Affordable, reliable energy is tricky for islands as resources are often scarce and systems small. By constructing a community-owned hybrid power plant, Sifnos Island Cooperative plans to achieve energy self-sufficiency, cut energy prices and eliminate fuel poverty.
People living on Greek islands typically pay two to three times more for energy than those living on the mainland. Lacking a connection to Greece’s main grid, residents of Sifnos Island have had no choice but to import oil at a high price.
With tourism representing more than 95% of the island’s economic activity, reliance on oil also means that locals live day in and day out with the environmental impacts of energy used by people who come for just a short stay.
The hybrid energy system under development by Sifnos Island Cooperative solves multiple challenges. First, by combining wind energy and a pumped water storage system, the system ensures hydropower can supply back-up during low winds.
Second, supplying the tourism industry means a relatively high level of energy demand, which helps the business case for investing in a local power system.
Finally, being a cooperative creates opportunity for strategic pricing: the power plant aims to generate enough profit from supplying tourist-related activities that it can keep tariffs affordable for island residents. The community already agrees that any additional profits will be invested in better public infrastructure and finding ways to diversify the economy by encouraging local businesses.
As the first project designed to make a European island energy self-sufficient based on local renewables, Sifnos Island Cooperative hopes to become a model for all islands and marine territories.
Apostolos Dimopoulos, Chairman of Sifnos Island (Energy and Development) Cooperative, is among 15 finalists in the Tackle Fuel Poverty Initiative launched by the Schneider Electric Foundation, the Ashoka Foundation, and Enel Group. Check out this video interview to learn more.