A Greek island is set to conduct a low-carbon living experiment
A BUTTERFLY SHAPE Island in the central Aegean hopes to become Greece’s first carbon-free travel destination. Under an agreement with the government, Volkswagen, an automaker, has donated several new electric vehicles for use by Astypalea’s public services; it will sell others at cost to its 1,200 year-round residents. In return, the government has increased subsidies for buying electric cars for islanders and will build a hybrid solar and wind power plant to replace a cluster of polluting diesel generators.
Unlike other nearby islands, Astypalea is not connected to the Greek electricity grid. With only 3,000 rooms for visitors in small hotels or apartments, tourism is still reluctant. Many residents earn their livelihood the old-fashioned way: raising goats, keeping bees and fishing. The island was selected for Volkswagen’s e-mobility experiment after Nikos Komineas, the Green Mayor, contacted the Ministry of Transport for help in finding an electric bus to test on the rough roads.
Most of the islanders sound interested in the project. Mr Komineas expects the number of private cars on Astypalea to decrease by a third over the next five years. Its residents, he says, will get around with e-scooters and electric minibuses, which will be free, connected to a mobile app and available around the clock.
Some observers perceive a touch of greenwashing. A tender for a solar park that will generate half of the island’s electricity within three years will not be launched before the end of the tourist season. A single wind turbine will not be installed until 2026 if the approval process goes smoothly. In the Aegean Sea, this is usually not the case, where islanders fear that tourists will go elsewhere if the view is blocked by a 200-meter-high turbine. And even then, the hybrid drive should only cover around 80% of summer needs. But it is a start.
This article appeared in the Europe section of the print edition under the heading “Electric Island”