Category Archives: Article

Biofuels: one more missed opportunity?

of Sotiris Folias, Managing Director of GF Energy SA and Vice President of S.VΙ.V.Ε.

When in 2003 the Member-States of EU decided to introduce biofuels into our lives, they had in mind three things. First, to provide a way out in the European farmers who were suffered by the unpleasant consequences of implementing the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). Second, to use the only way to achieve their goals of reducing emissions in the transport sector according to the Kyoto Protocol and in the same time to diminish their dependence on imported oil. This way all members entered a binding target of 5.75% blending of biofuels in fossil fuels for transport by 2010.

Greece, despite the initial delay, adopted this Directive in its National law by the end of 2005 and thus launched the Law on introduction of biofuels in the Greek market. This law paved the way for the creation of investments in this industry while it gave the ultimate way out to the withered Greek agricultural sector to “wake up” and pursue to cultivate products that  predominantly used to be produced in Greece.

Specifically, while in the mid 80’s Greece produced 400,000 tons of sunflower yearly, in 2005 this crop nearly disappeared. Therefore, the biofuel production presented as an opportunity to exploit 1,000,000 acres of uncultivated Greek land and gave an impetus to the Greek farmers to return from the local coffee shops back to the fields.

All the positive predictions for the development of a dynamic biofuel sector and in particular the production of biodiesel didn’t take that long to be verified. Within three years, Greece has developed biodiesel factories of 650,000 tonnes annual capacity . Meanwhile, energy crops were gradually increasing drastically. From almost zero production, in 2011 more than 1,000,000 acres of energy crops were cultivated attributing to the Greek countryside people more than 100.000.000 euros yearly.

One could say that Greece has finally managed to develop an economic sector that from the raw material to the final product everything was purely Greek, it kept all the added value within the country, it helped decentralization, it strengthened the much afflicted Greek farmers, it significantly improved  the  deficit of country’s trade balance  by reducing the imports of diesel with more than 200.000.000 euros, it directly or indirectly maintained more than 50,000 jobs, while in the same time it was assisting in achieving the national target for reducing emissions from transport.

Most of the time, however, the Greek reality can destroy any trace of logic, leading the country in this sector also in the lonely road of paranoia that all these years has chosen to follow. In particular, distortions and the chronic Greek pathologies created the following gloomy picture: of the 72 months of operation of the institutional framework for biofuels for more than 28(!!) months the Greek biodiesel production plants have remained closed because of Elections, restructuring changes of Ministers, Customs strikes, tanker trucks strikes and other problems leading to remain unsold more than 150,000 m3 intact biofuel that were replaced by imported diesel. In parallel, the total amount of biodiesel that should enter into the Greek market annually was launched from 50,000 m3 in 2005 to 182,000 m3 in 2009 coming back to 132,000 m3 this year. To put it in perspective, Portugal, a country like ours, produces and domestically supplies more than 450,000 m3 of biodiesel per se. Therefore, it is no coincidence that Greece was in 18th place in all 27 EU countries in 2009 (Source: with potential to slide down to 25th place in 2015 (according to the National Action Plan for Renewable Energy Sources).

Unfortunately, even in today’s economic situation afflicting our country needing more than ever to maintain the viability of even the minimum domestic production capacity, one more industry where tens of millions of euros have been invested and that can offer countless benefits to the Greek Economy has been intentionally or unintentionally neglected. The disappointment is even greater when even those who we feel degraded EU partners maintain this industry as a high priority, increasing their domestic production and their rural population as well, putting Greece for one more time in the position of the followers.

The stakeholders of the biofuel sector, believing that the situation is reversible  and having presented their proposals many times  to the Ministries involved, hope that the industry will not be another missed opportunity for this hapless country. All of us, who daily live in this industry and see its benefits internationally, fight and strongly believe that our country can effectively develop biofuels with the appropriate movements as it has all the tools to succeed and be placed among the frontrunners within the EU.

Who is Ecoman

Who is this Ecoman? He is the one who is called to save the environment. Who is called to save the planet. Who is called in his everyday activities to counterbalance the environmental catastrophe of the big global industries, of the last century’s industrial development those who in the name of profit maximization did not care of this planet earth, did not give the sufficient importance to the sustainability of the ecosystem for both the economy and our quality of life. Does he have to do so? Yes, because a better environment is definitely everyone’s responsibility. Let’s help him. Here is some energy saving tips:

At home

  • Energy efficient light bulbs
  • Double-pane windows and external wall insulation
  • Lights and appliances switched off when we are out
  • Wash and dry full loads (both cloth and dish washers). No half loads or prewash
  • Take a shower (only 10-15 gallons of water) rather than a full tub bath (70 gallons of water)
  • Be careful of possible water leakages. Check frequently
  • Do not water your plants, your garden etc. before rain. Check the weather forecast
  • Avoid pesticides
  • Good maintenance of all house appliances for longer lifetime and less cost of repairs
  • Recycle batteries and old electrical and electronic equipment
  • Composting waste
  • Ecological cleaning products
  • Use personal care products that are not tested on animals or part of the profits of companies which produce them  support various charitable purposes
  • Programming cooling/heating thermostat, so the room temperature is neither too hot in winter nor too cold in summer. Also change filters frequently
  • In case of renovation, use new technologies for an energy efficient house.
  • Avoid excessive use of electricity

At office

  • Use curtains or blinds for sun protection and reduction of air conditioners operating hours
  • Check vents and change filters
  • Keep a moderate room temperature
  • Energy efficiency bulbs
  • Avoid excessive use of electricity. Use timers or motion detectors to save money and energy. All lights and appliances switched off when we are out
  • Ecological cleaning products
  • Recycling bins in all areas
  • When possible, replace older office equipment with new, energy efficient equipment
  • Recycle all old electrical and electronic equipment
  • Recycle paper and use scrap paper for notes
  • Use Massive Transportation Means (Public Transport) to your workplace and why not a bike, if weather permits
  • Two-sided printing paper
  • Photocell faucets

At super market

  • Buy products that the production process causes the least possible damage to the environment
  • Carefully read the package label for information
  • Be careful of detergents, pesticides, paints and other toxic. Read carefully instructions of use
  • Use multi-purpose bags for shopping to reduce the use of plastic
  • Recycle all packaging materials at supermarket’s recycling bins (glass, aluminum cans, paper, etc.)


  • Try to reduce your ecological footprint. When purchasing a new car, buy hybrid or small cars
  • Frequently inspection of car gas emissions
  • Service on time
  • Drive the speed limit and avoid rapid acceleration for best efficiency
  • Keep your tires properly inflated and the air filters clean
  • Use air conditioning when absolutely necessary
  • Use public transportation, ride a bike or walk to nearby locations

On holidays

  • Avoid sun exposure
  • Use sun cream and hats
  • Choose from a selection of “green” hotels
  • Rent small or hybrid cars
  • Use cooling/heating system when necessary; take advantage of the local weather condition
  • Mind the cleaness of the place and avoid changing linen everyday
  • Leaving home, turn off all the non-needed appliances and mail, newspaper etc. delivery
  • Prefer direct flights, no interconnecting

Kostis Hatzidakis: “Green Unite us ALL!”

Article of Kostas Hatzidakis, member of the Greek Parliament.

A proper energy policy, especially in these difficult economic times, can be a tool to move towards a more sustainable model of development. This is especially true for Greece, a country rich in natural wealth, which can take advantage of Renewable Energy. The New Democracy government has prioritized the substantial increase of renewable energy, according to the common European goals. From 2004 to 2009 tripled the country’s installed capacity in renewable energies. The special zoning for renewables, the simplified procedures for installing photovoltaic even on rooftops and the new framework of geothermal energy were adopted.

This effort must continue. Without delay, without regression and without prevarication. Not only because according to European commitments we have aimed to cover energy needs of the country by 2020 by 18% from renewables. Because this is what our conscience commands. There is a need to implement specific measures and policies to promote investments in renewable energies and to bridge the gap that separates us from other more developed European countries while giving thereby boost to the country’s development.

The latter law recently voted in the House of Parliament, seeks to streamline the planning process for renewables. This law is largely the result of work we had already done in the Ministry of Development. And it includes many positive points. I mention the incentives given to people to install wind turbines in their area, and will pay lower tariffs in PPC. Incentives aimed to remove the prejudices which unfortunately exist in various parts of Greece to install renewables. Also important is the simplification of licensing by reducing the time required for investors. However, the government has made some small changes which need to be noted. First, the pricing of energy from renewables, which the consumers will be called, of course, to pay in the end, was not based on an integrated design that provides internal efficiencies, to link technologies, etc. It can at any time need to go to revisions. Secondly, the government changed the rules on contracts for wind farms. Whether this arrangement is in the right direction or not, the government should look very carefully any finished projects in this area, because the time is our enemy on this issue. At this difficult time we need investments in our country immediately. Finally, in the same vein, it would be, henceforth, for the government to take priority in some internal procedures (eg the Regulatory Authority of Energy) to large investment projects. Not because small projects are not good. But because if we want to reach the targets set for energy production from renewable energy, we must work on projects that have immediate results, respectively.

Apart from the “green” energy, we need to look also the energy saving policies. The government in this area has shown good intentions but without a corresponding effect. The RES law also included provisions for Energy Upgrade Project Buildings. A project of paramount importance that both consumers and the market want, particularly in the construction industry. No need to waste any time. The government must move immediately to implement and increase the program’s budget limits set by the Government Decree when first presented the program.

Energy is a challenge and yet an opportunity for tomorrow. Today more than ever, the energy sector is at the top of the agenda of all advanced nations. In Greece, in recent years we have strengthened the energy position of the country, improved its investment environment and supported entrepreneurship. But we have a long way to go. For further economic development, new jobs and better protection of the environment. We can do it. Adding up all the knowledge, logic and national interests.

*Kostas Hatzidakis is a member of the Greek Parliament. He has been a member of the European Parliament, Minister of Transport and Communications and Minister of Development.