Common Power

By Ellie Kouremenou, Common Power Communications Manager, Greenpeace

The climate crisis is one of the biggest challenges faced by humanity, but addressing it through the transition to clean energy also offers an enormous opportunity, as proved by the Minoan Energy Community on the Greek island of Crete. One-and-a-half years after a devastating earthquake struck the village of Arkalochori, claiming the life of one person, injuring 20 and forcing 20% of the population to evacuate destroyed homes and businesses, a community is driving its recovery with clean energy. The Minoan Energy Community was initially established to approach a sustainable pattern of development at an economic and social level, to connecting locals to a 405kW solar energy park in 2019. Initially, over 100 people saw a reduction of their electricity bills. Following the 2021 earthquake, the Minoan Energy Community increased its efforts and completed a second solar project, providing clean energy to 60 earthquake-stricken families.

What actually triggered our initiative was our willingness to take energy transition in Crete into our own hands, ”says Dimitris Katsaprakakis, a founding member of the Minoan Energy Community and a Professor at the Department of Mechanical Engineering of the Hellenic Mediterranean University. “After the Greek recession and the pandemic, it was very difficult for most of our members, households and businesses to meet their energy needs,” adds Lampis Giannopoulos, an agronomist, former mayor of Arkalochori and President of Minoan Energy Community. The help received through solar projects is substantial as households can be relieved from high energy costs while many businesses can become viable, ”he says. An ordinary community member sees a 70% decrease in their electricity bills, a relief for households and small businesses struggling after the 2021 earthquake. The community’s key objective is to promote energy democracy – that is the active participation of their citizens, local self-government, and small and medium-sized businesses in the generation of their own energy for self-consumption, as well as for their financial support. The first energy projects of the community are completed and the licensing process for a third project, also with a capacity of 1 MW, has already begun. The community’s next steps are also already under way, branching out into other types of clean energy such as wind and energy efficiency.

The Minoan Energy Community has recently been awarded in the framework of the European Sustainable Energy Week 2022 in the Local Energy Action category. This award concerns sustainable energy actions that are organised and implemented by a group of citizens or consumers and that contribute to the transition to clean energy at community or local level (EUSEW). The community has become a leading example for Greece and beyond as it is the largest energy community in the country, boasting two completed solar projects, with about 600 members, among which are the Region of Crete, three municipalities of Crete, the Holy Metropolis, institutions, cooperatives and municipal enterprises.

The importance of clean energy remains one of the key priorities of the Minoan Energy Community: “The need for this energy transition is what mainly drives us, because it is the main action that someone can take to tackle climate change, which is the greatest modern threat,” says Lampis.

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