“I feel an injustice for the region and myself.” With these words, speaking to “K”, he described his feelings Alexandros Gamagaris, president of the Energy Community of Citizens of Eratyra, when he received the answer from DEDDIE that there is no “space” in the network to connect the community he had created with his other 69 fellow citizens in the town of Western Macedonia. He can hardly believe that, although he gave about 20 years of his life working in the lignite factories, which for decades electrified Greece and contributed to its development, now that he is given this possibility, he cannot produce his own electricity.
“Respect is needed for what this area offered to meet the energy needs of all of Greece,” he noted, saying that for years both he and others worked and lived in the dust and ash of coal. “With -15 degrees Celsius, we ran at night to the factory to fix the damage. How else; Would the world not have electricity? Now we feel marginalized.”
Western Macedonia is at the top of the pending applications for energy communities in terms of number and strength.
The sentiments are shared by several other residents of the area, which is experiencing a difficult and painful transition with the gradual closure of lignite plants. In fact, the following paradox is found: although these households have high energy costs due to the heavy winter and the region has networks and infrastructure due to lignite, Western Macedonia is in the first place of pending applications for energy communities in number and power.
The paradox of Western Macedonia
All the above problems were discussed at the Forum held in Kozani on energy communities and the role they can play. “We consider that the energy communities are a great opportunity for the region to make the transition in terms of justice and deal with its energy issue in a sustainable way. The institutional framework and the financial tools are there, however, a stronger political will and social alliance is needed”, noted the Lefteris Ioannidisformer mayor of Kozani and member of the “Ofelos” Network, which consists of non-profit energy communities in the region.
Experts say that more resources need to be mobilized, but above all to increase the capacity of the network intended for self-generated energy projects
As he found out from his personal involvement with the goal of creating a photovoltaic park that would give vulnerable households cheap and green energy, “there is a terrible problem with the capacity of the grid”. The park was not made, as he said, because of this reason. “And at this moment when in the area there are households that do not heat in the winter or heat a small room. There are households that burn anything they find in very bad conditions. We all know that there is a huge problem and it will be an element that will contribute to the languishing of the region”, stressed Mr. Ioannidis. Mr. Gamagaris reports that, although the community in Eratyra was established in 2021 and has invested around 10,000 euros to date, it has not been able to connect to the network, causing dissatisfaction among the members, who, as he said, are already “turning on” the heating. “There were years when it snowed here in early October.”
The prevailing situation inspires mistrust of the energy communities among the residents, who at the same time see large Renewable Energy Parks being financed and completed in the region by Greek and foreign groups. “It is a fact that priority is given to very large RES projects. We have very large companies that install RES projects in the lignite areas. Of course, these are necessary. Our opinion is that things should be combined”, stressed Mr Nikos Mantzaris, energy policy analyst at The Green Tank, suggesting that this be done through the equity of large RES projects, involving citizens and energy communities. “It is not possible for only large companies to benefit from the energy transition.”
Memorandums of cooperation
The newly elected regional governor of Western Macedonia and former member of the N.D. George Amanatidis admitted that large investors have indeed reserved thousands of acres of public land for large RES parks, next to villages, depriving the local community of the opportunity to develop their own. As he said, he brought three such large investors in contact with the Association of Photovoltaic Investors of Western Macedonia and they signed memoranda so that the companies could foresee more power in the substation of the photovoltaic parks they are preparing, so that local investment activities and energy communities can “plug” into the grid without burden of the area.
It is noted that in September, the first call for self-production projects of energy communities in the transition regions from the Just Development Transition Program 2021-2027 was activated in the amount of 41.795 million euros, of which 26.845 million euros are intended for the energy communities in the lignite regions. Experts, however, say that more resources must be mobilized, but above all, the capacity of the network intended for self-generation projects should be increased.