Significant funds are necessary for a just green transition, but so is public support, Prime Minister of Greece Kyriakos Mitsotakis said in Davos. He recommended starting with quick and logical wins in the transformation of coal regions and other forms of helping the population and businesses affected by decarbonization measures.
Kyriakos Mitsotakis has a bit of advice on how to get through the green and energy transition in a socially just way, which actually cannot be successful otherwise, according to the principles of the European Green Deal. The Greek prime minister gained experience in the matter since launching an ambitious decarbonization plan in 2019.
Fast forward to today, and even relatively competitive coal-fired power plants are shutting down all over Europe, much before the end of their operational life. But it is a major strain for workers in the industry, the local economy and population. Just the cleanup requires huge funds, on top of which such areas need a restart boost to switch to other activities.
Coal consumption already down 90%
Greece has already cut coal power output by 90%, Mitsotakis pointed out at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos. He explained that the shift particularly affects one region. It is Western Macedonia in the country’s north, while the other, smaller coal hub is in the Peloponnese.
Greece plans to stop coal power production by 2028
“You need to commit significant resources – we have our Just Transition Fund – to help build a better future for these regions. This is a given. Otherwise, it will simply not happen. The resistance is going to be massive,” Mitsotakis stated.
The plan is to phase out coal power in Greece by 2028. Vast projects for the deployment of emissions-free and low carbon technologies are underway, transforming coal land. Photovoltaics are the main pillar, with the nation’s flagship power utility Public Power Corp. (PPC) at the helm, with its large joint ventures. Other domestic and foreign companies are on the roll as well, incentivized by legal reforms and government subsidies.
Just transition not at odds with regional expansion in energy
As elsewhere, deadlines for funding through the European Union are very tight. But Greece isn’t shy with ambitions. In the short term, it aims to become a substantial energy provider at least for the Balkans, Mitsotakis stressed. The country is building power interconnections, gas pipelines and floating storage for liquefied natural gas (LNG), he noted.
Moreover, the prime minister added, Greece’s goal is to become a net exporter of green energy. When it comes to just transition, he recommended taking safe and relatively small steps.
“When you want to build public support, start with the obvious win-win solutions. Retrofitting houses, for example, is a win-win proposal. We have used European funds very effectively in this direction. Or go to a small island and explain to them why decarbonizing is actually easier than they think. If you build a PV plant, there may be some resistance in the beginning, but when they see the electricity bills and they realize they pay much less for electricity, you will start building support,” Mitsotakis asserted.
There may be some resistance to solar power projects in islands in the beginning, but then electricity bills will start to decrease
Greece has a long track record, in line with its needs, in projects for bolstering the energy self-sufficiency of small islands. It is connecting many of them with the mainland electricity grid as well, via subsea cables. With the latest European-wide and domestic initiatives, such endeavors have turned from experiments to proper investment opportunities for technology providers and energy producers.
“So start with quick wins. And be very careful with agriculture. Because agriculture, in its own, is a very difficult topic, very difficult to decarbonize, and we have to be very sensitive when it comes to reactions from our farmers,” Mitsotakis warned.