Astypalaia, aided by a major investment from Volkswagen, will soon become the first and only “smart” island in the Mediterranean that runs almost entirely on green energy.
A fleet of electric-powered vehicles began their first journey on the island on Wednesday, in the presence of Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Volkswagen CEO Herbert Deiss, as part of the Astypalaia Project.
As the project is so cutting edge, it could serve as a groundbreaking model for similar plans both in Greece and abroad in the future.
During his visit to the stunning island in the Dodecanese, Greek PM Mitsotakis mingled with residents of Astypalaia, and even received what seemed to be a stern talking-to from some Greek grandmothers.
Astypalaia Project is “a doorway to a … more sustainable world”
During a speech titled “Astypalea: Smart & Sustainable island – Progress Report, from Vision to Action” on the transformative project, Mitsotakis declared that the ambitious project was “a doorway to a newer, cleaner, more sustainable world…where energy powers our lives without harming our planet.”
The Astypalaia Project is an integral part in our “collective effort to solve the world’s climate emergency,” Mitsotakis stated.
Deiss similarly stressed the project’s significance in terms of the future of renewable energy in Europe, calling Astypalaia the “European blueprint” toward creating renewable, green energy sources.
Both PM Mitsotakis and Volkswagen CEO Deiss emphasized that feedback from the island’s residents about the project will be integral to its success, especially as a model for future green energy plans.
After touring Astypalaia, Volkswagen CEO Deiss described the island as the “future lab for decarbonization in Europe” on Twitter.
Astypalea will be a future lab for decarbonization in Europe! Great to start this project with @kmitsotakis today. Huge committment! Together we will transform the entire island: green energy, e-mobility, new mobility services. pic.twitter.com/YrBPd3VUkl
— Herbert Diess (@Herbert_Diess) June 2, 2021
Astypalaia’s green energy deal with Volkswagen
The Greek PM and officials from the German automaker signed a memorandum last November for the plan to bring electric cars and green energy to the island’s 1,300 residents as part of their environmentally-friendly project.
“Astypalaia can and will become a model of sustainable development not just at a national but at a European and a global level” PM Mitsotakis said last November, during the virtual launching ceremony. The German automaker said it will turn Astypalaia into an energy-independent, “green” island.
Deiss, the 62 year-old CEO of the German auto giant, has been with Volkswagen since 2015. In 2018, he was named one of the “Best CEOs in the World” by CEOWORLD magazine.
“Working with local stakeholders, the leading partners in this project will transform the traditional vehicle rental business into a vehicle-sharing service offering e-scooters, e-bikes and electric cars,” according to Kostas Fragogiannis, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Fragogiannis has worked closely with VW during the past year and will coordinate the project through the Ministry.
Astypalaia to receive electric vehicles, green energy sources
Conventionally-fueled commercial and utility vehicles on the island will be replaced as part of the grand plan. “In total, roughly 1,000 electric vehicles will take the place of about 1,500 vehicles with internal combustion engines. At the same time, the infrastructure for more than 200 charging points will be put in place,” stated Fragogiannis.
The first such vehicles are expected to be government vehicles, followed closely by private vehicles delivered to customers. Private vehicles will be sold through dealerships as normal, with the Greek government supporting the purchase through subsidy programs.
Astypalaia offers ideal conditions for such a project in many ways, according to Volkswagen. The island is starting virtually from scratch, resulting in a complete transformation for mobility. It offers a clearly defined and enclosed area without limiting factors and is just the right size to test transport systems efficiently, according to the German automaker.
Currently, Astypalaia gets its electricity almost entirely from diesel generators. Alongside the Volkswagen initiative, a large part of the electrical demand for households, companies and traffic will be covered by green renewable energy.
Wind and solar power systems will be installed on the island. The electric fleet will be powered entirely by green, renewable electricity. Renewable energy sources alone will cover the additional electrical demand arising from the introduction of e-mobility.
Greece invests in renewable resources
Greece has enacted sweeping sustainable development legislation and introduced a $120 million subsidy program to promote electric vehicles, according to Fragogiannis. Under development is a 10-year tourism plan that will emphasize eco-friendly ventures.
Greece’s $54 billion national energy program, adopted last year, foresees $11 billion worth of investments in renewable energy over the next decade and the complete phasing out of lignite-fired power plants by 2028.
Astypalaia will energize the e-vehicles with a network of private and public charging stations, to be developed. Car sharing and ride sharing services, which will radically modernize public transport on the island, are also a part of the project. They will replace the old bus network and – unlike the previous bus system – will serve all corners of the island, while being operational all year round.
Integrated into this will be car sharing e-cars, e-scooters and e-bikes. In total, the number of vehicles on Astypalaia is expected to decrease by a third to 1,000, while mobility will be improved.
The island could be the first region in the world to achieve completely emission-free traffic. Even Norway, the pioneer of e-mobility, is still far from achieving this. By 2025, the goal for the island will be to achieve zero-emission mobility.
Astypalaia, set in the southeastern Aegean, has ferry boat service every other day and only had a power plant installed in the late 60s. Donkeys were the island’s main source of mobility until the early 70s.
According to WindEurope, wind power once covered 40 percent of Greece’s energy use, the highest percentage fueled by wind power in Europe.
According to national data, wind and solar power sources provided for 51 percent of the country’s needs, a percentage that is increased to 57 percent when also including hydroelectric power. This is a record for the country.
Greece has cultivated a rich variety of renewable energy sources in recent years. The country hopes to avoid the use of non-renewable energy as much as possible.
Greece currently leads the Netherlands, Germany, France, the UK, and many other European nations in terms of the amount of renewable energy produced.