economical analysis of a hybrid Wind Reversible Hydroelectric System in Ikaria", Bulletin of the Hellenic Association of Qualified Mechanical engineers-electricians, Copy [370] September, p.49

UNITED NATIONS, 1987 "Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development."

Creating the background for the re-integration of society and nature

Creating the background for the re-integration of society and nature

written by Alexandros Konstantinis

Environmental Management, University of Ioannina, Greece

MSc in Geoinformatics, Agricultural University of Athens, Greece

Environmental Manager in Management Body of Rivers Acheron and Kalamas, Igoumenitsa, Greece

If you want to prosper one year, cultivate wheat.

If you want to prosper ten years, cultivate trees.

If you want to prosper one hundred years, cultivate people.

- Chinese maxim -

One of us starts an ordinary day by turning a number of switches on. He drives then to work, he heats his working spaces, etc.. That man has released to the environment so far in this day about 8kg of coal and has contributed accordingly to the global warming. If he eats a 250g veal steak produced in Brazil, he will destroy 5m2 of forest. The production of this steak also needs 750lt of water and 1,7kg of forage (cereals). Furthermore, provided that the animal is one year old, it has released 27kg of methane (a greenhouse gas) to the atmosphere via its peptic system. The steak served with 100g of rice needs about 90g of nitrogen fertilizer, 80 of which are released to the environment contributing to global warming, eutrophication and water pollution. If our man takes a 300g trout dinner, he will release of 400g of particles (mainly organic), 19g of ammonia, 4g of nitrate and nitrite, 5g of phosphorus and small quantities of antibiotics, formaldehyde and other disinfectants to a river. The car of our man needed, only for its steel parts and tyres, 160tons of water. Its battery contains about 8kg of lead which has produced 310kg of waste in some Australian mine in order to be extracted. The vehicle has about 10kg of copper which has polluted some mine in Chile or in USA with 990kg of waste in order to be extracted. If the car’s air conditioner is old, uses Freon and is replaced 5 times, it will destroy 500tons of ozone.

Let’s recall a few things about thermodynamics. We know that it is based on four laws. Here, the first and the second are in concern to us. The first, which is the law of conservation of energy for any system, says that the internal energy of a system which receives an amount of heat is increased by that amount minus the work that the system performs. For example, a man eats a quantity of food. His internal energy increases by the metabolism. If the man does not eat anything else for a short period, his internal energy starts to decrease because his body on one hand performs some work and on the other loses heat to the environment. The first law of thermodynamics says that the reduction of the internal energy of his body is equal to the heat lost plus the work done. Generalizing to the entire universe, one can say that the amount of energy is always constant, or, otherwise, energy is neither created nor destroyed. It only changes form. The same law, formulated to describe matter, says that also matter is neither created nor destroyed. The quantity of matter we have before a process, physicochemical or other, is the same we have after it. This is called the law of matter indestructibility. Following the publication of the theory of relativity by Einstein, the law was found incorrect. We now know that mass and energy are equivalent so mass could be included in the principle of energy conservation. In addition, when referring to the usual speeds and standard technologies (technologies such as nuclear fission or fusion are excluded), it is safe to assume that indestructibility of matter is valid. The latter law, as we shall see, suggests that pollution is inevitable, regardless of how «pure» a technology is.

The second law of thermodynamics has been formulated in many ways. Without emphasizing on strictness and mathematical formulation, the second law says that if a system is left on its own, the disorder in it will increase. A measure of this disorder is called entropy. The latter is a central concept of many scientific disciplines and in a significant way it is connected to the fate of all things and that of us: decay and death. A little better, the second law says that the entropy of a system that has no interactions with its environment (“closed” system) and is subject to spontaneous internal changes, increases. More specifically, if the changes are reversible, the entropy remains constant but if they are irreversible, the entropy increases. The entropy always increases because there is no process in nature that is completely reversible. Furthermore, another version, less strict, is that the entropy of the entire universe increases because no system can be considered completely “closed” except universe. According to the second law, many things are impossible to happen. Irreversibility of things is an everyday experience. A man ages gradually and the signs of aging appear on his face and the rest of his body. Nobody expects anyone to become younger over time. However, mechanics is full of events which are reversible. Indeed, the solution of differential equations of mechanics, like the one that relates the force exerted on a body with mass and acceleration, may be a function of time (t) or its opposite (-t). Time, in other words, may refer to the future or the past. The subjective sense of time that we all have is not that of mechanics’. Time is an entity that has a specific direction towards what we call the future. The subjective time moves from situations of smaller entropy to those of greater. Nobody remembers the future but the past. A universe with reversible time where we could remember the future is not unthinkable. However, in our own, time has only one direction and the future is always unknown. The reason is not yet understood. What matters is that the second thermodynamic law is a reality. It will stop to be valid by the day an airplane which collided will be spontaneously assembled, its dismembered passengers will return to their seats and the flight will resume. Perhaps that is why the miracles of various religions, from ancient times, were the strongest weapon in making them convincing. Only a truly superhuman strength may be in breach of the second thermodynamic law.

Let’s return to earth. Energy, whose flow is governed by the two laws we have seen, exists in two forms, available and unavailable. A kilo of coal is available energy since its combustion can move an engine, heat a room or roast a piece of meat. Once released, this energy becomes not available. The heat that moved the engine was converted into kinetic energy while some escaped into the environment. Finally, part of the kinetic energy is converted by friction into heat again, which, because of the first law, is totally equal to the energy that initially existed in coal minus the work that was performed. Only now it is in a form that renders it unavailable. This is another view of the second law. Energy thus has a tendency to be converted from available to unavailable. Our culture is based on the economic processes that handle the flow of matter and energy which are governed by the laws of thermodynamics. And it is matter and energy that pollute the environment and exterminate living species which are essential for the existence of the planet and us.

Like energy, matter exists in both available and not available forms and continuously the first is changing into the second. The force that makes matter unavailable is friction. A car is composed of materials in available form. Some day it will be left to its own in a car graveyard where it will rust and gradually, because of the activity of the nature’s elements, will be destroyed. Because of the damage already happened during operation, a portion of the materials has become unavailable. After a few decades that car will disappear. But as we saw before, its mass does not really disappear. It goes somewhere. This whole matter cannot now be recovered. It is unavailable. Recycling of all materials, theoretically, is possible but time and energy required for this are of such size that the total damage (or increase in entropy) in the environment would be unacceptable.

A closed system that would produce work for ever needs not only energy but also matter in its available form. But since both are converted into unavailable forms, such system does not exist. Regarding to materials, the Earth is a closed system. The conclusion is simple: Sooner or later some materials will be exhausted.

Extraction, production and consumption produce waste. According to the law of conservation of mass, the entire quantity of matter used in the production process is long-term waste. Except, of course, the amount recycled. The amount of recycled matter is always less than the originally used because of the second thermodynamic law and as long as it transforms into new products that are also recycled, this quantity tends to zero. This is the importance of the two thermodynamic laws. All production at some point will reach the environment as waste. If this production is less than the absorbent capacity of the environment, the phenomenon stops there. But in all places around the world we have exceeded this capacity. So the whole production is converted to pollution. Even more important: there is a limit on so-called clean technologies below which they cannot become cleaner. Provided that production exists, pollution exists. Therefore, for the acquisition of material capital, which is the artificial material world around us, we inevitably destroy a part of the environment, often irreversible, like when we exterminate some living species.

Production is the opposite, in some way, of consumption. The first creates low entropy by the construction of high class items by raw materials. This low entropy is what consumption transforms into high entropy (loosely speaking, rubbish and pollution), higher than the original because of the second law. The economic process, through production, is continuously increasing the entropy. The word “production” is not precise, because matter is neither created nor destroyed, as we know from the first law. It is only converted to other forms. Finally, economic process does nothing more than to convert low to high entropy. In the way, we gain some benefit. We enjoy life.

If conversion of low to high entropy had no further consequences, we could continue this course without problems. Consequences, however, exist and are of two forms: environmental destruction and depletion of raw materials. According to the second thermodynamic law, matter is being converted continuously to non-available forms and the stocks of raw materials are depleted over time. The increase in production of material goods is followed by an increase in material “evils”, namely pollution. Why are we interested in the destruction of the environment and depletion of raw materials; Quite simply because as a species we are interested not only in our survival but also in that of our offspring.

The question, therefore, is whether the increase in production, which today is the fundamental economic and political doctrine, could continue in the future. There is nothing infinite in nature. Thus the doctrine of continuous growth is not valid. Somewhere there is a limit. Otherwise the system will explode. Given the state of the environment, I feel that we are approaching to the point (not to say that we have already reached there) at which we must choose between our destruction or the transformation of our value background and institutions that have prevailed in the economic, political, social and ecological field.

In order to survive and achieve a quality of living our decisions from here onwards should be made with regard to the reintegration of society and nature. The path of alternative options will open as soon as we become able, through realization, to achieve a rupture from the dominant social paradigm and its values and transform the institutions that currently demand and propagate economic growth, “representative democracy” (imaginative name to legalize the oligarchic regime), racism etc.. The path we have chosen about 200 years ago has led to destructive exploitation of human by human and the environment by humans. Much work must therefore be done in education and information.

Through the education system and other institutions offering to the cultivation of realization, we should reach the point to encourage such a realization that an individual would be able to challenge the system that encouraged it. Moreover, the individual could then discover, through the scientific method and the process of “ex recensione” (to have a reason for a decision and be able to both give and get reason – to speak and to listen), where it coincides with the system and invent (meaning the introduction of new and the creative criticism) variations from the matrix within which it developed.

In order to continue to exist, as it comes to my knowledge so far, we should nurture individuals able to create solidarity and build on the foundation of «democratic rationality», as described above. Some may argue that our extermination could be a solution of our existential problems. We may be led to the acceptance of this solution by the inability of earth to sustain us forever, if we continue to walk the same path. For me, however, this is not an option. The transformation of institutions to achieve economic, political, social and ecological democracy by making massive the rupture from the dominant social paradigm forms a viable option.

Ecological democracy involves the creation of institutions and a culture that secure the re-integration of society and nature. This means that the goal of economic activity is not the present eco-catastrophic “development” which is necessitated by competition and profit demands, but the covering of the needs of all citizens in a way that secures the true quality of life that only a harmonious relationship between society and nature can bring about. Ecological democracy, therefore, can be achieved neither within the present market economy system and the consequent ‘growth economy’, nor within any system mainly aiming at growth, like the centralized system of ‘actually existing socialism’.

Thinking the above, one can notice how much apposite and diachronic was Gandhi when he said: “You should be the change you seek in the world”.


FILIS A. GIANNIS, “The twilight of human kind”, Exantas (1994), p.26-33

FOTOPOULOS TAKIS, “Inclusive Democracy – Ten years after”, Eleftheros Typos (2008)