Vasilis from Karditsa Energy Community believes that the current energy system is making the crisis worst. Here’s how he wants to change that.
Can you tell us a bit about your energy community?
Our energy community, Karditsa Energy Cooperative, is located in the centre of Greece in the region of Karditsa and was established in 2010 to foster the region’s renewable energy sources. Our main goal is to produce energy from local sources, starting with biomass from agricultural and forest residuals, and we recently added coffee residuals. We try to increase our energy production every year by adding new raw materials as potential energy sources.
How is the local community involved?
To produce energy from biomass and then sell and supply the final product to the community, we had to establish both a supply chain and a value chain, which requires the involvement of many local stakeholders. Currently, we have partnerships with all six municipalities of the prefecture of Karditsa. We are trying to co-create a local ecosystem that will make good use of these resources by processing them and turning them into biofuels instead of letting them end up in illegal landfills.
We’ve recently tried to engage local communities more by using residual coffee as an energy source. It’s a way for us to show them simply how the circular economy and bio-economy work.
Additionally, we want to increase the farmers’ revenues – from the smallest to the biggest – and provide jobs to forest cooperatives so that their members can stay in their hometowns and increase their income by giving us the residual mass that often goes unexploited.
Has it all been smooth, or are you facing challenges?
Since we started this project, we have faced many challenges related to bureaucracy, finances, and legal issues. Nevertheless, the biggest problem was creating the supply and value chains we need to produce energy from biomass which, as mentioned, requires the involvement of many different stakeholders. So, while we have enormous quantities of biomass due to the vastity of our agricultural land that gives us agricultural and forest residuals, the main challenge is taking hold of this residual and transforming it into biofuel.
What is, in your opinion, the most pressing issue right now?
The current energy crisis affects us all. We are seeing that centralized systems based on fossil fuels cannot work as prices are skyrocketing daily, and raw materials needed to produce energy must be imported most of the time. In Greece, our energy system is also centralized: we want to decentralize it by putting citizens at the core of it and empowering them to produce their own energy. Democratizing energy production is the only way to reduce energy poverty and make energy prices more affordable. We want to help our members and the local community cover their electricity demands with clean energy. That’s why we are collaborating with Greenpeace Greece and Genervest on a project called FREE SOLAR, whose objective is to make photovoltaic installations to satisfy the energy demand.
Can you tell us a bit more about Free Solar?
FREE SOLAR is a new project created by Greenpeace Greece and Genervest that aims to accelerate the uptake of solar energy self-consumption (net-metering) throughout Greece by creating a friendly framework for investments in small self-generating solar energy systems. It will allow consumers and small or medium-sized enterprises to self-finance the cost of their PV installation without any capital expenditure based on savings generated by the PV installation once it is functional and generate free solar energy for over 25 years!
We are really excited to participate in FREE SOLAR’s kick-off project in Thessaly and allow our fellow citizens to cope with the energy crisis and reduce their electricity bills once and for all! This autumn, we will have the first 20 beneficiaries, and the project will be open for investment by anyone that wants to support the clean energy transition.
What have you achieved through Free Solar?
FREE SOLAR is an excellent project because it allows citizens to take power into their hands and reduce energy poverty. The energy prices are rising, and through FREE SOLAR, we can cover the electricity demands of the local community. And then, through Genervest, our crowdfunding project, citizens can invest small amounts into energy production projects and renewable energy sources such as PV parks, creating something together that they wouldn’t be able to do on their own.
Citizens will not use their income to pay the initial cost; they have the chance to install a PV roof and reduce the electricity demand and energy poverty.
Why do you think energy communities are essential?
We should focus on decentralizing energy systems if we want to cover our energy demands because it’s the only way people can take power into their hands and take action, initiate collaborative movements, and learn about democratic issues. Energy communities are the stepping stone to moving toward the renewable energy transition.